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Saturday, 25 August 2018

An Old Way


‘Everyone spoke about going over the Boguille.’ (The Place-Names of Arran by Ian A. Fraser)


The Boguille is a Gaelic name for the upper part of the road between Glen Chalmadale and North Sannox. It is derived from ‘boglach’ which means marshy ground. (The ‘bo’ part rhymes with Joe and the ‘guille’ part rhymes with Billy.) Chalmadale comes from Old Norse, the tongue of the Vikings, and means Hjalmund’s Dale. Hjalmund must have decided that this deep glen, sheltered from the north wind, was a desirable place to settle- and who wouldn’t?

One afternoon recently I got dropped off at the top of the Boguille (204m). This is the watershed where burns begin flowing in opposite directions. I turned my back on the always- arresting view of the Sleeping Warrior (the ridge between Suidhe Fheargas and Caisteal Abhail), in order to walk the old way into Lochranza which descends on the opposite side of the burn from the road. It is clearly marked on the Ordnance Survey Explorer map but not always easy to detect on the tussocky high ground. As I tripped and stumbled through the long, spiky deer grass, I was rewarded by the fluttering of many vivid vermilion and deep brown Scotch Argus butterflies ahead of me.

With trousers firmly tucked in my socks to avoid ticks in these haunts of the red deer herds, I descended gently. The path is crossed at intervals by rills and rivulets which splash down to the burn, Chalmadale Waters. Arran is a mountainous island and (normally) a wet island, so its tumbling burns and waterfalls are plentiful and are wee microcosms of biodiversity and charm.

Along the track I noticed evidence of old road construction in the form of rock slabs. Around the sheep-nibbled grass yellow tormentil flowers twinkled starrily and filmy pale blue harebells nodded. Meadow pipits flitted through the whins and stonechats chattered (as they do!) It is a bonny route, away from road traffic, with the view down to Glen Farm lying ahead. Once at the bottom of the track you come to farm buildings and a ford from where the path rises again past Glen Farm and traverses the hillside to Narachan before descending to the head of the loch by Lochranza Golf Course.

The walk took me little more than an hour and on an August afternoon I passed not a soul.