Friday, 4 July 2014
Ewe view, Slaggan Bay
Climbing above the beach at Slaggan Bay took me back into the wind, but also gave a terrific view across the Minch to Harris. This was where my intended camp would be, but I delayed pitching the tent in the hope that the wind would drop a bit.
In the glen leading east from the beach are a number of ruins. Most are of drystone croft houses, a couple of them still have a Rowan tree growing close by, the traditional protective tree planted at the gables of houses. The association of certain trees with properties such as protection and purity still remains as a folk memory, though somewhat dimmed by the passage of time. Small enclosures near the houses would either have been for some vegetables or for keeping a cow close by. There's a quite large network of drystone walls separating out the in-bye ground from the hill grazing.
Slaggan was once a typical crofting community which even had a school and teacher, but by the 1930's the poulation had dwindled to six people. The last folk to live here were a family named Mackenzie who, in 1936 built a new house with financial assistance from the Crofting Commission. Unfortunately the house was destroyed in a fire in 1942 or 1943 and the family moved to Achgarve leaving Slaggan deserted, the stark shapes of the gable-ends standing witness to this last effort. The magnificent view from these crofts would have changed little down the centuries, but a view won't put food on the family table and this place became just too detached from a modernising world.
Today Slaggan is a quiet corner inhabited only by the shorebirds, a few Highland cattle and the occasional wild camper; reached either by boat or by a 4.5 kilometre walk from near Mellon Udrigle on Gruinard Bay.
As te evening wore on there was a slight drop in the easterly wind and I pitched the tent, cooked dinner and watched as.....
...a colourful sunset lit the sky above the Minch.
My last view at 11pm as I climbed into my sleeping bag was the afterglow still smouldering to the west. Despite not having kayaked my intended route, how could this possibly have been as a thwarted day?!