Saturday, 21 January 2017

East Portuairk

From the roadside at the top of the steep hill down into Portuairk there's a view across a series of ridges to Sanna, and from the summit of the ridge in the right middle distance of this picture....

....marked here by an arrow, there a some of the best views of Portuairk itself, particularly if one happens to have the great good fortune to be on this hill on a sunny morning like this morning.

It's an interesting hill, almost vertically sided except to the left in this picture, the northwest side, and even from this side the approach is rocky and steep. It's a natural hill fort, a place to which, in times of trouble - such as the arrival of Viking longships - the people of Portuairk could have taken refuge. In the bowl-shaped area on its summit there's even a damp area which might have been developed as a water supply.

From this summit one can look down into the centre of Portuairk, with its protected beaches, rock-surrounded harbour, and the flower-filled fields after which the place is named, the -uairce being, according to Angus Henderson, shobhrag, primroses.

But just to the east of Portuairk itself is another but much smaller harbour, Port Maggie, with its....

....narrow entrance and channel leading through to.... area of thin machair to the right of which is a curved line of stones which may be the site of a temporary Viking camp, the men upturning their boats behind the stones to form shelters.

Even if these walls aren't Viking in age - and it is difficult to believe that these seafarers didn't use this wonderfully sheltered little bay - Port Maggie is filled with history.

A little further up the burn which flows down to the sea here, there are several stone structures. The one in the left foreground is probably an animal enclosure or, possibly, a kaleyard, a place where vegetables were grown. Just to its right is a standing stone, though there is no way of telling its age. To the right of this are....

....several walled structures, interpreted as a house with a yard around it in which there are the circular footings for a haystack. With the exception of the standing stone, these are 19th century, dating to the time when the Estate had moved people to Portuairk after they had been cleared from places like Swordle.

The first OS map of the area, dated 1856, shows Port Maggie's importance. There are no buildings in the main part of Portuairk, and five on either side of the Port Maggie burn, along with two a little further east, on the present path to Sanna. Thus Port Maggie pre-dates Portuairk.

Many thanks to Dave Brown for his company and help, and to Jim for access.

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