Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Rim of the Basin

'The Basin' is a bowl-shaped area of land about a mile this side of Camas nan Geall. It starts where the road passes the turn off to the Beinn Bhuidhe wind turbine, and ends where the road rises again before dropping down to Camas nan Geall. While the road follows its western side, we walked today along the top of the impressive scarp that forms the eastern side of the Basin.

Looking across the Basin, its western side is formed by the lower slopes of Ben Hiant, lost this morning in low cloud. That the Basin's has been worked for generations as arable land, until the Clearances, is evident from the straight ditches and wandering walls that criss-cross it.

A number of small burns that drain the rolling table-land around Beinn Bhuidhe cut their way across the lip that runs around the top of the scarp, and spill down the almost vertical slope as waterfalls which are most visible from the road after heavy rain.

The walk along the rim is a pleasure to anyone who has the slightest interest in the local archaeology and history. In the foreground of this picture is a circle of stones about 10m across, all that remains of a large hut, built a little like an Native American teepee, which stood on this site during either the bronze or iron age. It was found by members of AHHA, the local heritage society, and is one of five such structures locally.

A little further along is this apparently shapeless pile of stones which, on close inspection, also forms a circle, but a much smaller one, perhaps 3m across. It's the remains of a shieling hut, used by generations of women and children who took the animals out of the local clachans and kept them in the hills during early summer while the arable crops were grown and harvested.

The southern end of the basin is formed by a small ridge which includes a conical hill (centre in the picture), which the road passes before descending to.... along the top of the steep slope down to Camas nan Geall. The rugged cliffs in the foreground of this picture are a favourite haunt of eagles, which sit there watching the sheep in the fields below and, occasionally, dining off the lambs. Today a pair rose.... we approached and flew away towards Ardslignish. Both show the characteristic white tails of sea eagles.

Tucked beneath the rocky end of the ridge is a large sheep fank. It's clearly marked on the OS 6" map of 1875, but isn't on Bald's 1806 map, so it was probably built some time after 1828 when Camas nan Geall was cleared and let as a sheep run.

From the end of the ridge there's a fine view eastwards, across the lands of Ardslignish towards Loch Sunart and Loch Teacuis. It wasn't the greatest of weather for views but, on the positive side, it didn't rain and there was just enough breeze to keep the midges at home.

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