Saturday, 24 December 2005


<![CDATA[ Horses at the Arnish Lighthouse.
Arnish is the area to the west of Stornoway Harbour. Virtually nobody lives there, apart from one person in the old lighthouse keeper's cottage, behind the lighthouse from which I've borrowed the name for this blog. It is an industrial area. For the last thirty years, it has been dominated by the huge sheds of the Arnish Fabrication Yard.
Arnish from Sandwick
At the time of the oilboom in the 1980s, it used to fabricate oilrigs. When that subsided, the site was taken over by a company who, by all accounts, engaged in a good old exercise in asset stripping and left it derilict. In recent years, there have been repeated attempts to reinvigorate the yard. I mentioned in a previous post that they were making wave generators for use in Portugal there this autumn. And latest news is that a contract has been won for parts of the windfarm on the Beatrice oil installation in the North Sea, east of Caithness. It's good news - any employment is welcome. The unfortunate thing is that the Portuguese contract had to be finished using Polish labour, as no local staff could be attracted. Of course the Arnish Yard has been earmarked for making the wind turbines for the Lewis windfarms, if they ever come to fruition. The same problem is likely to apply at that time - insufficient local interest for the jobs associated with the project. But that bridge will be crossed when we come to it.
There is a single-track road that leads to Arnish from the A859 Stornoway to Tarbert road, from just south of the quarry at Marybank. On foot, Arnish can be reached from Stornoway through the Castle Grounds. Before the Fabrication Yard was built, the site had to be cleared. Of a hill or two, and of a cottage. In 1975, the cottage was torched. Not that it didn't have historical interest, Bonny Prince Charlie is reputed to have stayed there during his post-Culloden 'pelerinage' (deliberately using the French here) of the Western Isles. A few hundred yards south of Arnish stands a monument on the top of a hill, which commemorates BPC's arrival at Arnish, in June 1746. He had spent the night at Eilean Iubhair, off Lemreway, and had ploughed his way across Lochs to stay at Arnish. It was made clear to Charlie that although he would not be betrayed to Cumberland's forces, it certainly wouldn't be a wise decision to stay at Stornoway. So off he went, to the next corner of Scotland. Personally, I haven't got a second of time for BPC. His exploits have been extensively romanticised. However he actually had only very little backing, as the clan chiefs knew a mile off what was going to happen with him in charge. It caused untold damage, and the repercussions still reverberate round Scotland to this day.
I'll get off my high horse and continue.
Beyond this monument, you can continue down the coast for a short distance, until you reach 'the Tob', more fully known as Tob Leireabhat [pronounce: Lairyavat]. It's a very pretty inlet, only marginally spoiled by a dam at the outflow of the river. You can cross the river there, or walk the hundred yards through the heather and cross at the dam which blocks the outflow from the loch. A little cabin stands by the bottom dam. From here, the river can be followed upstream for a long distance, as far as the Grimshader road in fact. It is the start of a moorland walk to Leurbost, 7 miles away.
Leireabhat River
The Leireabhat River walk (not signposted, marked or even visible) is quite pretty in summer, with flowers in the river and on its banks. It is advisable to stick to higher ground above the river.
If you stick to the coastal headlands, you'll come out of Grimshader village. I did that walk (in reverse) in March, when they were burning the heather. Unfortunately, the wind was southwest, so I had to divert right out to the coast to avoid being reduced to a crisp. Grimshader is a spectacular little place, set above its own loch, which looks for all intentions like a Norwegian fjord.

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