Ever get the feeling you’re being watched?  🙂

This is the second part of yesterday’s (18th) blog post as promised.  We have been determined to find the deserted village of Balnabodach, on the eastern side of the island, on this visit to Barra so, in the afternoon, I donned my new hand-knitted hat, we parked Bessie outside an uninhabited house and, armed with my special new stick that Peter gave me this morning as an early birthday pressie, we set off down the road to where, by chance, we had spotted a rather battered and very indistinct sign.


As we have found before, they don’t really market their attractions very positively on Barra –  one of the rather charming, if confusing, things about this part of the world.  Rather like Allt Chrysal, there is a very interesting booklet about the deserted village but absolutely no instructions as to where to find it!

We went through the gap in the fence and, hearing baa-ing from behind me, I turned round to find a ewe and her two lambs (header photo) eyeing us suspiciously!  At this point I will show a panorama of the journey (the village can be seen far right).  The arrows are meant to show the ups and downs as well!



What you can’t see are the marshy areas (some with a handy piece of wood across them) and the up hill and down dale journey but I can confirm that my new stick (NOT one of those silly Nordic things) came in very handy to keep my balance!

The weather was still good but, as usual, fairly windy – we could see our destination in the distance so it spurred us on.  There were great views from the top of the hill, including this one – you can just about see the female swan still on her nest in the distance (still no cygnets as far as we can tell).


Some information about the deserted village.

When the site was excavated in 1996, pottery shards were found from about 200BC and a barbed arrowhead from around 2000BC!  The subsequent blackhouses were built about 1750-70 and historic records give some information about the tenants of the time, scraping a living from fishing in nearby Loch Obe and a little crofting.  The 1850 potato famine meant that people were starving and the then landlord of Barra, Colonel Gordon of Cluny decided to get rid of the problem by forcibly shipping people off to the dominions.  450 people, including those from Balnabodach, were rounded up, put on a ship to Canada where there was no work to be had and where they were at the mercy of the colonial administration.

Crofters from the more fertile land of the western side of Barra were forcibly dumped at Balnabodach to scratch a living while their own crofts were sold off to rich tenants.  Amazingly, the Balnabodach tenants survived and actually managed to make a living.

This is what remains of the township now – seen from the top of the hill:


The first house we found on descent was the largest and thought to be that of Hector Macdugald.  There was no chimney although there was a hearth at one end where the family no doubt cooked and slept on the earth floor.

Further down the hill there was the remains of a house built about 1880 which became known as the “plague house” when Angus MacDonald and his son died within a week in 1894 from an outbreak of typhoid.  The house had a chimney and fireplace at both ends and the windows were blocked up and have remained so since the tragedy hit.  I am bravely sitting in the doorway…


two houses




Peter took some stunning photos:







We were glad we had made the effort and the climb back to the road and Bessie was uneventful – I had successfully managed not to fall into the stream!

We stopped again at Earsary…


Peter took some bird photos and I painted.



All in all, a very full day!