ISLE OF BARRA
Cuithir
© Siar Media 2012
This walk begins across the road from the cemetery car park, just over 4 miles west from Castlebay.  It is laid out as a circular walk, of 4 to 5 hours, with some difficult areas. However, if you are prepared to retrace the path, you can do as much or as little as you feel fit for.  Initially the trail is quite easy, gradually getting harder until the thatched cottage (museum) is reached. It is then an easy walk back along a track and road to the car park.  There is a lot of wet ground on this walk, and good footwear is a must.  It is also important to keep to the marked trail, as there are some very deep bogs in the area.   Things To See Post 4. Up to the left is Dun Cuier. An Iron Age fortress, it was built about 2,000 years ago. It is thought that it was occupied as late as the 6th century. It was also briefly used as a camp by Redcoats in 1746. Post 9. The remains of a black house, and remnants of enclosure walls, are clearly visible here. ( A black house is so called because it had no chimney, only a small hole in the roof to allow the smoke from the fire to escape). Post 10/11. Between the posts is the remains of a sheiling ( temporary shelter for a herdsman). At post 11 is another black house with an outbuilding attached. A feature of most black houses on Barra is their relatively small size, and also their outbuildings.   Black houses elsewhere are generally much larger. It was the custom in these, to keep the livestock in the houses with the people. However, in Barra there has been no evidence that this was the practice. The houses seem to have been intended for human habitation only, and the outbuildings for the livestock.   Post 15. A black house, and below to the north, what was once a well cultivated field. Post 17. Another black house. You begin to realise that at some point this was a busy community. Unfortunately, during General MacNeil’s ownership of the island, (before bankruptcy forced the sale of Barra in 1838) the crofters were cleared off the land. Posts 18/19. Between these two posts, the remains of a well-laid out establishment, consisting of black house and outbuildings within an enclosure wall. Here it is possible to gain an idea of what these people had to give up when they were cleared. Posts 20/21. Several structures, including at least four houses, form what is really a small village.   The path branches here at post 21. Posts 22/23. In between are the remains of a sheep fank. Post 26. Tigh Talamhanta ( The house of the earth). An Iron Age aisled farmhouse. It was extensively excavated in 1953 by Alison Young. To a certain extent it has returned to the earth since then, but the outlines can still be seen. The more recent excavations on the aisled house at Allt Chrisal offer a better impression of what an aisled house was like. From here, you should retrace your steps back to post 21. The ground to the south and east is extremely boggy. Post 21. From here, heading uphill, leads you to Dun Bharpa. Post 32. Dun Bharpa is visible over the boundary fence. Also visible, is another marker post to the right. This is beside a collapsed standing stone, possibly connected with the Dun. Dun Bharpa. It is not a Dun. It is in fact a chambered burial cairn.   A megalithic structure approximately 30m. in diameter and still standing at about 5m. high. Built in Neolithic times, it is at least 5,500 years old. It is thought to be the largest of its kind in the Outer Hebrides. It has never been properly excavated, although it has been extensively robbed of stone for walling nearby.   Heading east and downwards into the Borve valley takes you to the museum. It is an old thatched cottage which has been restored by the local Heritage Association. It is open to the public for limited hours during the week. Check for opening times at the Heritage Centre. Follow the track down to Craigston road. St. Brendan’s Church is on the right.   It was built in 1858 on the site of its predecessor. The remains of the original school are nearby. It is thought to have been the second school in Scotland, built 1675.   Across the road is the former presbytery house. The new school is just along the road. Across from the end of Craigston road, is Traigh Tuath (North Beach). Following the road North, takes you past Traigh Hamara, the end of which runs up to Allasdale machair. It is a short walk from here, back to the car park.   Wild Life Birds. A large variety of birds can be seen on this walk, including snipe, jack snipe ( depending on the time of year), pipits, wrens, ravens and buzzards.   Flora. The area is extensively grazed by both sheep and cattle. Therefore the abundance of flowers found elsewhere on the island is lacking. Also the ground higher-up is very acidic, and is covered in sphagnum moss. Later on in the year, September onwards, the whole area is covered in various types of fungi.   Follow the crofting code. Please ensure that dogs are kept on a leash at all times. Park your car with consideration for others and do not block gates. Fasten gates and use stiles provided to cross fences. Leave no litter. Try not to disturb breeding birds and animals. Protect wildlife and plants. Avoid damaging archaeological sites.     Permission to construct the heritage trails has come from the local crofters. Please remember that this ground is still used for crofting purposes.
ISLE OF BARRA