Deserted villages
Braigh Chrioch
by Jan Sutch Pickard

Spring wind stirs the grasses out on the boundary,
over empty land that was once full of folk.
We walk the track to an old township,
before bracken’s tide hides ruins and rigs
for another season – Na Gadagan no longer.

Soon April will kindle the whin on Druim Buidhe.
Already the greenness of new grass
where cattle still go to graze, Airigh Ghlas.
But Goirtean a’Bhleoghain – the milking field –
is just words now: cattle plod to the barn,
to humming machines, down a road busy with traffic.
Too far off now to be even a memory,
are the women calling them by name at dawn,
crouching in the dew to draw down warm milk
with chapped hands; long gone,
like the reek of a peat fire, and fish smoking;
like children’s laughter in a summer meadow,
which has gone back to bracken.

Only the names remain:
Cruiadh Ghoirtean – the hard field,
Goirtean Crionach – withered ground.
They tell of livelihoods hard-won,
in a place once called home,
where little houses are now open to the sky,
their granite stones scattered far and wide –
under the curious gaze of the spring sun –
in Goirtean Grianach,
in the lost township of Braigh Chrioch.

As well as spectacular scenery, abundance of wildlife and number of well-known landmarks such as Iona Abbey, Duart Castle and Fingal’s Cave, there is a fascinating layer of history to be discovered on Mull and Iona, in the form of ruined townships, each with stories to tell of a rich cultural heritage and a resourceful and resilient people.

In 1840, Mull’s population was approximately 10,000, compared with around 3000 people today. How did these people live? What were their houses like? What happened to make them leave their villages in such numbers? Where did they go?

At Staffa House we love to help our guests discover something of this forgotten world - we have an extensive library of books and guides including some authoritative studies on the recent history of Mull. We’ll also be pleased to offer advice on walks taking you to some of the deserted townships which we have ourselves enjoyed.

These villages are all within a 10 miles radius of Staffa House:

Braigh Chrioch
easy walk, very accessible from road

Sean Bhaile, Ardalanish
moderate walk, can be combined with a visit to Ardalanish Farm and Weaving Mill

Shiaba
moderate walk

Suidhe
easy walk, very accessible from road

Tir Fhearagan
moderate-hard walk

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