Exploring

On Mondays during the winter the ferry from Mallaig arrives before lunch and so there was still time to settle in and get my bearings before dark. I am staying in a self contained annexe to a house lived in by Eric who met me at the ferry in a brand new sparkling white car, so quiet you can’t hear it. Some of you may know that one thing about the buyout is that it instigated the first joined up green energy supply in Europe and now provides electricity to every house on the island, replacing diesel generators. There are wind turbines to maximise the most windy aspect, there are photovoltaic panels in a ray as well as on almost every roof as well as hydro to catch the rainfall. Eric has a micro hydro on the burn outside the house and can now run his smart white car on almost no fuel. He generously offered to drive me round the island to understand where I am. There is one road, owned and maintained by Highland Council, the remaining routes are unmade tracks full of potholes and mended with crushed basalt from borrowpits at regular intervals. First we went to one end of the tarmac and looked over the crofting ground of Cleadale and across the Sound of Rhum to the majestic island itself and then to the opposite end with views of Muck. I was able to see the huge boulders fallen from the cliffs of the Sgurr and the columnar geology that has left a crest of rock sticking up way above the rest of the island like a sleeping Iguana, the iconic feature of the island and visible from the summit of almost every hill near our home on the mainland. At the feet of the sleeping reptile are the remnants of a crofting community where you are able to see examples of the stone, so hard it looks like glass and with occasional columns placed through the walls of old black houses tying the outer layer to the one inside to provide strength and prevent the wall from falling down. Some of the walls are still standing, showing the expert skill of the men who built these simple houses. I expect they have been there largely unaltered for hundreds if not thousands of years and inhabited until relatively recently.

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