In 1598, Sir Lachlan Maclean of Duart Castle on Mull came to Islay to discuss the possession of the area called the Rhinns (the peninsula upon which Port Charlotte lies) with the old landlords of the area, the Macdonalds of Dunyvaig. One thing led to another and the outnumbered but better armed Macdonalds routed their foes along the southeastern shore of Loch Gruineart. The routed Macleans sought sanctuary in the nearby church at Kilnave where their foes locked them inside and burnt them alive. Sir Lachlan is said to have been killed here by this stone which is conveniently next to the road and just uphill from the RSPB Visitor Centre at Aoradh. Three things went wrong for Sir Lachlan: one, a fiery comet foretold the clan chief’s death before he set out from Mull; two, he had been warned that when he launched his galleys at Loch Spelve on Mull that he was never to go counterclockwise around the small island of Eilean Armalaigh - something he did do - and three, he was killed from an arrow fired by a hunchback in a tree, the hunchback having been scorned previously by Sir Lachlan. Tradition has it that Sir Lachlan is buried by the Kilchoman Church. The Macdonalds were not to prosper from the events at Traigh Gruineart, however, as the King, James IV, ordered a forfeiture of all their lands since they disobeyed his laws against feuding. The Campbell clan was to reap the benefits.
Driving north from Kilchoman and Machair Beach, you will find a road branching off on the north side of Lake Gorm which heads past several farms before ending at Sanaigmore Beach, another wild version of what you saw at Machair. And as above Machair, here you will find another monument to shipwreck victims. This monument was erected by the Irish government commemorating the 240 victims, mostly women and children, who were on an immigrant ship to North America when their ship, the Exmouth, went down. The beach and the rocks remain as wild today as they were then.
One of the most scenic beaches on Islay is the Machair Beach. This beach lies at the end of the single track road that leads past the Kilchoman Distillery and the Kilchoman Church. Set in a little bay, the sand is laid out in wide fashion. There are a few days when the wind does not blow - or so I am told - and it must be pleasant to walk here then. But even when the wind blows, you can get an elemental feel for the place knowing that the wind and waves originate in places far away.
From the Kilchoman Church on the far western part of the island, you can walk a hundred meters to the west across a pasture to find a small British military cemetery in which British crewmen off the Otranto are buried. The ship sank in ferocious weather just offshore in October 1918. The graveyard has a bigger space than needed for the 66 laid to rest here. The majority of victims were American troops whose bodies were reinterred to either an American military cemetery in England or for reburial in the United States. So, the bodies - which were scattered from Islay to Coll, Tiree, Colonsay and Mull - here were all crew members and the grave of the captain is still larger in death as he was in life. The cemetery overlooks the wildly beautiful Machair Beach where the wind still blows and the waves still pound.
We had lots of time to kill before catching the ferry back to the mainland so we went walking towards a beach we could see in the distance from Port Ellen, this was Kilnaughton Beach. Obviously there had been a party on the beach from the signs we were seeing. Heck, someone had even lost some money on the road which I scooped up, enough to buy a pint of beer ;-)
We eventually arrived on the beach and discovered the remains of an old chapel up against the hillside. There was no indication to whom it belonged or when it was last used but it really was lovely to just stumble across it.
You can relax here just laying on the grassy hillside looking over the water of Kilnaughton Bay, so peaceful :-)
This is a one of the three stones standing in a modest stone circle in the Rhinns area of Islay. The title is how we got there!
I fell flat on my face in the ditch -- and the first words out of my companions' mouths were "Is your camera alright?" Sheeeesh.
This is a beautiful beach and a classic example of what the "right to roam" means in Scotland. The owners have put up an attractive intepretive sign and map specifying where the roamer's rights of way are.