Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Eilean Thinngartsaigh

The next to last stop, on the July 18 day-charter with Lewis Mackenzie (Hebrides Fish N Trips), was Eilean Thinngartsaigh (Hingerstay) in Loch Claidh.

The name of the island is intriguing. It may come from the Norse word 'ting', designating a meeting place of political importance. Examples are Dingwall in Ross-shire, and Tingwall in Shetland. The very terse CANMORE page on the area says nothing about the island itself, but it does refer to the deserted settlement on the nearby mainland of Lewis as a Moot, or meeting place. I have only come across two other Hebridean 'ting' names: Cnoc an Tiongalaridh in Lewis (Tolsta Chaolais), and Glen Hinnisdal in Skye (Trotternish).

Aside from its name, I have been unable to find out anything about the island itself. The OS Book of place names (1850s) has an entry for the island, but it includes no historical information. All it says is:

A small, rocky, heathy pasture island on the east side of Loch Claidh. Its shape is ----, its shore is low, and upon its summit is a ---- -----.

The dashes indicate three words I can not make out for certain. Possibly 'round' and 'trigl station'. But the island is not round, and there was no sign of a trig-pillar, although one is shown on the 1855 six-inch map. You can find the complete OS Name book entry here.

Eilean Thinngartsaigh
Once ashore John and I made the hard climb through thick heather and bracken to the top of the island. It was obvious it's been a while since it was used for pasture land. We were hoping to find a structure that appears on a photo recently taken by Chris Murray.

Ruin on Eilean Thinngartsaigh - courtesy of Chris Murray
Unfortunately we did not have the photo with us, and assumed the structure was at the top of the island. But on reaching the top there were no ruins evident. There could have been something there, as the vegetation seemed to have grown over something rectangular. But that may have been wishful thinking. (We'd later discover that the ruin lies on a small mound on the southeast end of the island, a couple hundred meters from where we searched.)

Summit of the island

Looking south from the summit of  the island - Skye in the distance
After our fruitless search for ruins, Lewis Mackenzie landed us on the nearby mainland, where we took a look at the handful of stone ruins buried in the soft grassland above the shore. The bay looked to be a perfect shelter from the sometimes angry waters of the Minch, and someday I hope to anchor there.

A ruin on mainland Lewis opposite the island
In short order John and I were back aboard, and Lewis set a course up Loch Claidh. After giving us a look at the settlement of Bun Chorcabhig, on its west side, Lewis nosed the boat into the rocks at Tob Smuaisibhig, an inlet halfway up the east side of Loch Claidh. In short order John and I were ashore.

Heading to Tob Smuaisibhig, and the start of the walk to Eishken.
We waved goodbye to Lewis as he motored away. He'd have a long run back to Keose on his own, some 30 miles around A' Chabag (Keboch Head). Under sunny skies, on an unusually hot day, John and I were now on our own. We'd just completed one adventure, seeing three of the old coastal settlements of Pairc. We still had one more adventure ahead; a walk in the Pairc, so to speak; a six mile trek to Eishken.

Lewis heads back to Keose


  1. Hello Marc,

    what a delight to read!
    I'm a lover of The Isles and history about, although from a landlocked country (Austria).

    This settlement you mentioned in southeast of Thinngartsaigh... there are remnants to see (on Google Maps, rather indistinct), more precisely two circles. Did you locate these as mentioned above?

    One larger and a smaller one. I'm not sure about the smaller one on the right (seen from above), if its a real circle, but the bigger one may have 16 to 20m in diameter, roughly.

    Could this have been the place where the Thing was held, or may be even some older sacred place? A little walled fortress?

    Interesting anyhow!

    Best wishes

    1. Hello Mica,
      We found the remains of several small buildings, marked as 'Ruins" in the 1855 map. We did not see any round structures. But the bracken and heather were thick, so that might have hidden them.

      Best wishes,