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Highland (Islands)

<b>Highland (Islands)</b>Posted by KammerAn Sithean © Simon Marshall
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Dun Kearstach (Stone Fort / Dun) — Fieldnotes

It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder... an oft-quoted axiom implying, I guess, that just about everything can be 'beautiful' to someone, somewhere, at some time or another. Depends upon your point of view... whether the sleek form of a fast car floats your boat (incidentally I'm with Pete Shelley here), that packed beach upon the Costa del Sol, or even the tribalistic shenanigans inherent in watching people kicking/carrying/whacking a ball around a field. To be honest I find the ideal of beauty much harder to pin down, to define. A nebulous, intangible concept seemingly spontaneously occurring during perceived moments of heightened awareness; of emotional fulfilment, perhaps? Those occasions when the senses appear to align, attaining optimal equilibrium. Or something like that. Arguably it is better not to attempt to define, but simply to experience? Suffice to say I know beauty when I happen to chance across it. My beauty.

A case in point, perhaps, is to witness dawn beside the chambered cairn at An Sithean, the monument presenting a breath-taking aesthetic vision harmonising with the elegantly sweeping profile of Beinn na Caillich towering above and beyond, the cloudless sky emphatically refuting Skye's 'Misty Isle' epithet. It is, in the absence of any more appropriate adjective, simply spellbinding. Yeah, a 'treasure so rare that even devils might care', to quote a certain Mr Ferry from '73. The moment can't last, of course, a passing bus highlighting the obvious dilemma intrinsic to current public transport solutions by emitting an all-consuming cloud of noxious diesel fumes choking both myself and the otherwise alacritous neighbourhood sheep. Yeah, clearly there is no simple answer to the conservational issues raised through simply 'getting around'.

The landscape is overwhelming in its sheer, naked grandeur as I approach Loch Slapin, passing beyond the reedy waters of Loch Cill Chriosd and nearby churchyard-cum-stone circle, the jagged skyline of Bla Bheinn and its gabbro cohorts rising majestically to the west presenting perhaps every child's vision of what a mountain should look like. Well, it certainly appeals to the child within me, illustrating the unequivocal truth that reality can be every bit as intense as fantasy. No need to indulge in fairy tales when travelling upon Skye, methinks. But I digress...

So... a little before Torrin a very rough single track road exits left to access the foreshore at Camas Malag, the environs popular with 'overnighters' possessing a, shall we say, more communal ethic than I? From the bay a track heads southward, hugging the coast toward the abandoned hamlet of Suisnish, presumably still standing mute testimony to the appalling enforced clearances of yore. It is a fine walk, worthwhile in its own right and, perhaps not surprisingly, reminiscent of another, some way to the west, accessing Rubh an Dunain from Glen Brittle. The route, otherwise defined by a pregnant silence highlighting the absence of those locals who once called this coastline 'home', is enlivened by several streams cascading into Loch Slapin upon abruptly running out of hillside, although it is the vistas across the loch which naturally hold the beguiled traveller's attention. Eventually the track swings to the left approaching light woodland and the bridge across the Allt Poll a'Bhainne; here, after refilling the water bottle, Dun Kearstach can be discerned upon a prominent moorland rise to the east, within Glen Boreraig. As Les notes, there is no path.....

For me, Dun Kearstach is a magical place, a miniature 'Lost World' plateau arguably too diminutive to support even one of Conan Doyle's giant sauropoda. Exquisitely positioned, the coastal scenery, gazing across to Sgurr Alasdair, sentinel peak of the legendary Black Cuillin, is of the highest calibre... certainly when viewed under today's exceptional weather conditions. The location is highly defensible, too, the flanks of the little knoll falling sharply to the floor of the glen and thus accentuating the limited strength of the single drystone wall enclosing the summit. OK, not an awful lot of masonry courses remain in situ but, with clear evidence of an entrance to the west (facing the approach of least resistance), it represents more than enough archaeology to emphasise the point that the previous incumbents knew exactly what they were doing. And let's face it, what with the Allt a' Ghairuillt flowing immediately below to the north fresh water wasn't exactly going to be a problem, was it? All in all this must have been a pretty epic place to live.

As I lie back and take it all in... it becomes increasingly apparent that here, reclining recumbent upon this little grassy plateau overlooking Loch Slapin in the sunshine, I have (albeit with Les's help) chanced upon another obscure moment of sheer natural beauty upon this special island. Ultravox's 'Lament' - the video incidentally filmed around these parts - worms its way into my consciousness and it occurs to me that it is the perceived sense of melancholia, suggested, perhaps, by remnants of times past permanently set in stone within the landscape (whether funerary cairn, defensive enclosure or deserted clearance village) interacting with the haunting aesthetic of the wild mountains... that accords Skye its enigmatic, ethereal status. The human element. All the triumphs, all the tragedies, all the humdrum moments of everyday life.

Curiosity overtakes me and I clamber up the hillside to the east and I'm reminded of the lower settlement upon Foel Offrwm in far off Gwynedd. But, to be honest, Dun Kearstach is unique. I am reluctant to leave and break the spell, only eventually doing so in order to visit the two further duns guarding the northern aspect of the loch. As it transpires this is easier said than done - both the leaving and the subsequent visits, particularly that to the larger of the two fortified enclosures, Dun Mor - but there you are.
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
18th August 2018ce
Edited 21st August 2018ce

Dun Mor (Stone Fort / Dun) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Dun Mor</b>Posted by GLADMAN GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
23rd June 2018ce

Clach Oscar (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Clach Oscar</b>Posted by GLADMAN GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
19th June 2018ce

Loch Leum Na Luirginn (Stone Fort / Dun) — Images

<b>Loch Leum Na Luirginn</b>Posted by GLADMAN GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
19th June 2018ce

Dun Beag (Loch Slapin) (Stone Fort / Dun) — Images

<b>Dun Beag (Loch Slapin)</b>Posted by GLADMAN GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
18th June 2018ce

Dun Kearstach (Stone Fort / Dun) — Images

<b>Dun Kearstach</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Dun Kearstach</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Dun Kearstach</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Dun Kearstach</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Dun Kearstach</b>Posted by GLADMAN GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
17th June 2018ce
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