14 May 2021 01:30 approx Moderate 2.58 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. THE CHURCH TO BALIMACKILLICHAN
Take the small gate on the north side of the church and walk through the Glebe, behind the new graveyard heading for Balimackillichan. Pass a large chestnut tree.
Go through a small gate above the farmhouse then down and left towards the main gate beside a newly-built house, a second home. Continue on this road and, after the handmade sign for the castle, go soft right on a road that curves round towards the next gate. This is the road to Port Castle.
An extensive ruined settlement is soon on your left; two dwellings, maybe more. It would be good to know about these disappeared lives, if any reader/walker does.
Rejoin the road to Port Castle; Glensanda on Morvern will soon be in view, often with a large bulk carrier loading granite (you can hear them).
2. PORT CASTLE—CASTLE COEFFIN
Follow the road round with Castle Coeffin ahead and, after the welcome to Port Castle sign, a gate leads down the hill (quite steeply, you are warned) with the croft house and the equestrian training area on your right. After two more gates—always leave them as you find them— turn off the road and cross the field towards the fish trap at the beach, the castle on your right.
The MacDougalls built Castle Coeffin in the 13th century and there is some evidence of earlier Iron Age activity. Historic Environment Scotland care for it now and ask visitors not to climb it; its precarious state is a danger to the castle and the climber.
You are heading not for the castle but the raised beach opposite. If the tide is well out you will see the fish trap. It is said to be medieval. The water in this image is the trap from which fish were unable to escape once the tide went out. A low wall kept them imprisoned. It now resembles a horseshoe, but the remaining stones would have been put to other purposes, as all stones on the island were and are.
3. PORT A’ CHARRAIN
The raised beach cliff is impressive as you approach the substantial wall between Port Castle and Port a’ Charrain. There is no way round it, but fortunately there are stepping stones and a large boulder beside it. Care is always needed to avoid damaging walls (and limbs). They should only be climbed when they are sturdy and there is no other way.
Across the wall, the raised beach was mostly dry underfoot, with plenty of buttercups, primroses, early marsh orchids and wood anemone. The flag irises were coming along too. It was Spring.
Stay on the raised beach until you see a wooden gate up to your left and, once through, turn right along the cliff towards the south, Coeffin still visible. Ahead in the distance are Bernera, Mull and Morvern. Turn north once you meet a fence, beyond which is the gully leading to Sloc a’ Mhuillin, and walk back towards the lost village of Port a’ Charrain, once an extensive settlement, now busy with sheep and lambs.
According to the 1841 census, forty Liosaich lived here. Ten years later there were twenty-eight and by 1861, only sixteen. More than half away in twenty years. But the dwellings remain, in ruins of course, some stones where they left them, others taken away to build walls or roads. It’s not hard to imagine the living village; to conjure people cooking, fetching water (there are two streams nearby), tending to fires, to the land, to children. It is harder to imagine how it was as the numbers dwindled.
It is thought to have been a weavers’ village for the linen industry and lies beside Glac an Lìn—the field of flax. That field must have been a sight when the flax bloomed. They were surrounded by beauty anyway. Flax was first grown in the 17th century, and linen produced to industrial levels early in the 18th century. Lismore had three flax mills, the most well-known at Balnagown. Lots more information at the Comann Eachdraidh website and in Robert Hay’s book, Lismore: The Great Garden. To quote Bob:
‘Lismore tenants and cottars in the 17th and 18th centuries living at subsistence level were effectively self-sufficient. They fed themselves from the land and the sea and clothed themselves from wool, flax and leather produced on the island.’
At the end of the settlement, the wall into Balimackillichan has an Explore Appin and Lismore stile, but you stay in Port a’ Charrain and walk east, parallel to the wall, towards the main road and the Heritage Centre. You will meet two museum pieces on the way, the first a hay turner made by W Dickie and Sons, Victoria Works, East Kilbride, the second a hayrake with no details.
Continue ahead, seeing the tops of trees at Killandrist and to the left the trees of Balimackillichan and Clachan. Soon the Heritage sedum roof and the thatch of the cottage are visible.
Suggest stopping for refreshments at the Heritage Centre cafe, open everyday from 11-4 from Easter to October and famed for its hospitality and cakes, and , if time a browse in the museum and shop before taking the road back to Clachan, in Spring ablaze with primroses.
After the ambulance, fire station and the telephone exchange (on the right), you are again in Clachan, with the road to Port Castle on your left and the Smiddy on our right.
A detour into the old graveyard is recommended with the bonus of abundant primroses in Spring.