The day has dawned bright and clear – looks good for the rest of the day. We popped down to the beach – just in case but, apart from a lone female Eider, there was nothing else to see. We took a few rock photos and then came back to Bessie.
This is part of the field between us and the beach – potatoes growing in the traditional way.
Next stop the jetty and we passed this Reed Bunting amongst the foaming Sweet Cicely which is plentiful in this area.
The jetty was serene with just a bicycle propped up and a chap doing some sketching at the end.
A fishing (?) boat, ‘Carmisa II’ sped by.
We were determined to visit Cille Bharra today – the remains of a medieval church and two chapels dedicated to St Barr all set within the Eoligarry burial ground, which has both ancient and modern gravestones. It lies on the eastern slopes of Ben Eoligarry about half a mile walk from the jetty.
The walk up to it was full of interest, with plenty of wild flowers growing in the damp environment around small streams.
Pipits are often seen perching on wooden posts:
This Heron flew over and landed in a tree some way away…
soon to be joined by a Hooded Crow
These sheep looked curiously over at us as we passed them by.
All along the road we could hear plenty of Corncrakes. These really are the most elusive of birds. Sometimes the harsh rasping sound seems to be so close that you must be able to see them but no luck on this occasion.
Now we could see the ancient building and stones of Cille Bharra at the end of the road.
North east of the ruined church is the only standing building on the site, the North Chapel, probably built in the 1500s. Whether this was originally built as a chapel or as a burial aisle is not known, but it certainly serves as a chapel today, as well as providing a home for a number of medieval grave slabs that have been found on the site.
Standing at the east end of the North Chapel is a replica of the Kilbar Stone, a unique Christian-Nordic Runic Stone dating back to the 900s. This carries a decorated cross on the front and a runic inscription on the reverse: “This cross has been raised in memory of Thorgeth, daughter of Steinar“. The original stone is held by the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and efforts to return it to Cille Bharra have been under way since 1980 “the centenary year of its abduction”.
The fragments that remain of the church itself suggest that it was built in the 1100s, probably on the site of an earlier chapel dating back to the 600s and dedicated to St Finbarr of Cork.
South east of the standing walls of the church are the more fragmentary remains of a chapel, known as the South Chapel. What little remains – part of the west gable is the only really identifiable feature – suggest this may have been built in the 1400s. The surviving walls of the church and the South Chapel have been shored up in recent years with cement filled sandbags as a temporary measure. It is hoped eventually that these can be removed as part of a programme to properly consolidate the ruins that remain.
We found the simple gravestone of the author, Sir Compton MacKenzie 1883-1972, a long term resident of the island. More about him and his association with Barra in a future post.
This Pied Wagtail with a juicy caterpillar found a stone cross a useful stopping place.
It wasn’t long before a small coach full of American tourists turned up but we had had time to wander around this peaceful place undisturbed so we were grateful. We noticed that there were quite a few Galbraith stones in the churchyard, none particularly modern.
Leaving Cille Bharra behind, we walked down to the modern church of St Vincent de Paul, built in 1963. Unfortunately, the door was locked so we weren’t able to see inside.
The view from here was wonderful and, if you look very closely, you will just about make out the small white rectangle of Bessie somewhere near the centre of the picture.
Walking back to Bessie, this tractor driver rather stood out against the blue sky in his multi-coloured clothes!
A quick look at the beach on the other side of the jetty revealed no birds but a glorious scene.
Driving down towards Castlebay, I was constantly taking photos out of my open window, so much so that our total photos for today number more than 500! This is the church at Northbay – St Barr’s, with a fishing boat nearby.
Another fantastic part of the eastern coastline:
Kisimul Castle looking splendid:
It looks like someone has built a pond in their garden specifically for these domesticated geese:
I persuaded Peter to pay another visit to Vatersay on such a glorious afternoon and we were rewarded handsomely with a sight of this Red Throated Diver:
Down in our favourite bay, what looked like a rock sticking above the water turned out to be a Common Grey Seal.
A Lapwing was taking off:
And of course our Shelduck family were there as usual. There seem to be three ducklings on the two rocks either side of Mum and two underneath her!
Eventually, under Mum’s watchful eye, they decided it was playtime on the beach!
We eventually tore ourselves away from what has become our favourite place and the day ended with another magnificent sunset, colouring the clouds over the beach opposite, on the eastern side, a delicate shade of rose pink.
Aaahhh, what a lovely relaxing day. Plenty of wildlife and magnificent views.
When the sun’s out you can’t beat it!
Gorgeous! I love the information about the chapel too.
The Hooded Crow sounds like a Robin Hood villain!