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Caithness Field Club Bulletin
IMPRESSIONS OF EILEAN NA RON
A rattle of anchor chain announced our arrival in the deep sound off the landing stage of Eilean Na Ron. Our host, Commander Craven, elected to stay on board his elegant yacht while the shore party took to the blow-up dinghy and rowed erratically up the geo past the concrete landing stage and battered steps to land on a small beach.
A steep wet track took us to the township of ten abandoned dwellings, all with common design features and some semi-detached. Two houses carried dates of 1906 and 1911. Some construction was of conventional stone wall but was often combined with a single wall of timber stabs infilled with small stones and protected with corrugated iron. The roofs were of slate. Kitchen fireplaces had chain and/or gantry sways to support pots, and outhouses often had opposing doorways for winnowing. Some outhouses had remains of the crook roof timbers suggesting that they were older than the adjoining houses.
Four older ruins lie just west of the arable stretch. Each had one semi-cylindrical end to breast the prevailing wind, one about 6 foot broad internally, and have a doorway in the sheltered end.
One small building separated to the south was the schoolhouse.
I have difficulty imagining how ten families won a living from such a small island. The ferry boat is now in the Heritage Centre, Wick, and a good pamphlet on the island exists.
Our party returned on board for a jovial lunch and circumnavigation of the island group. Eilean Na Ron is separated from its neighbour by a narrow deep cut, so two heroes and one heroine scrambled into the dinghy to navigate the passage. The first 200 yards were wide and deep enough for the yacht to have entered, but not to turn, and cormorants looked down upon us with prehistoric eyes. Seals plopped into the still water. The passage broadened and became too shallow for poleing so our heroine, who had the barest legs, offered to tow the dinghy through seaweed and slimy rocks while we males leapt from rock to rock and admired the African Queen act from afar, and pronounced that the cut was navigable only at high water. When the passage got deeper two dry males and one very wet female clambered again into the dinghy and rowed past more curious seals to the yacht.