Bailuacraich Farm—The Broch—Balnagown Loop

2 April 2021

Bailuacraich Farm—The Broch—Balnagown Loop

 02 April 2021    02:00 approx    Easy    3.62 miles     go to map 


  All dogs must be on leads, and remember to keep clear of all livestock, especially sheep and sheep with lambs and … please leave all gates as you find them. Thank you.

1. BAILUACRAICH FARM AND PORT MOLUAG

Walk, bike or drive to the Balure Road end signposted for Balure. ( About 2 miles from the North End ferry.) We did this on a very bright day; perfect walking weather. An easy walk, impossible to get lost.

Once through the gate, the road leads down past Bailuacraich farm, with the Firth of Lorn ahead. After a single bungalow on the left, there is a turning for Port Moluag which is well worth a slight detour as it is so important.

The port is more an indent in the coastline than a serious place to land, but is significant as it is said to be where Moluag (later a saint) landed, from Ireland, in 561 as one of the proselytising workers of the early Christian church. He travelled with his twelve apostles, and set up a monastic centre known as a muinntireas. He set up similar centres at other places in Scotland and travelled a great deal; his name is known from Lewis to the Isle of Man. As Donald Black said: ‘Truly he was just as important as Columba in the early Celtic church but is not as well known. Of course not being of noble birth and not having a biographer as a relative—was a distinct disadvantage.’ His ministry eventually spread throughout much of what is now Scotland and northern England, or so the story goes. Evidence for this period is sketchy.

Port MoluagConnel sawpit remainsConnel boat building remainsPort Moluag HouseRestored croft cottageRoad down to Port MoluagBailuacraich Farm, LismoreRoad to Bailuacraich FarmBalure road sign

This area was also the site of an ancient chapel, possibly the original place of worship and sanctuary established by Moluag before he selected Clachan. The freshwater spring, known as Tobar na Slàinte was also linked with him.

The remains of the Connell boat-building station, are still visible on the raised beach. Again, I quote Donald Black: “On Lismore in the 19th.century and into the early part of the 20th century, there lived and worked a family of traditional boat builders of the name “Connell”. They had obviously dropped the Mac, as did many other Highlanders. They were known locally as na Connallaich. The saw pit and workshop they used is well preserved, and can be seen to this day at Port Moluag on the eastern shore of the island.’ The remains of Connel’s croft are in Balnagown and in the Heritage—Balnagown—Achnacroish walk. You can read the Connel family story on the Comann Eachdraidh website.

2. BALURE AND THE BROCH

The next gate is into Balure with the broch on the left. After another gate with the Explore Appin and Lismore badge, you reach a left turning into a field with the broch ahead and a barn on the right.

Compared to some, but not others, this 2000-year-old broch is reasonably well preserved, with 15-feet-high walls and a visible internal passage—now barred to prevent sheep entering—lying between ten-foot-thick walls. Its position may seem to be defensive with such great visibility (in good weather), but the walls would have been easily scaled and there are no lookout gaps. Some suggest it is simply a very showy farmhouse. Because it is delicate, it is most important that visitors treat it with care.

As part of the Lismore Landscape Project, Dr Ewan Campbell and colleagues from the Department of Archaeology, University of Glasgow, excavated areas of the interior and surrounds of Tirfuir Broch in 2004-5. You can read about this on the Comann Eachdraidh website and see what they unearthed. There is also lots of information about Scottish brochs on the Historic UK website.

The broch entranceLooking down to the Black Isle LismoreThe broch inner chamber entrance LismoreInner broch LismoreRoad to Balure Lismore

From the Broch walk south towards a gate, signposted to Achnacroish Pier. Over to the right are the ruins whose inhabitants all died tragically of typhus. In the middle of a very large open field, we saw a mink, but only because it moved briefly. Otherwise, it was a small patch of black earth. Mink have been a disaster on Lismore and everywhere in Argyll.

Appin had one of the largest farms in Scotland and there were always escapees, but when it closed in the early 1990s, terns, gulls of all kinds, ducks and ground-nesting birds began to struggle and their numbers dwindle around Lismore’s shore. The morality of those who farmed them and those who dreamt of putting an expensive fur around a woman’s shoulders is, alas, questionable. When farming puts profit before everything it becomes a crime. Not seeing bird life is one result but they have never cleaned up the Appin site which is on the cycle path north where there are at least three sheds and endless cages, now just rusting heaps.

3. BALNAGOWN

Sign for the PierGate Stile, LismoreWooden Stile, LismoreEndless small rusting mink cages AppinRotting mink housing Appin

Ahead on a stone wall is an Explore Appin and Lismore stile, which eventually leads to a very obvious rising tractor path—there is a less distinct one earlier—leading up to the cliff edge, with the raised beach quite far below.

Cross a wooden stile, which used to be a sheep hole, and climb up a obvious path and down again with The Mill straight ahead. Follow the fence round past an opening and begin to head north again beside The Mill race. After going through a gate ahead, keep to the left near the wall, as this field is cultivated. Several pieces of Lismore’s outdoor agricultural museum were displayed (identification anyone?) courtesy of the last person who handled them.

Mill race, looking backMuseum piece 1Museum piece 2Open gateRuined Dwelling

After another gate, which was open—always leave them as you find them— you are near a line of ruined dwellings. Who lived here and why they abandoned these houses is unknown at the moment but we can assume that they moved away, or were forced away when the sheep came. Any information would be gratefully received.

Walk beside Loch Balnagown, towards a wooden gate, before which is another ruined house with a splendid fireplace, and a possible bible slot in the wall. Through the wooden gate, join a slowly rising tractor track beside some extraordinary trees, the loch on your left.

Ruin with fireplaceWooden gateTrees on trackLooking back to Loch Balnagown

Before the top of this rise you will see Balure farmhouse and the broch. Take the right-hand fork to join another tractor track continuing towards a large ruin with an ash tree collapsed on its roof.

This ruined house had been well built but, having been shattered by the tree, its corrugated iron roof was lying scattered, slowly disintegrating.  A chain attached to a large stone may have been trying to keep the roof on.

4. BALURE AGAIN

ruin side onChained stoneCorrugated iron roof

Continue heading towards Balure House, the Broch and the barn on your right. Straight ahead, between the tips of Sgòrr Dhearg and Sgòrr Dhonuill (Dhòmhnaill)—the two peaks of Beinn a’ Bheithir behind Ballachulish on the mainland—is the spot you are aiming for.

Avoid the Balure House private road on your left, where the late Dorothy and John Livingstone raised their two sons, Iain and Andrew; John—the farmer and much else—and Dorothy—many things including, for many years, the local taxi. Ahead, after another gate, go diagonally across a field between two clumps of trees. And after the next gate it is straight ahead again, between the twin peaks on the mainland.

5. BAILUACRAICH FARM AGAIN

A very small, cute gate needed care (wire across the top), and ahead, a house on the Balure Road with a commanding view, is soon visible. This had its own mounted agricultural museum piece.

Balure House LismoregateWinter Trees Balure LismoreTwin mainland peaksSmall gate looking backHouse, Balure RoadAnother museum pieceView to Alasra

From the main road you look across at Alasra peninsula and the Morvern hills.

Turn right if you need Point ferry and left for the church and the Heritage Centre.


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