Monday, 16 June 2008

The Airidh

Sunday 15th June 2008
After lunch - despite being full to bursting - we went to see Fiona's Dad's airidh (the Gaelic for shieling) on the Pentland Road. Only twenty years ago this sngle track road was designated an A road and was the main road from Stornoway to Garynahine. That is the airidh on the horizon.

On the walk from the road to the airidh Fiona pointed out some deer hoofprints.

The airidh.

Views from the airidh.

As I have commented earlier this holiday that the Bog Cotton has been fantastic throughout the island. Fiona said it had been an exceptional year for it. Here at the airidh there were two separate species side by side. This is the less common single-headed species. Although the cottony heads were collected in parts of Scotland to be used for wound dressings during the First World War, the fibres are too short to be of any commercial use.

This little lochan is almost outside the door of the airidh,

It is far too early for the heather to be out yet but there are occasional plants of Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) in flower.

As on Iain and Carol's croft the Sphagnum was completely dried out and white here.

This is Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia). This tiny rosette of scarlet round leaves is no more than a couple of centimetres in diameter. It is found in wetter areas of moorland, often amongst Sphagnum bog. The plant is insectivorous - the leaves are covered in hairs each bearing a sticky gland at the tip. Insects become trapped by the hairs and are digested by secretions from the leaves. In this way the plant augments its supply of nitrogen, vital to life but otherwise very scarce in this nutrient deficient and often waterlogged environment. The early herbalists believed that the 'dew' on the sundew leaves, which persisted even in the hottest sun (hence the name!) possessed the property to endow longevity and youthfulness to those who drank it.

This is Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) - an aggregate of many different forms, this is a most variable species.

These are just a couple of the many lichens on the rocks on the moorlands.

The remains of a neighbouring shieling.

One can travel for ages across seemingly endless peaty moorland only to suddenly come across a little gem like this gorge.

There has been a fair amount of afforestation just off this road between the shielings and Stornoway, as can be seen on the horizon in this picture.

This is Loch Airigh na Lic, just s one enters the Marybank side of Stornoway. The gulls are perched on the remains of a crannog, which can be seen in the summer, when the water level is lower. This is an artificial island, which would have had a house or houses built on top of it. When it was first noticed in 1902, there were wooden logs surviving, though these are no longer visible. It’s likely that, if the buildings were wooden, this crannog might be early prehistoric, from the Neolithic or the Bronze Age, there was more wood available on the islands at that time. This is the only prehistoric settlement that is known to be in the area of Stornoway itself; though, given the number of prehistoric finds and ritual sites, there are likely to be others.

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