Geograph Blog ::

Gortantoid to Finlaggan

By Becky Williamson

This is the last in my latest series of walks. It's taken a lot of photo manipulation and working out which photo relates to which gridsquare, so a lot of time. Don't expect to see me on here for about another year! Just kidding, this thing is far too addictive for that to be the case. Sadly, though, there's only so much manipulating that can enhance boring photos and so I apologize in advance for the lack of interest in these photos; the weather was poor and, whilst the scenery was more exciting in actuality, it is difficult to capture its essence in a photo, as everyone knows.

After meeting at Finlaggan and depositing two cars there, five people and two dogs squeezed into one car for the trip to Gortantoid where we were leaving the vehicle. That's the one big drawback of these linear walks; the distance is far greater by road than by moors and it means making what's got to be an early start, even earlier to allow for the time taken to drive to the finishing and the starting points.

Cloud hung low as we set off, following the quad bike track along the Gortantoid River NR3473 : Gortantoid River, Islay by Becky Williamson but started to lift as we crossed the river NR3473 : Ford across Gortantoid River, Islay by Becky Williamson and looked back towards Nave Island NR3472 : Quad bike track east of Gortantoid, Islay by Becky Williamson. The quad bike track is a bonus here. I didn't remember it being there on my first ever Geograph walk (which was almost the same as this one). That time we had fought our way through the dense Rhododendron NR3472 : Towards Beinn Bhreac, Islay by Becky Williamson. This time we followed the fence line and the track, heading towards Beinn Bhreac NR3472 : Following the fence line near Beinn Bhreac, Islay by Becky Williamson. It soon clouded over again, however, and remained pretty dull for most of our walk (but I've already apologised for the effect that had on the photos!)

We were walking between Beinn Ghibheach and Beinn Bhreac. 'Gibeach' can, confusingly, be translated as either 'rough' or 'neat/tidy'. 'Breac' is spotted or speckled. I have yet to ascend Beinn Ghibheach. There was little appealing about it today, however, cast as it was in the shadow of cloud NR3572 : Beinn Ghibheach by Becky Williamson and NR3671 : Beinn Ghibheach from the south, Islay by Becky Williamson. We continued eastwards, contouring round Beinn Bhreac NR3572 : Moorland south-east of Gortantoid, Islay by Becky Williamson and admiring the attractive Gir-bheinn in the distance NR3572 : Giùr-bheinn from the west , Islay by Becky Williamson. I was excited about revisiting Mairi Thormaid's shieling as it is one of my favourite gridsquares on the island. My last visit had been in sunshine and solitude and somehow seemed more special, but there remains a poignancy about this ruin where we rested for a while NR3671 : Airigh Màiri Thormaid, Islay by Becky Williamson, wondering who Mairi Thormaid was and what had become of her. Did she own a horse to bring her here in the summer months or did she walk the long road from Gortantoid or Bunnhabhain? Was there even anyone alive today who could give us answers to these questions?

Mairi Thormaid is also honoured by having a burn named after her NR3671 : Allt Màiri Thormaid, Islay by Becky Williamson and we followed this burn south NR3671 : Moorland south of Beinn Ghibheach, Islay by Becky Williamson, now in the valley between Beinn Bhreac and Beinn na Heraibh NR3670 : Beinn na Heraibh, Islay by Becky Williamson. There are no words starting with the letter 'h' in Gaelic so 'Heraibh' is obviously a corruption of some other Gaelic word, but my Gaelic is not good enough to know which it is. Another thing to add to the research list!

On my last visit here I had noted an interesting eminence NR3671 : Interesting eminence near Beinn na Heraibh, Islay by Becky Williamson (in which I saw a Peacock Butterfly if I remember correctly). I had wondered then if there was any history attached to the place as it is not marked on the map. I took an accurate GPS waymark of the location but could find nothing on Scotland's Places website to suggest it is of any significance. Nevertheless, it appears to be manmade with raised turf and stones and roughly rectangular in shape.

We continued walking through this valley NR3571 : Màiri Thormaid's Valley, Islay by Becky Williamson, NR3570 : Marshland beneath Beinn na Heraibh, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR3570 : Looking towards Killinallan, Islay by Becky Williamson until we reached Gleann nam Meirleach (Thieves' Glen) NR3570 : Looking towards Islay's eastern hills from Gleann nam Meirleach by Becky Williamson. Presumably this valley was once used by crofters after stealing each others' stock! The plethora of old boundary lines, both here NR3570 : Old Boundary Line in Gleann nam Merileach, Islay by Becky Williamson and all over the island, suggest that disputes over boundary lines was as big a problem then as it is today. Allt an Lochain Bhroaich (Burn of the Lochan abounding in sullen anger!)NR3570 : Allt an Lochain Bhroaich by Becky Williamson runs parallel to the remains of an old boundary line NR3570 : Old boundary line near Lochan Broach, Islay by Becky Williamson which presumably once extended further. It continues right up to the 'sullen' loch NR3570 : Lochan Broach, Islay by Becky Williamson. Angry or not, Mike and Jane's dogs were happy to swim in it - or rather one of them was, the other apparently not being able to be persuaded, even to try to get rid of any ticks!

Finally we caught sight of our second lunch destination - the ruin at Tais (Moist) Bheinn NR3669 : Ruin at Tais Bheinn, Islay by Becky Williamson. We had to cross a 'river' to get to it, the Abhainn Airigh an t-Sluic (River of the Shieling of the pit/den/hollow) NR3670 : Abhainn Airigh an t-Sluic, Islay by Becky Williamson. This was no more than a step across and then we enjoyed an anniversary picnic (Mike and Jane's) at the ruin before ascending Tais Bheinn and looking back at our picnic spot NR3669 : Looking back to the ruin on Tais Bheinn by Becky Williamson.

Once over the 'mountain' we could just glimpse Loch a' Chaorainn (Loch of the Rowan Tree) NR3669 : Looking towards Loch a' Chaorainn, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR3769 : Loch a' Chaorainn, Islay by Becky Williamson in the distance. Below us in the valley of the Sruthan Airigh an t-Sagairt (Stream of the Priest's shielings) NR3669 : Sruthan Airigh an t-Sagairt and moorland, Islay by Becky Williamson were the scattered ruins of said shielings NR3669 : Looking down on ruins at Airigh an t-Sagairt by Becky Williamson and NR3669 : Airigh an t-Sagairt, Islay by Becky Williamson. We didn't investigate these further, although we agreed these were not as impressive as either of the other ruins we'd viewed today so far (we still had one ruined village to visit).

We crossed the outlet from Loch a' Chaorainn NR3669 : Outlet from Loch a' Chaorainn, Islay by Becky Williamson and looked despairingly across more moorland to yet another hill NR3669 : Looking across moorland to the hill we must climb, Islay by Becky Williamson. "I thought you said there would be no hills on this walk," Jim reminded me. I'd hoped he'd forgotten I'd said that, but no such luck! "We'll see the forest just over the hill," I promised, hoping desperately that would be the case. It was! NR3669 : First glimpse of Finlaggan Plantation, Islay by Becky Williamson and soon thereafter we found the gate through the deer fence NR3668 : Deer gate north of Ballachlaven, Islay by Becky Williamson and the track NR3668 : Quad bike track leading to Ballachlaven, Islay by Becky Williamson leading from there to Ballachlaven Farm NR3768 : Looking towards Ballachlaven, Islay by Becky Williamson, probably the same one I'd followed on my last walk here. I'd walked from and to Ballachlaven Farm on that occasion, rather than Finlaggan, which was where we were heading today.

We needed to venture away from the track in order to reach our destination so we headed towards the conifer plantation NR3768 : Finlaggan Plantation, Islay by Becky Williamson, NR3768 : Conifer Plantation, Finlaggan, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR3768 : Corner of forest, Finlaggan, Islay by Becky Williamson. By now the sun was making a reappearance, making the scene which soon lay in front of us even more attractive. NR3768 : Finlaggan Plantation, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR3768 : Loch Finlaggan, Islay by Becky Williamson. Pausing for another break (we were all feeling quite dehydrated today) we could see and hear people on Eilean Mr NR3868 : Eilean Mòr, Loch Finlaggan, Islay by Becky Williamson, one of the two islands which formed the administration centres of the Lordship of the Isles during the 13th to 15th centuries. In 1493 the lordship of the Isles fell to James IV of Scotland, who administered the territory via a tenant-in-chief. Many visitors come to view the ruined castle and chapel every year.

We mustered enough energy to descend the hill to view our final ruin of the day, Sean-ghairt (Old Cornfield). NR3867 : Sean-ghairt, Islay by Becky Williamson These are quite extensive ruins, more extensive than all the remnants of our energy put together (including the dogs)! So we did not do them justice on this occasion, but, being close to the Visitor Centre at Finlaggan, I am sure I will pay them another visit soon.

We followed a very vague path right by the western shores of the Loch NR3867 : Loch Finlaggan, Islay by Becky Williamson, which provided excellent views of the ancient seat of the Lord of the Isles. NR3868 : Loch Finlaggan, Islay by Becky Williamson After surviving many a dried up bog, it was here, at the very end of our walk where Mike nearly lost one of his new wellies in the boggy terrain. By clinging to the fence the rest of us managed to pull ourselves to safety and then back to the car where water awaited us!

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Tue, 16 Apr 2013 at 11:54
Grid Square
geotagged! NR3868

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