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Dun Bhar-a-Chlaom, Islay

By Becky Williamson

On a windless day John and I set off on a circular walk from and to Kilchoman via the ancient fort of Dun Bhar-a-Chlaom. As usual my attempts to find a translation of the Gaelic have failed, so any help would be greatly appreciated.

Our walk started from the car park at Machir Bay, where we headed through the gate southwards across the dunes. A pool of water marked only on my edition of the Explorer map as 'Butts' is symbolised on the latest edition of the map. A family of Whooper Swans fed here, joined by Wigeon and Oystercatcher and surrounded by cattle. NR2162 : Farm Track near Machir Bay, Islay by Becky Williamson.

Having deviated somewhat from the coast, the path soon runs parallel with this magnificent stretch of coastline and we passed a dun on the coastal side of the path. NR2062 : Dun south of Machir Bay, Islay by Becky Williamson. Turning a corner here we caught our first glimpse of the three sister hills situated between Kilchoman and Kilchiaran - Cnoc nam Muc-chlach,(Hill of the Pig Rock), Creag Goirtean na Feannaige (Rock of the arable field of potato ridges?) and Creag Bealach na Caillich (Rock of the pass of the old lady). Two of these are now marred by the construction of phone masts. NR2061 : Coastal path from Kilchoman to Kilchiaran, Islay by Becky Williamson

It is not easy to see why the other two are so named, but the 'Old Lady' is clearly visible in profile on the rock face of the so-named hill - looking out at you as you walk past.NR2061 : Granny Rock, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR2061 : Granny Rock by Becky Williamson. She must have watched hundreds of walkers in the past.

We gave her the time of day and continued along the path which now heads directly east. Just before going through a gate onto a tarmac road, a path leads off eastwards. We took this path, but regretted it; it would have been easier to go through the gate and then head east because we ended up having to scale a wall to get to the footbridge across Abhainn na Braid (River of the mountainous country) NR2161 : Footbridge across the Abhainn na Braid, Islay by Becky Williamson. It is a short walk from the bridge to a ruin NR2161 : Ruin near Kilchiaran, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR2161 : Ruin near Kilchiaran, Islay by Becky Williamson.

We followed the Allt Cnoc na Gainimh north-eastwards. NR2161 : Allt Cnoc nan Gainimh, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR2161 : Allt Cnoc na Gainimh and moorland south of Cnoc Dubh, Islay by Becky Williamson. I was unable to find a translation for this burn. Although pathless, walking across this terrain was relatively easy - the hard bit was still to come.

After crossing a barbed wire fence we came upon boggy moorland - named a 'swamp' by archaeologists in 1978! We looked for the 'isolated knoll' mentioned in their report (see LinkExternal link but there appeared to be many candidates for this status - none of which looked particularly fort-like in appearance. With GPS firmly in hand and being checked every few metres, we cautiously approached a copse of willow through which there appeared to be no alternative but to wade through. Fortunately, we didn't have to do so for long and then, through the branches I eventually made out the distinct dun shape of Dun Bhar-a-chlaom NR2261 : Dun Bhar-a-Chlaom, south of Cnoc Dubh, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR2261 : Dun Bhar-a-Chlaom, south of Cnoc Dubh, Islay by John Bubbers - but I would never have done so without the aid of the GPS. We sat atop this dun, looking across vast moorland and musing on the fact that, apart from the phone masts, visible to the west, and a few hundred yards of fencing, there was no sign of human interference in this landscape. The Reed Buntings which sang away below us would have sung long ago when the duns were in use and the Red Deer we scared would have been scared by the presence of our forbearers centuries before us. It was a reassuring thought that whilst so much of our countryside has been invaded by humans, there are still unspoilt pockets such as this one. In fact, I said to John, I doubt anyone has been here since the archaeologists in 1978!

We decided to take a brief detour into the next gridsquare - simply for the sake of it. This involved negotiating more woodland, spreading Rhododendron bushes and tussocky heather until we rejoined the flooded Allt Cnoc na Gainimh at NR230 615 NR2361 : Allt Cnoc na Gainimh and moorland south of Cnoc Dubh, Islay by Becky Williamson and NR2361 : Allt Cnoc na Gainimh and moorland south of Cnoc Dubh, Islay by Becky Williamson. We crossed the stream and headed northwest where we came across yet more fencing. NR2262 : Rhododendron and Fences, Cnoc Dubh, Islay by Becky Williamson Fortunately some of the original fencing was no longer extant so it did not prove a problem. The woodland and Rhododendron here are quite extensive. NR2261 : Woodland south of Cnoc Dubh, Islay by Becky Williamson.

We were relieved to finally reach grassland after hours of traipsing through boggy moorland. It would be nice to return in the summer when the woodland here is verdant. NR2262 : Coile na Cruaiche, Islay by Becky Williamson. We were still heading northwest, beneath Turnaichidh and across the Allt Gleann na Ceardaich to Kilchoman House. An old water wheel here attracted our attention NR2163 : Water Wheel at Kilchoman, Islay by Becky Williamson - something else to ask the experts about! No matter how prepared I go on these geographing trips, I always come back with some questions settled and some more unsettled - and that's why I like it so much!

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Marker only shows grid square

Tue, 14 Feb 2012 at 18:11
Grid Square
geotagged! NR2261

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