23 July 2020

Important reminder: All dogs must be on leads, and remember to keep clear of all livestock, especially sheep and sheep with lambs and … please leave all gates as you find them. Thank you.

We started at Stronacraoibh and took the road to Port Ramsay, turning left before the village on the road to Laggan. This leads eventually to a gate and to the last house, Camas.

We climbed the gently sloping field on the far side of this house and market garden, and through a gate that leads to a newly repaired stile (thank you, BH and JB).

The path is then through trees to another stile and a climb down to the beach at Port-na-mòr-laoch, (the port of the great heroes), quiet now, but once a very important port for fishing, lime and general cargo. Also possibly famous for having been visited by St Columba, as written in Lismore in Alba by Ian Carmichael (a minister of Lismore). He also suggests the Fianna from Ireland: Ossian, Oscar and Fionn, may have landed here. That is too interesting not to insert!

In modern times this port was part of the lime industry, although little is known about this kiln compared to those at Sàilean and Kilcheran. With an increased demand for lime during the 19th century, kilns were built across Lismore—always below a cliff so the quarried stone could be moved downhill to feed the kiln from the top. The nearby jetty (remains visible) would have been busy unloading coal and exporting the lime which were carried by the sailing smacks. Most too, as here, had associated nearby cottages, as well as storehouses for coal and explosives.

The walk through Portcastle croft can be wet underfoot but is extremely peaceful and grazed by horses and sheep. A ruined dwelling lies about a third of the way along. When you reach the croft house, take the gate nearest the sea—you need to avoid the high wire—and immediately step over a low rail, skirting the house, and keep to the coast as far as Castle Coeffin. The raised beach cliffs are, as ever, full of interest and Castle Coeffin is ahead. At a very low tide you will also see the medieval fish trap.

It is said the MacDougalls built Castle Coeffin in the 13th century. There is some evidence of earlier Iron Age activity, and a well-told Norse legend is associated with the name. These days, Historic Environment Scotland care for it and ask visitors not to climb it; its precarious state is a danger to the castle and the climber. Very popular with sheep. Beside it in the sheltered bay is an ancient fish trap visible at low tide.

We followed the road out through two gates and headed north for Balimackillichan beside a wall that leads to a gate beside the croft house. Straight ahead a very small gate leads into Clachan and to the church. On the main road back at Baligarve we passed St Moluag’s chair, where it would seem he sat to contemplate the job of bringing Christianity to Argyll and beyond.

In the sixth century Moluag introduced Christianity to much of the west of Scotland. He came to Lismore in 562 AD aged about 40 years, and with his apostolic twelve, he set up a monastic centre known as his muinntir. Truly he was just as important as Columba in the early Celtic church, but is not as well known. Of course, not being of noble birth and not having a biographer as a relative was a distinct disadvantage. Perhaps it is as well that Lismore is not burdened with St Columba’s fame.

The rookery at Achuaran was pleasantly noisy as they were busy nesting. The cow who saw us off was there to greet us.

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