Tràigh na Beirigh

On the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, a two kilometre stretch of golden sands with hardly a footprint on it. ‘S math sin.

‘S math sin is a Gaelic phrase that found its into English. ‘S math sin is pronounced smashing and that exactly what it means.

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Geodha an Fhithich

I spotted this on the map and I just had to visit it. Fhithich, as some of my regular readers will know is the domain name for this blog. It’s Gaelic for raven. Geodha means a chasm or ravine. So this is the ravine of the raven. I must admit I was a bit disappointed. I’ve seen geodha before which have much more vertical sides but the sea stacks in the bay across to the headland Àird Feinis were spectacular.

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Dùn Èistean

The site of a medieval fort on a small island the size of half a football pitch surrounded by steep crags off the coast just east of the Butt of Lewis overlooking the shipping routes of The Minch. The island probably supported a permanent community and is said to be the traditional stronghold of the Clan Morrison. Evidence has been found of houses, storage buildings, a defensive turf wall and, on the highest point, a keep, which could have been up to 4 metres high. On the mainland are the remains of lazy beds and other cultivation. Modern access is by a steel bridge over the steep ravine but the island would have originally been accessed either by climbing down and back up at low tide or by hauling boats up a sloping gorge on the seaward side. A pond on the top provided fresh water. Archaeological finds include coins dating from the reigns of James VI and Elizabeth I, musket balls and pistol shot as well as late medieval pottery.

Probably the first branch of Morrisons in the country.

Lazy beds at Losgaintir

Lazy beds or feannagan in Gaelic are an ancient method of cultivation. Similar to ridge and furrow except lazy beds were dug by hand usually on the steepest slopes. The peat sods were cut into blocks and piled up in ridges inter-layered with seaweed fertiliser. Potatoes were the staple crop until the potato blight of the mid 19th century after which lazy beds fell out of fashion. These beds are looking over Caolas Tharasaigh or the Sound of Taransay on Harris.

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Bheàrnaraigh

Fantastic rock strata on an un-named beach on the north coast of Berneray. Gneiss I understand, a metamorphic rock 542 to 4000 million years old. I thought geologists could be more precise than that.

Berneray, Gaelic Bheàrnaraigh, is said to come from the Norse bjarnar and ey meaning island of the bear. Whether bears survived here is hard to believe, it’s largely machair with no workable peat beds so blocks of peat for fuel had to be brought in by boat from Votersay and Stroma. Berneray no longer feels like an island due to its connection by a causeway to North Uist. In the 18th century, the 700 strong population was principally involved in the kelp trade, used to produce chemicals for the soap and glass industries. But following the Napoleonic wars the bottom dropped out the market, then poor harvests following by the potato famine caused families to abandoned the island. Many chose emigrated particularly to Nova Scotia. Its current population is around 120.

In the distance is Pabbay, or Pabaigh, which means the Priest’s Isle.

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North Uist Sunset

An unexpected sunset after a day of winds and passing squalls. From a rocky headland called Raicinis on the northern end of Traigh Stir near the township of Hosta.

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Frenchmen’s Cove

This stretch of the Durham Coast south of Seaham was once an industrial eyesore. At Nose’s Point in the distance stood Dawdon colliery where for 84 years coal was mined from deep below the North Sea and the waste spoil dumped back into the sea offshore. The result was a total devastation of the coast and marine life. The far end of the bay below  Nose’s Point had already been named Blast Beach on account of the blast furnaces built in 1862 to produce pig iron from ironstone from the Cleveland Hills, coal from Seaham and the local limestone. Although this venture was short-lived the name stuck and the original name of Frenchmen’s Cove, possibly because of smuggling of French brandy, was regulated to the southern half of the bay.

Much effort has made to clean the beach up although the sea regularly exposes evidence of the past activity. The magnesium limestone cliffs above provide a lime rich grassland with unique flora and is now under the guardianship of the National Trust.

The beach was used as a location for the 1992 science fiction film Alien 3. Here is a clip

Fishermen's Cove map