Southern Highlands - streapadair

The Cruachan range from across Loch Etive.

4pm, 07/09/96

~ Etive, both glen and loch, is closely linked with the story of Deirdre of the Sorrows. Deirdre was born in a peasant hut in Armagh, but a seer foretold that she would become the most beautiful woman in all Ireland. Conchobar, King of Ulster, on hearing of this resolved that she would be his queen when she came of age. Deirdre though had no desire for the courtly life, and when Conchobar's men came for her she fled by night with her lover Naoise and his brothers, the sons of Uisnech. Knowing that nowhere in Ireland would be safe for them, they sailed for Scotland and found refuge in the remote and lovely fastnesses of Etive, where they lived for seven blissful years, the men hunting and fishing, Deirdre spinning and weaving, until the king's spies found them and returned them to the murderous politicking of the Ulster court. A bloodbath ensued.

This tiny tidal islet is Eilean Uisneachan.

"The Uisneachs when hunting put up booths, which [had] three apartments, — one for sleeping in, one for cooking in, and one for eating in. One booth is alluded to as having been on an island, and the name of the island remains; it is Eilean Uisneach or Uisneachan."
[from a paper presented to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1875 by Mr R A Smith]

"Eilean Uisneach or Uisneachan is an island consisting of rather flat rock covered with smaller stones and a few reeds and briars, scarcely a hundred feet in any direction. On it was a pile of stones 'about the length of a couple of cowhouses'. Assisted by Mr Campbell of Ardchattan School, Smith excavated the mound and found wooden pegs, charcoal and bones, indications of the former existence of a residence. The author described the island as 'a mere lake-dwelling' but it is not clear whether it is artificial or natural. [it is natural.] A distinct road out of the island on to the land could be seen. This was a causeway of stones, now in ruins, intended to support a dry walk. They are not entirely dry at any time. The original Statistical Account of 1795 refers to 'Elain Usnich' as a small island with some vestiges of a house on it."
[from a later report to the SAS]

There are still the remains of a stone structure among the trees, and the eye of romantic fantasy might see in them Deirdre's fishing hut. In any case, this is a charming spot, one of the loveliest in the southern highlands.

"Woods of Cuan, woods of Cuan . . . It's seven years we've had a life was joy only and this day we're going west, this day we're facing death maybe, and death should be a poor untidy thing, though it's a queen that dies."
J M Synge, Deirdre of the Sorrows, act 2.