After short walk yesterday out to an abandoned village now lying empty as a result of the Highland Clearances, I found another, longer, walk today to two more such settlements.
Whilst yesterday’s weather wasn’t sparkling, today’s was awful – raining continuously that fine soaking rain and a strengthening wind with it. However, I’m on holiday so why waste it stuck indoors when there are spectacular places to be.
The start point of the 10-mile walk was a bit of a drive away and the weather deteriorated further before I got there, but I wasn’t going to let a bit of water get in the way. I was soaked from the first five minutes and my walking boots were full of water for the second half of the walk – I gave up avoiding the puddles and the paths-come-streams.
After about a third of the way round the route, along a good but rocky track, I came to the first village, Suisnish. It appears larger than Lorgill, which I visited yesterday, but I didn’t stick around for long as the rain came down heavier still.
The landscape between the two villages is particularly spectacular, high cliffs with some tall cascading waterfalls; the path winds its way at the high water mark above the beach.
Rounding a corner a white-tailed eagle launched itself off the cliff-face and disappeared. As I came around further cliffs, two eagles appeared and were soon joined by a third; the first two again disappeared quickly but the last hung in the wind for a while. I sensed it was watching me as I approached and it finally glided off slowly into the rain shrouded distance.
I began to see the remains of buildings as I crested a rise and eventually a village was laid out in front of me – Boreraig is larger again than Suisnish. There are buildings dotted all over a low wide valley, facing directly onto a rocky beach. The scale of the place is quite breathtaking; that a large community once lived here but now there are only the crumbled remains of their homes and the harsh environment to surround them.
32 families were cleared from the two villages in 1854, the furniture smashed and the doors barred, the women and children had to fend for themselves on the nearby beaches until their menfolk returned from working on the mainland. It strikes me that all three Clearance villages I visited are extremely remote from the larger settlements on the island and are in very exposed locations. I wonder just how harsh the living was there and just how sustainable the communities were in the longer term if they had been allowed to stay – we’ll never know.
Walking on, the track led over the top of the moor behind Boreraig, up more paths and tracks turned into streams by the incessant rain. The sky brightened momentarily but the gloom gathered once more as I descended past one last abandoned building and made it back to the car.
Whilst getting soaked to the skin in pouring rain and a strong wind, walking along flooded paths and tracks, to go to look at some tumbled-down old buildings may not be everyone’s idea of a good day out when on holiday, I’m very glad I did it.