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An Island that holds you in its embrace and doesnâ€™t let go
Page IV of my lastest adventures, with a final destination being Fionnphort and the
Findhorn Community on the Isle of Erraid.
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Findhorn Page 4
My trusty smart car, Passion, and I finally arrived at the fabled land of the â€œnuttersâ€�, the
inner Hebrides. Along the way I reflected on the fascinating experiences of my trip up to that point and thought of the many
admirable Scots I had met along the way. Of course, my trip to the standing circle at Lochbie was one of the highlights. The
astronomical significance of the Lochbuie stone circle and the whispering winds that blew softly over the desolate Druidsâ€™ Field
seemed to radiate the spirit of ancient rituals. Iâ€™ll always remember the stark desolation and the beauty of the place. I
speculated about my red shawl and wondered if it had survived its ride on the large beastieâ€™s neck. I looked forward to my
return trip to the croft on the shores of Assapol Loch to find the answer.
In Scotland even the names of the places suggest something dreamlike, almost mystical. Take, for instance, the ruined
kerb cairn. A kerb cairn is a monument or memorial of stone, usually a cremation site, surrounded by smaller stones in a circular
pattern. Scotland boasts many kerb cairns, which are generally found close to a stone circle, much like the one near the Lochbuie
stone circle. This kern cairn has a false door on one side that was designed to deter people from entering. It was boarded
securely on the other side of the single stone slab with more stone. The ArchSearch - the ADS Online Catalogue has much
information on archeological projects in Scotland since 1947. Their web site is entertaining and informative and can be found at
I do believe that one of the most captivating features about crossing the Isle of Mull is that the sea seems to be everywhere you
look. Every twist and turn in the road presented another dazzlingly beautiful seascape, and the sea, the rolling sea, was directly in
front of me as I entered Fionnphort at nearly five in the afternoon. The sun was beginning its slow descent, and the sky was a
magnificent clear blue across the entire horizon. I felt I was on top of the world here with the horizon extending almost three
hundred and sixty degrees. From the pier I could see the white sands of the beach below and across the azure blue waters of the
Sound of Iona to the historic Iona Abbey and Treshnish Isles beyond.
I was expected at the Post Office and was given directions to the wharf for the dinghy ride to Erraid. The postmistress kindly
rang up Findhorn to let them know I had arrived and would be at the wharf presently. Passion and I followed the signposts for
Fidden as directed. The roadway was little more than a beaten path through fields of heather, gorse and sheep.Â We continued
through the pastures of Fidden Farm, opened the gates for Knockvologan Farm, and went around to the beach. I passed
charming whitewashed farmhouses, gale-beaten barns, well-used vehicles and ruddy-faced lads and lassies bringing in the sheep
with their shelties.
The ancient stone maze on the Island of Erraid. To the left is a ruined kerb cairn. Below this maze and not pictured is a
dolmen, which is a burial chamber used by the Druids. Dolmens are also known as cromlechs, antas, HÃ¼nengrÃ¤ber,
Hunebedden and quoits and are a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones
(megaliths) supporting a large flat horizontal capstone (table). Research has indicated that Druids, dolmens, and Celts should
perhaps all be linked and dated together. The Druid religion was a mixture of Canaanite and ancient Hebrew practices.
Two members of the Findhorn Community were waiting for me and told me on where to park Passion. The wharf turned
out to be a motley pile of stones jutting into the sea.Â The sea was relatively calm, the stones slippery with moss, and the wooden
dinghy too small to be seaworthy. I could see the equally mossy stone steps leading up to the landing at Erraid in the distance. I
was beginning to feel like a character in Stevenson's, Kidnapped, the part where the hero, David Balfour, is shipwrecked and
comes ashore on Erraid.
In fact, the author Robert Lewis Stevenson was raised on Erraid and was a member of the great Stevenson family, renowned for
lighthouse engineering.Â His father was Thomas Stevenson, the engineer who quarried the islandâ€™s gray granite for use in
constructing Skerryvore and Dubh Artach lighthouses. His great grandfather was Robert Stevenson, (1772â€“1850)Â a Scottish
civil engineer and famed designer and builder of lighthouses.
I was determined to be as adventurous as Balfour and perhaps as courageous as well. Iâ€™m not a swimmer and certainly would
not attempt to set a foot or body in any water where menacing sharks and man eating (or at least nibbling fish) might be, but I
settled into the dinghy, life vest fastened securely, heart soaring, hands gripping the sides. The ride over the liquid waters of
Erraid Sound turned out to be uneventful except for the dolphins that were encircling the landing.
The pier we approached was comprised of stone steps up to the landing and was cut from solid granite blocks that were
hauled into position by horses, as was the sea wall on the north side of Erraid. The horses were brought over the rolling sea on
rafts. Imagine what that must have been like! My first impression of the island was of a neat, terraced row of granite cottages and
outbuildings (all built in 1872), gardens, and in the middle distance atop a hill the bright white observation tower that once
communicated with the distant lighthouses. All came into sharp relief as the boat was rowed toward the pier.
For over a century supply boats ferried first the stone and then the supplies, the men, and equipment to the lighthouse from the
bulwark of this solid edifice jutting out into the Erraid Sound. This was, after all, the land base of the construction of Dhu Heartach
Lighthouse and became the lighthouse keepersâ€™ home.Â Eventually, all sixteen hundred plus lighthouse bases along the
coasts of Great Britain and Scotland would be built using Erraid granite. So forceful are the currents in Scotland that these granite
bases needed to be solid, wide and deep.Â I recall being thankful thatÂ someone was waiting on the steps to give me a hand out
of the rollicking dinghy. I managed not to fall into the salty brine and made my way up to the landing.Â
Â Continued on Next Page