Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Bay MacNeil Walk

Usually we walk to Bay MacNeil from the western end of Portuairk, but the other day we took a different route, leaving our car at the top of the hill leading down into Portuairk, where someone has kindly put a notice saying 'Visitor Parking'. From there, we climbed over the fence into Portuairk common grazings and then followed the fence between Portuairk's and neighbouring Achosnich's land uphill.

Even on a dull day, it's a walk of spectacular views. This one looks towards the houses of Achosnich, with Sonachan Hotel to the right and, in the distance, the summit of Ben Hiant.

As one climbs, following the fence, more and more of Sanna Bay comes into view. The lone house in the foreground is in Portuairk, while the island to the left is Eigg and the dark headland to the right is Rubha Carrach.

Higher still, the whole of Portuairk comes into view and, with it, more of the islands - the one on the left with its peak lost in cloud is Rum, with the darker shape of Muck in front of it.

The hill we climbed is a northern extension of Beinn Bhuidhe, the main peak being in Achosnich land, but the two form a ridge which, as one crosses it....

....opens up views to the west. This one looks down onto Grigadale land, with Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse at centre, the peak called Coire Beinn, not Sgurr nam Meann as on the OS map, to the right, and the island of Coll stretched along the horizon.

Round to the south is Loch Grigadale and Grigadale farmhouse, built following the clearance of the Grigadale clachan. In the distance are the hills of Mull.

By continuing to follow the fence, we came down into the little glen that leads through to Bay MacNeil, passing this lone farmstead. The house is marked on the first OS map of this area, surveyed in 1856, and it remained inhabited within living memory.

However dull the weather, Bay MacNeil is a magical place, and the sea always seeming to be blue. It gets its name from the fact that it was used by the MacNeils of Barra as a port when they were bringing their cattle across to drive them to the big market at Falkirk - there's a map of the drove roads here. This was a trade which continued for centuries but died out in the early 19th century with improving transport links.

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