Tuesday, 16 April 2013

West Of Bourblaige - 1

Earlier this year we took a walk which, on reflection, we were amazed we had never done before - from the road that runs down the west side of the Basin to the beach below Bourblaige, and then turning right towards Maclean's Nose. We had done much the same walk several times before, but turning east along the coast towards Camas nan Geall.

We left the car in a small quarry at the side of the road and walked along the face of the hill shown in the picture, skirting above the old header dyke visible amongst the bracken to the left of the photo. A header dyke is a big drystone wall separating a village's croplands from the common grazings, designed to keep the animals out of the arable.

From the hill we could see part of the extensive areas of what used to be productive arable land.  This hasn't been worked for nearly two hundred years, yet its neatly organised ditches and dykes are evidence of farming on an almost industrial scale, capable of supporting a huge population.

Additional patches of land on hillsides was also worked, but on a different system, in which the relatively shallow soil was heaped into two-metre wide ridges which could be heavily fertilized.  Called lazy beds, they make very distinctive features, almost always running straight down hillsides to help drainage.

The summit of the right-hand knoll of this hill is the site of an old fort, though there is little to show of it today.

As we walked along the hillside towards the sea the ruins of the clachan of Bourblaige came into view.  Bourblaige was cleared by the owner of Ardnamurchan Estate in 1828 so its fertile ground could be converted into part of an extensive sheep farm, the rent from which would have been far more than that paid by the settlement's inhabitants.  While there are stories of the cruelty with which this process was carried out, there is plenty of evidence that the Estate owner himself, Sir James Riddell, allowed the evictions unhappily and only because the Estate was effectively broke.

We continued to walk along the steep face of the hill, constantly looking up the slope to the series of small burns which tumble from its sharp ridge and at the steadily clearing sky.  This is a good place to spot red deer, which hide in the many narrow glens, but the hinds were skittish at this time of year as the stalking season for the females had only just ended.

Suddenly we reached the point where the ridge turns away and Sound of Mull comes into view, with the low-lying northern end of Mull across the water.  At bottom left can be seen the beach which was our objective, so we started down the bracken-covered slope towards it.

A map of the area is here.

1 comment:

  1. The area looks so tranquil. Do you hear silence?