21 March 2021
Important reminder: All dogs must be on leads, and remember to keep clear of all livestock, especially sheep and sheep with lambs
We started on the road to Miller’s Port which turns off the main road to the Lighthouse with the mill race beside it. We ended in sight of the Stevenson Light on Eilean Musdile.
It is thought the mill may have been in use as late as the 1850s. It is still recognisably a mill, with a strong race and a clear place where the wheel turned.
The going was fine but wet at times; stout waterproof footwear is essential. This eastern raised beach is full of interesting, always varied, geology—as they all are. We met one wooden fence but easily slid around a gap near the cliff.
We detoured to see the mystery road going nowhere, and An Dùn, a very large Iron Age possible dwelling, previously visited on an archaeological walkover with the Comann Eachdraidh. Like many Lismore dùns it is superbly situated with magnificent views along Loch Linnhe. The mystery road lies beneath it. The southern end of the island has the majority of these structures, although there is a notable dùn at Park in the north of the island. I would recommend Robert Hay’s Lismore: The Great Garden for further information.
We made another attempt to stay on the raised beach further on, but were defeated by sharp limestone edges and a serious drop to the sea. Again, we went up briefly.
Enjoying this peaceful coast, it is impossible not to imagine that sunny morning in the late summer of 1940 when the Firth of Lorne began to fill with ships—from Eilean Dubh (the Black Isle) all the way to the lighthouse; It remained an anchorage for five years.
Donald Black’s book, Sgeul no Dhà às an Lios: A Tale or Two from Lismore, has a chapter entitled ‘Echoes of War in the Firth of Lorne and Lismore’ which describes his schoolboy experience of the ships arriving, and the sudden bombing raid (there was just the one), followed by the installation of anti-aircraft guns at Achnacroish, Baligrundle 1 and Baligrundle 4. And then watching them building housing for the gunners, with a water supply at Newfield still in use today.
For five years the island was an important protected area, until suddenly it was over and the Firth filled with old, worn-out vessels waiting to go to scrap. And then nothing but the scene we see today.
Near the top of a jagged limestone cliff a small, very green lochan, fed by a stream, was slowly dripping into the sea below. We crossed a fence which was partly down near the sea, and were soon in Dalnarrow and able to see the lighthouse and the Dalnarrow cottages. On the shore, two Canada geese were displaying. The alarm calls of these geese was the sound of the entire raised beach walk, it being a very popular and safe breeding area. Gone were the large flocks; only pairs this day.
We turned north again and up through the field, taking the road behind Dalnarrow cottages. As we were not using the main road to return, we crossed to a wall, walking beside it for some time.
Later, the wall between Dalnarrow and Fiart had a convenient break, but some care was needed to avoid the wire strung across the top. From here we had a good view of An Dùn which we had climbed earlier.
Walking through the large pastoral field—with convenient sheep tracks and a few sheep—H recalled seeing it cultivated with hay, oats and potatoes by the farming brothers, Dougie and Ian Carmichael, the uncle and father of John who farms Kilcheran and Fiart. Relatively recent days, when more labour was available. We are soon passing the substantial Fiart farmhouse, the home of someone equally substantial, and possibly built by the Duke of Argyll after The Clearances. After this we rejoined the main road, passing the mobile fank and through the last gate.
The last point of interest was Fiart Broch, on the hill on the left as we approached Miller’s Port road, also visited in a previous archaeological walkover. Not as well preserved or as easy to see as the broch of Tirfour, but lying high above Loch Fiart and accessible with a slight detour.
The final view of the Firth of Lorne with Eilean nan Gamhna and Eilean na Cloiche is one of the island’s best, though with great competition.