Now that I am temporarily on my own on Skye I can do a few things that Di and I are not able to do together. Yesterday’s 26km mountain bike ride from Broadford to Suisnish and back was the first of those. On the outskirts of Broadford there is a well made track called the Broadford Marble Line that follows the railway that used to be there to transport the marble quarried just east of Loch Cill Chriosd. It is very easy and flat, unlike the later part of the route!
The path continues on into the hills, but the bike route goes down to follow the road along the Loch towards Killbride. At a fork the road to Elgol goes right, but I went left towards the coast and a good view of the modern marble quarry that is there. The road stops at Camas Malag, a pebble beach popular with wild campers and with a good view of Blaven (if it is not shrouded in clouds…)
Then followed a few miles of a steep rocky track, sometimes blocked by small ‘lakes’ created by the rain during the last weeks. The goal of the route is the abandoned village of Suisnish. Abandoned is the wrong word as the inhabitants did not leave of their own free will. During the clearances, in October 1853, Lord MacDonald evicted 32 families from their homes and crofts to make way for sheep, which were more profitable. He turned the villagers out into the cold and snow and to prevent them returning, he had their houses burnt down. Apparently one old man went back anyway and was found dead from exposure the next day. Archibald Geikie, a renowned Edinburgh geologist, was visiting the area at the time of this clearance. He later wrote: A strange wailing sound reached my ears. I could see a long and motley procession winding along the road that led north from Suisnish. There were old men and women, too feeble to walk, who were placed in carts; the younger members of the community on foot were carrying their bundles of clothes while the children, with looks of alarm, walked alongside. A cry of grief went up to heaven, the long plaintive wail, like a funeral coronach. The sound re-echoed through the wide valley of Strath in one prolonged note of desolation.
In the early 2oth century someone rebuilt one of the cottages and tried to make a living as a crofter. I don’t know how long the house was inhabited, but now it is used by the sheep to find shelter in bad weather.
After enjoying the lunch I brought and a snooze in the sun I had the much easier return to look forward to. The steep rocky part was fortunately mostly done freewheeling down and about an hour and a half later I was back at the car in Broadford.