The next day was absolutely beautiful – wall to wall blue sky, not a cloud to be seen – and it stayed like that all day! After breakfast we collected the car from the car park and headed out of town towards some of the smallest inhabited islands in the Inner Hebrides (HEB rid eez), Seil (Seel) and Easdale (EEZdale).
To reach the island of Seil which, along with the other islands on the west coast, is technically in the Atlantic Ocean, you cross Clachan Bridge, commonly known as the bridge over the Atlantic! It’s an old stone bridge, dating back to 1792, and built with a high arch to let vessels pass beneath it at high tide.
The inn on its far side – on the island – is called Tigh an Truish, (Tie un TROOsh) the House of Trousers, and commemorates the time after the Battle of Culloden in 1746, when wearing the kilt was banned by the government in London. Islanders who were used to wearing the kilt, would change into trousers here before crossing to the mainland, and likewise changed back into the kilt on their return. Further on the road turns to the right to Ellenabeich (Ellena baych – Scottish ch) and the ferry to Easdale.
Up until the middle of the 19th century this area was very prominent in the Scottish slate industry, the rows of cottages there now being built originally for quarry workers. These quarries were dug down to form large holes, sometimes with only a thin strip of coastline keeping them from being inundated by the sea. However in the 1880s a huge and terrifying storm blew up; gigantic waves crashed over the land barriers, deluging the quarries, and in some cases actually breaking through the coastal strips. In one night so much damage was done, machinery lost, that the quarries pretty much had to be abandoned, and so today you can see the water-filled quarries like large ponds around the tiny island. A bird’s eye view is quite extraordinary, as you can see from this view from Bing.
A small ferry takes visitors from the slipway at Ellenabeich on Seil across to Easdale. What is interesting is that on the other side you are greeted by the sight of a load of wheelbarrows at the top of the jetty.
Apparently they belong to the islanders so that they can wheel their shopping, or special deliveries, back home from the ferry – there being no vehicles on the island!
These days the village has about 70 permanent residents, but many of the cottages are used as holiday accommodation. One has been conveted into a museum, which we visited, telling the story of the slate industry and the village, and its subsequent demise. I wonder if the old telephone box to its left, was used on the island once? I don’t think it would have been situated there originally! Too out of the way!
The most impressive building on the island is the newly renovated community hall, quite a modern structure that sits well in its surroundings. It was originally the island’s drill hall built in 1871 and has gone through various incarnations on its way to being what it is today. As I actually didn’t take photos of it itself, I am trying to find a good link! This one, I think! It has a photo of the hall now, as well as one of the old Drill Hall.
Linda spent a while looking at the aviaries near the jetty, and chatting to Willie the ferryman, who owns them and their feathery occupants, while I wandered round the village taking more photos! One of the strangest things was to see a load of roofing slates sitting outside one cottage that was being renovated! Not local slates, as they would always have been, but from overseas!
There’s quite a bit of renovation going on, so whether these are for people who intend living permanently on the island, or people who want a holiday retreat, I couldn’t say. It must be an idyllic place to stay in a fine summer but it will be pretty bleak in the winter. The gable end of this cottage at the end of a row (left) was being replaced by a huge glass window, no doubt giving a fabulous view over one of the flooded quarries,
and in the photo to the right there has been some modern extension very much in keeping with the original cottages.
The number of cottages on the island shows just what a large community this once was. Although the present community including holiday home owners, is quite small, I believe some have connections with former quarriers.
A craftsperson here was displaying and presumably selling pieces of painted slate!
In these two pictures, you can see some of the old harbour walls, built of slate. They apparently date back to the 18th century, and are “listed” to protect them from being replaced or changed. It’s a fascinating wee island well worth a visit.
Back in Oban in the evening we listened to a pipe band playing for the public then chose another restaurant for our tea. Next day we headed for home taking the old “road of the kings”, the route used to transport the coffins of the Scottish kings on the way to the island of Iona for burial. There were some great views along the narrow route, for example this one towards the twin peaks of Cruachan, the mountain that contains a power station, and a road block too!
Our last stop was at the foot of the power station mountain, Cruachan, where there’s a visitor centre and cafe, and then we headed for home. It had been a lovely short break We had been really lucky with the weather too. Returning home I think we had one more gorgeous day but then….. well, I’ll tell you about that next time.
Talk again soon.