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Excursions

A fortnight and a month in Donan’s Cave, Eigg - FULLY BOOKED

Rody Gorman will deliver a lecture performance in Cathedral Cave on the island of Eigg − a cave which is mentioned in §44 of Buile Shuibhne.

In his paper, Rody will consider the significance of the period ‘a fortnight and a month’ which Sweeney spends in the cave associated with Saint Donan on Eigg − after which, he spends the same period of time on Ailsa Craig − in the context of sacred sites, medieval quests, chilla-nashini, hanbleceya and associated vision frenzy, supernatural knowledge, death premonition, the poetic calling, vows of silence, the otherworld, suffering, santori, kensho, kora etc. Rody will read poems from his ongoing version for voices of the medieval text, in Scottish and Irish Gaelic, English and a polysemantic form of translation which he has devised to represent the semantic range of original Gaelic texts and chosen to call Sweenese.

Delegates will be taken by boat (SeaFari) to and from Armadale/Mallaig to Eigg. The crossing time is approximately 40 minutes each way. The walk from Eigg Pier to the cave takes approximately 20 minutes. Vehicle access can be provided if necessary but only up to the gate at Craigard. The walk to the cave includes a steep descent on a coastal path with scrambling onto rocks that may be quite slippery to get into the cave − so this excursion is recommended only for people with a reasonable level of fitness and adequate footwear. 

Delegates are advised to bring warm, shower and wind-proof clothing, sunscreen cream, midge repellent, and robust, non-slip shoes.

Cost: £32 per person.

 

John MacDonald, ‘The Ardvasar Blacksmith’ (1902-1985)

‘The Ardvasar Blacksmith’ is a four-part Reel composed by Pipe-Major Evan MacRae for his first piping teacher, John MacDonald of Ardvasar, known locally as ‘Iain a’ Ghobha’. He was the last working blacksmith in Sleat, Isle of Skye, and took over the Smiddy from his father, Dòmhnall an Gobha. He worked his trade in the traditional manner, shoeing horses, making and repairing agricultural tools and implements and a variety of household items.

His skills were central to the Scotland of the ‘agricultural revolution’, but as agricultural technology advanced and factory-manufactured items became available, the focus of his work changed. Tractors began to replace horses around the time of the Second World War. Though the traditional work of shoeing horses disappeared, there were still tools and implements to be made or repaired, according to the rounds of seasonal work such as peat-cutting or ploughing. He continued to make Peat Irons and Scythe until the end of his life. Iain put his considerable skills into commissioned pieces of decorative wrought-ironwork such as gates and fences, fire baskets, fireside sets and log baskets, and making pieces for Craft Fairs in Fort William and at the Royal Highland Show. He produced his own ‘signature’ sets of fireside tools and original decorative metalwork which can still be seen, for example, in weather-vanes on the Tower at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and at Taigh-Òsta Eilean Iarmain.

He was a considerable musician, and mad his own pipes, practice chanters and reeds. He precented the Psalms in the Gaelic Services in Kilmore Church, a skill that was always highly regarded. It was through his mother, Ceit, that his connection with piping was probably established. She was a MacInnes from Drumfearn and one of her brothers was Malcolm MacInnes, or ‘Calum Mòr’ (1871-1951) who was therefore Iain’s maternal uncle. Calum embodied many of the attributes of his notable family (Clann Iain mhic Nèill mhic Mhaol Mhoire mhic Iain mhic Mhaol Chaluim) and was an extremely accomplished athlete, piper and scholar. After spending most of his career as Secretary of Johannesburg School in South Africa, he retired to Sleat and tenanted the farm at Ostaig for a number of years.

The founding of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in 1973 seems to have sparked in Iain a deep interest and sense of pride in Gaelic and he began to use the language in his Day Books.  ‘Iain a’ Ghobha’ was an outstanding craftsman and remarkable man in so many ways, and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig wishes to place a stone on the cairn of his memory and honour his achievements and his legacy in his own ‘country’.

Delegates should wear warm, rain- and wind-proof clothing, sunscreen cream, anti-midge protection and robust footwear.

Cost: £15 per person.

 

Armadale Castle, Gardens and Museum of the Isles

Delegates are offered the opportunity to visit the gardens, museum and picturesque ruin of Armadale Castle, which was home to the MacDonalds of Sleat.

The castle ruin is set within magnificent gardens. Your visit includes access to the Museum of the Isles, which is also located within the gardens. Built in 2002, the Museum offers seven galleries that take visitors through the story of Clan Donald, from the Lordship of the Isles to the present day.

You are invited to join the Museum Manager at 3pm in the Museum Library for an introduction to the library and archive collections, which include the Lord Macdonald archives that date back to the fifteenth century.

There is a gift shop on site; and the Stables building houses a café and public toilets.

Delegates should bring warm, water-proof clothing, sunscreen cream, anti-midge protection and robust footwear.

Cost: £17.50 (bus + group-discount entry fee)

 

Canna House - FULLY BOOKED

Take the opportunity to cross the sea to the green and fertile Isle of Canna, which was gifted by John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw to the National Trust for Scotland. The island is home to the Canna Collections of Gaelic Song and Folklore. Although Canna House is officially closed to visitors at the moment for renovation and interpretation development, delegates will have the unique opportunity to see inside some of the rooms and hear some of John Lorne Campbell’s original archive audio. Delegates will also see some of the precious artefacts collected by the Campbells during their 60 years on the island. Delegates will be able to walk around Canna House Garden − and perhaps have a game of croquet! There will also be an optional, guided walk to the Celtic Cross at A’ Chill and to the grave of John Lorne Campbell, before returning to the pier for the crossing back to Armadale.

Refreshments will be available for purchase from Café Canna. Local crafts and books will be available from the Canna Community Shop.

Delegates should wear warm, rain and wind-proof clothing, sunscreen cream, anti-midge protection and robust footwear.

Cost: £32 per person.

 

Sea journey by yacht to Kintail

Welcome aboard for a yacht trip – on Sùil na Mara – from the old pier at Armadale, Sleat, as far north as Kintail. Depending on weather conditions, you will have wonderful views of Skye and the mainland, especially towards MacRae country around Kintail. A local expert will accompany us and will provide some commentary on what we see and some songs and poetry about the area, from the 18th century onwards.

Delegates are advised to bring warm, shower and wind-proof clothing, sunscreen cream, midge repellent, and robust, non-slip shoes.

Cost: £75.50 per person (bus + yacht).

 

The Strath area through archaeology and through the eyes of the poet William Ross

This trip will take you to the long-settled and beautiful glen of Strath. Depending on the weather, we will take the opportunity to get out and explore and learn about evidence of early settlement in the glen from the archaeologist Martin Wildgoose. The glen is rich in evidence of previous generations of dwellers, from the High Pasture Cave to stone circles and much more. On the journey, we will see the village site where the famous poet William Ross once lived; Mark Wringe will tell us about the life and work of the poet.

We will begin at High Pasture Cave, where you will hear about this exceptional Iron Age site. In groups of 2 or 3 at a time, delegates can then, supervised by Martin, enter the cave which is underground. You will also visit a Late Bronze Age site nearby.

Delegates should wear warm, rain- and wind-proof clothing, sunscreen cream, anti-midge protection and robust footwear.

Please be aware that it takes ten minutes to walk from the roadside, over heather and grass, up a gentle slope, to High Pasture Cave; it could be slippery underfoot if there has been any rain. If you are nervous/unsure of being in an underground place, a place which is ancient, enclosed, narrow and small, you ought not to go into the High Pasture Cave. If you do want to go into the High Pasture Cave, wellies would be useful as there may be some water underfoot.

Cost: £25 per person (places for 14 individuals)