Baleveolan—Sailean Loop

6 March 2021

Baleveolan—Sailean Loop

 05 March 2021    02:05 approx    Moderate    4.34 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.

NB This walk includes a shorter alternative, returning to the main road before the road to Sailean.


Between Lismore Stores and the Heritage Centre is a rough track beside a white cottage. This leads into Baleveolan Farm and a gate ahead on the left. After the gate turn sharp right and follow the wall down, through another gate and over a stream before turning left to follow the coast heading south. Across the Firth of Morven, the Glensanda Quarry is clear and the going easy.

CottageFirst gate BaleveolanWall, BaleveolanPossible Stewart dwelling

Although this whole area, with its common grazing, was once home to as many as 200 people, traces of only three possible houses remain, surrounded by large fields with stone dykes, presumably built from the remains of the housing. Those remaining dwellings belonged to the Stewarts before they built Hawthorn Cottage, which is next to Bachuil House. When Lily Stewart, who had been a teacher at Rannock School and latterly in Lismore school, needed care, she had to leave the island and subsequently died in 2012. Her house then reverted to the Livingstone family, despite Lily’s great grandfather – a joiner – having built it.

A bit further on, a significant and very picturesque spot, Sloc an Eitheir (hollow of the boat) is thought to be one of only two of Lismore’s many illicit stills still recognisable. The steep path down to the secluded inlet in the firth of Morven has clearly been engineered and was quite navigable and could certainly have been an ideal spot from which to “export” whisky.[1]

Looking northDescent, Sloc an EitheirStill site, Sloc an EitheirBeach, Sloc an Eitheir

Continue south through a red gate, and then a silver one, into Baleveolan croft where where rescue Highland cattle graze and there is an extensive area of tree planting.

Red gateSilver gateHighland cattlePastureGate into Sailean

After the last gate/barrier you are on the Sailean road. Here, if you want a shorter walk, you can turn left and head back, eventually joining the main road to Lismore Stores and the Heritage Centre.

Gate, Sailean roadRoad to Sailean


Otherwise carry on down the road to Sailean, passing through a red gate and feasting on the lovely vistas as you head south and west. On the right is one of the most photographed cottages on the island and nearby is the port and the limekilns which made Sailean so important in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is still a very special place, and today the port is used by the Black family of Baligrundle who deal in shellfish. Their boat may be anchored in the bay.

CottageHouse with gardenSailean Port

There are information boards pinpointing the various buildings: the manager’s office, workers’ cottages, and a shop and a cottage on the pier. Many island kilns were probably operating by the mid-19th century, when lime burning was a major industry offering welcome employment. While some were still going up to World War I, Sailean continued into the 1930s, when the industry became undermined by cheap imports by rail.

Kiln Quarry buildingsRoad to quarrySailean Lime Works settlement

Quarrying limestone was arduous and dangerous, either hewing by hand or drilling for explosives. The museum has a set of quarrying tools from Sailean donated by James MacCormick, late of Killandrist.

Pass through a field normally used for the Lismore summer sports—on hold since lockdown—and enter a gate to The Sailean Project, an ambitious endeavour of Roger and Gilly Dixon-Spain, who are supplying the island with a variety of great Lismore food.


The route passes The Sailean Bothy (a holiday rental), a lime kiln, grazing Highland cattle and wonderful cliffs. It bypasses the house and leads to the Achinduin road where you turn left and eventually join the main road.

The Sailean ProjectHighland CattleThe Sailean BothySmall lime kilnRoad through SaileanCurious highlanderCliff with highlanderSailean Cliffs

On the corner, before you turn left onto the main road, is what was once the United Free Church and manse, which became the home and artists’ studio of the Odling family in 1972. In the 20th century, the Baligrundle church community, once quite viable, dwindled to just four families, including the Daisybank McCormicks and Achnacroish Blacks (the family of Donald Black, one of the founders of the Comann Eachdraidh). When the congregation lost its full-time minister a lay preacher ran summer services only. When these ended in 1970, the church and manse were sold.

Achinduin Road 1Achinduin Road 2Achinduin Road 3United Free Church, 1904

The main road continues past the crossroads, with signs to the Achnacroish Ferry, but you continue straight past the hall, to the shop and your start at Baleoveolan farm.

There is no such thing as a dull walk on Lismore, whatever the weather. As Donald Black famously said: ‘Lismore is an island where each ruin, each knoll carries some tale, some secret tradition, unique to that spot’.

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[1] Walkover to Baleveolan, accessed 31-Mar-21

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