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Arch Walk 1 - Port Ghriais to Glen Tolsta

Volunteer's account report author D I Macdonald

“It feels,” she said, as we looked down a plunging cliff and across to a towering needle of rock, “like we’re in Lord of the Rings”. The twelve of us were midway between Tràigh Sheilibhig and Glen Tolsta, trying to see if there was any evidence of an ancient fort on the top of the sea-stack at Earabhaig.

The scenery was almost overpoweringly dramatic, too steep for sight and too wide for comprehension. Maybe we had stepped into Middle Earth without realising it.

(She could also have meant that we’d been walking for weeks and the destination wasn’t getting appreciably nearer. The going is tough underfoot, and you need to work for those views!)

Three hours earlier we’d set off with archaeologist Ian Mchardy from Port Ghriais, and almost at once came across feanagan and the faint outlines of buildings. In one of these feanagan Ben found a flint chip -- evidence of stone tool manufacture. Finds from the stone age, from the iron age (possibly) and from early modern times, all a few paces from each other!

Geodha na Muic was next - what geologists call a “dyke”, formed long ago as lava welled up between the surrounding rock. For all the world it looks like something giants built, sharp, squared-off blocks of weighty stone, perfectly perpendicular and dropping down hundreds of feet to the restless sea.

It was Jayne’s turn to make a discovery here, and you can find out more about it in Ian’s report

Rounding what I’ve heard called Màs a’ Chnìp we saw the golden sands and turquoise waters of Tràigh Sheilibhig. Before reaching it, our local guides (Puffet and Fergie) took us down into Geodh’ ’la Thòla’ where a sandy beach lies hidden at the back of a deep cave.

More ruins at Tràìgh Sheilibhig, one which Ian thought was considerably older than the other one, based on its shape. Sadly no sign of the neolithic “stone row” marked on the Canmore archaeological record, but it was still a great spot for a mid-walk picnic, stretched out in the warm sun as the waves lapped the beach.

Margaret Mary and Colin cut up Allt Raghnadail and made for the main road at this point, while the rest of us carried on over Allt na Rainich (whoever named it would be happy to see the sides of its glen are still covered in thick bracken).

After passing the ruins of Àìridh na Banachaig (who was the milkmaid, does anyone know?) the sea-stack at Earabhaig caught our attention, before we rounded the last headland and saw Port Bun a’ Ghlinne and the houses of Glen Tolsta.

We finally lost sight of the low turf wall that had traced the outline of the coast since Port Ghriais. How many months of hard labour must have gone into building and maintaining it!

An easy descent to Bun a’ Ghlinne where we came across the ruins of old buildings -- easy to imagine how it looked before the people moved away.

Finally a short walk up the track to the road-end, where we were very happy to see Anne Ramsay (Stand) waiting for us with a minibus.

The Comann would like to thank all of the volunteers (“fellowship” may be too strong a word -- although we did get along famously). We could not do it without you, and we really appreciate you taking the time to come.

D I Macdonald

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