Monday, 19 May 2014

Meall an Fhir-eoin

We drove to Fascadale this morning with the weather grey but dry.  Fascadale's name comes from the Norse and means field of the ship, presumably because the Vikings made use of its wonderfully protected bay.  The area shows plenty of signs of worked fields too, but today it has three of Ardnamurchan Estate's self-catering houses, and cows and sheep on the hill.

We walked west, climbing the first of the hills that form a switchback all along the coast to Sanna.  This is the summit of Meall Buidhe Mor, the big yellow hill, looking back towards Fascadale Bay and Achateny.

This orchid, possibly a heath spotted, was among several growing right next to the cairn in about as exposed a position as they could possibly have chosen, but they looked healthy - more evidence that this is promising to be a great year for orchids.

We followed the hills westwards, with a constant view of the small isles away to the north, and to Skye - those are the Black Cuillins in the distance.  The air was so clear that the tops of the hills of the Outer Hebrides were also clearly visible.

We left the coast and struck inland, coming round to the west of Meall an Fhir-eoin, eagle hill.  Just by what we think is one of West Ardnamurchan's prettiest lochans, Lochan an Dobhrain, otter lochan, we were commenting on the lack of wildlife when we saw this red deer hind with a companion.  They seems remarkably unworried by us, the other one continuing to graze as we passed.

Meall an Fhir-eoin isn't the easiest hill to climb, the best approach being from the west, but it's one of those hills that's worth every moment of effort as the views unfold.  In the distance beyond Mrs Diary is Sanna township, while Achnaha is away to the left, with Meall Sanna between and Coll lying along the horizon.

From the summit we looked straight down onto Lochan an Dhobhrain and the broken country that surrounds it.  All these hills are part of the Tertiary ring dyke of the Ardnamurchan volcano, formed some sixty million years ago and then exposed by the glaciers that carved away the volcano that once rose high above it.

The summit of eagle hill is bowl-shaped - and therefore boggy - and full of scattered pieces of rock but, as always with these hills....

...there's a welcoming little pool of clear, peaty water for anyone who feels like a bath before setting off for the descent - in this case with views north to Rum, Eigg and Skye.


  1. Fascadale: your meaning of this name place could be way of the mark, because: Fasgadh; which means shelter in north argyll regional gaelic, was basterdised along with other names when OR surveys were carried out by English speaking surveyorsd through no fault of thier own derived the nearest pronounciation they could at the time. Dale: old english for "valley" which is hardly used in Scotland derives from old norse. Kelvendale, nitsdale, southdale, northdale & clydesdale. I do not see any sign of ships or fields.

    1. Is this another promotion of the Viking find @ Swordale which as with the Lewis men will only be seen by none Celtic eyes at another great British museum which is not accessabile to people in the locality from where it came from?

    2. Wherever possible I take my place name translations from Angus Henderson's article in the Celtic Review of 1915 called 'Ardnamurchan Place Names' - it's on the internet somewhere. He says of Fascadale, "FASCADALE (G. Faisgeadal), field of the ship, from Norse aska, ship, and dahr, dale." He also suggests fauskr, a dry log dug out of the earth, as another base.

    3. On the matter of the finds from Swordle, some of which are currently in the Viking exhibition at the British Museum, the Lighthouse Trust is trying to raise money to create a museum at the lighthouse which will be able to house some of the many local finds, including some of those from Swordle and Mingary Castle.

  2. fasgadh nm. g.v. -aidh; pl. -aidhean, protection, shelter

    Obtained from

  3. Place names is a fascinating subject but awesomely arcane and esoteric and I find many of the texts on the subject incredibly hard to follow. However, just the other day I read a nugget which made sense to me which was the observation that, in Lewis, nowhere is there a name which is a Norse noun with a Gaelic qualifier (e.g. "Tarbertvaig") suggesting either that Gaelic was not spoken in Lewis when the vikings arrived or it was but Norse totally obliterated it. Whether that is valid or not, I don't know but I offer it up in the context that Fascadale might be Fasgadh (Gaelic: shelter) + dal (Norse: valley).