Life at the end of the road

April 17, 2011

Caves and ruins

Filed under: animals, boats, daily doings, food, stonework — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:53 pm

It’s been a very satisfying day here at the end of the road today, a real spring like Sunday which has been more fun orientated than work. OK, the pigs still needed feeding and Thelma needed her regular rubs of arnica but I made the effort to take the boys out on an adventure once we’d demolished the usual breakfast. There were a couple of ruins at the south side of Loch Arnish that I wanted to check out. They used to be quite visible from the boat when I used to fish and dive the area 10 years ago but now they’re in danger of disappearing into the bracken and heather. Not marked on the map but visible from space they will have been part of the settlement of Manish beag that was abandoned in the 1840s (feel free to correct me on this 🙂 )


Map picture

So around 10:30 we left the croft and WALKED down to the shore 🙂

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It was not the ‘wall to wall’ sunshine promised but it was no less spectacular for that, the ‘Old man of Storr’ putting in brief appearances through the low cloud on Skye.

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Half an hours fishing for bait proved fruitless so we cruised slowly clockwise around the loch looking for treasure and caves.

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Our first stop was cave number one on the map, just below the boundary fence between Arnish and North Raasay Sheep Stock Club grazings. This is just what the Pioner Maxi was designed for, light, fast and bombproof it’s perfect for forays along the shore, just tilt the engine and drag it over the rocks 🙂

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Cave number one, a fissure between some Torridonian sandstone and basalt? has a small opening but widens out into a large chamber with a high window.

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At high tide the bottom entrance will be covered and it must look great peering down from the top one.

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Cave number two, just a few meters west does not get washed by the sea so is quite slimy and smelly but it does go in further. Having my good jacket on and having been in before I let the boys and ‘wee dug’ do the exploring 🙂


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Cave number three was again tidal and between a layer of sandstone and basalt? that had been gouged away by the sea.

Just around in the next bay we went ashore on the steep stony beach to explore the ruins, once over the steep shelving pile of rounded stones that forms the beach we came to what must have been the settlement beyond.


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Hard to make out in the picture but the stones on the raised beach have been formed into a curved wall and there is clearly a place here to keep a boat.

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This was the largest dwelling with three rooms,

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whilst just next door was a byre utilising some huge rocks as part of its walls.

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The next bay westwards sported a proper slipway where all the rocks had been cleared to allow the hauling of a boat.

Again with a house and byre,

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Looking inland from the ruins I saw what looked like a strainer post on top of a hill so went to investigate.

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It turned out not to be a wooden post but a deliberately placed and dressed stone,

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the masons hammer marks being clearly visible on the left hand side. Was it placed there to guide the fishermen back on dark nights or was it the door lintel from a croft just about to be abandoned, put there by someone as a gesture of defiance to the harsh land (and landlord) that drove them out. We’ll never know but it’ll still be visible when the purple heather and golden bracken have long consumed the ruins of Manish.

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A little further west another cave,  not so deep but one that yielded the odd lobster from the entrance when I was fishing.

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Today’s last cave is the ‘Horses’ or Horseshoe cave, there are more to the south of Manish and even one or two at the north of Loch Arnish but my stomach was grumbling so I went home leaving the boys to go and pester the good folk of Torran 🙂

With them out of the way I could get on with boring stuff like preparing the house for its biannual paint job 🙂

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Our little tin roofed shack gets a good painting every two years and has done for the last twenty, long ago I gave up using cheap paint that splashes everywhere and goes on like water, there’s only one and its called Dulux 🙂 it may be twice the price but it goes twice as far, lasts twice as long and has a built in fungicide.

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I also did a spot more grass cutting which pleased the pigs 🙂

That was it really we finished the day with the cockerel that had been hanging overnight, skinned before breakfast and sat on the stove all day pot roasting.

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That’s what’s left of him after four people have had a good meal, still a good curry and a fantastic soup and stock from his bones. This meat can hardly be described as ‘melt in your mouth’ but the flavour is out of this world. Just look at the colour of that leg meat, does anyone else remember when all chickens had brown leg meat ????



  1. Morning, Paul

    I have been looking at the area you were exploring on some Raasay maps – my 1927 map, updated in 1947 a proper one with parchment-like paper, soring 3 shillings)shows quite a few buildings in Manish Beag, but there appear to be fewer on my 1985 map, and are described as shielings. A lot more are shown on my 2002 Explorer map. I was also looking at the area around Loch Airigh na h-Aon Oidhch for the structures you were describing. There’s a ‘sheep dip’ marked south of there, but not in that area.

    Great photos and commentary!



    Comment by Sue — April 18, 2011 @ 8:42 am

    • Don’t know where my typing went – costing, not soring!

      Comment by Sue — April 18, 2011 @ 8:42 am

    • Morning Sue,

      yes, I have those marked on my map to at Manish Beag proper but not these ones. The dip that is marked on the OS map use to be in the ruins at North Arnish but was removed and taken down to Torran many years ago. It was a steel one and must have taken a lot of effort to get it up there.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 19, 2011 @ 5:19 am

  2. Paul, yes indeed I do remember when leg meat was brown, and very very tasty it was too … I’ve gone off chicken these days, especially the breast, because it’s so tasteless and the texture is more like cotton wool

    loved your exploring … sad that there used to be so many peoople living on the island and now there are so many deserted ruins … still I guess the living there was pretty tough, I wonder what sort of life their descendants have in other parts of the world

    Comment by carina — April 18, 2011 @ 5:32 pm

    • Morning Carina,

      yup, I always remember the big question at Sunday dinner ‘do you want dark meat or light’ 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 19, 2011 @ 5:21 am

  3. Some spiders web at cave N0.2 !!
    Cannot get my bearings at all despite the thumbmarks. On the west side of the Brochel boundary fence-about 100 yds there is a highish hillock and on its west side is the ruins of the house of Angus Gillies a Gt.Gt.Gt Grandfather of 2 seafaring Gillies brothers who live at South Raasay The next settlement was nearly a mile further west and was known as ‘Back of Castle’ in the first census papers, before they were ‘cleared’ to make way for deer and sheep. The small ruin in the valley south of Tarbert was a henhouse built by ‘Calum the Road’s father Hope this is of use…

    Comment by sotw — April 18, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

    • Morning She,

      I think I know the hillock you mean but I was not on its west side, as for the ‘hen house’ they just don’t build them like that any more 🙂 a work of art.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 19, 2011 @ 5:28 am

  4. Seeing your pictures of the old habitations really brings it home and makes you realise how hard life was back then. No roads just tracks and the easiest way out was the sea.

    My friend Chrissie who lives in Glenelg tells of when a day trip to Kyle to do the shopping was to travel by boat. No proper road over Mam Ratagan.

    How times have changed in a relatively short time.

    Comment by Rienza — April 18, 2011 @ 6:55 pm

    • Aye Rienza, we certainly have it easy these days, most people cannot comprehend life without electricity yet alone a road or Asda 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 19, 2011 @ 5:30 am

  5. You still get nice brown meat on free range hens. Thighs make the best stock. My new toy has hen feathers on it, but nothing as smart as your deceased ex cockerel.

    Comment by Kingdomcat — April 18, 2011 @ 11:13 pm

    • Morning KC,

      yup the stock is the ‘dogs’ whoops sorry, I mean the cats b*****ks 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 19, 2011 @ 5:42 am

  6. Since you offered, I feel free!

    According to Richard Sharpe’s Raasay(ISBN 0 7293 00060 9 page 220), Manish (4 crofts; 24 folk) was cleared in 1852.

    Roll On May 12 – we’ll be back for another holiday(and some work).

    Comment by RaasayWarden — April 19, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

    • Morning RW,

      thanks for that, I really must read that book, I do have a copy 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 20, 2011 @ 4:06 am

  7. I remember Calum taking us to this slipway in the ‘sixties’for a picnic, tea brewed in a kettle on the shore etc, and visited the caves then. It was a glorious July day – brings back happy memories. I have a photograph somewhere.
    At new year time, many years ago, my parents used to receive a gift of two fowls from friends who farmed on Loch Tayside, I can still see the soup pot yet with the layer of yellow fat on the top – they were delicious. Must add that my childhood favourite food was stewed rabbit, mostly caught I think on the green at Brochel. We didnt get it often but when we did it was a real treat, even the gravy was so tasty.
    Thanks for reminding me of happy times Paul!

    Comment by Mgt — April 19, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

    • Hi Mgt,

      thanks for that little memory too 🙂 it’s 5:45 and you’ve just inspired me to go and get a rabbit, the cockerel is all finished bar the stock and I’ll be eating pork all week at work 🙂

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — April 20, 2011 @ 4:47 am

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