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      Uist and Benbecula News

Ghost crofting villages in the uninhabited northeast of Benbecula will be the destination of guided Islands Book Trust walks in June.

The walks to Nunton Hill are to celebrate the centenary of the ill-fated crofting township scheme, which was eventually abandoned over 50 years ago.

The villages were created in the 1920s when Nunton Farm was broken up to form crofts in the ‘Land Fit for Heroes’ aspiration following the Great War. The hill ground east of Benbecula, which had traditionally been used for grazing, was divided into seven Nunton Hill crofts, comprising the villages of Rossinish, Rarinish, Minish, Hacklet, and Scaraleod. 

This year marks the centenary of this hard-fought-for but ultimately short-lived official resettlement scheme. Opposed by the landowner, Lady Gordon Cathcart, the Board of Agriculture for Scotland’s proposal was eventually approved by the Secretary of State for Scotland in December 1924.

Some of the hardships faced by the new crofters of Nunton Hill but also their determination to provide a good life for their families is recounted in the IBT publication ‘Còco is Crùbagan’ by Flora MacDonald who spent a happy childhood at Minish. 

Eventually, the challenges led to the families giving up their struggle. The last of the resident crofters left Nunton Hill over fifty years ago, but the family dwellings and the remains of a small primary school they left behind are lasting reminders of the occupation of a now deserted and isolated community.

As well as the 20th-century buildings, walkers will also see evidence of earlier periods of human settlement going back several millennia to the Bronze and Iron Ages. This corner of Benbecula is also connected with the travels of Bonnie Prince Charlie and an earlier Flora MacDonald following the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

The walks—led by former Islands Book Trust chair and local resident Alasdair MacEachen—will visit Minish and Scaraleod on Saturday, June 15, and Rossinish on Saturday, June 22.

Both walks, of approximately 10 miles, will start at 11 am from the Market Stance outer car park (Civic Amenity Site) and return around 4 pm.

For the first part of both walks, an established track will be followed, and then the walk will continue over undulating open hill ground that is soft in places. Sturdy, waterproof footwear is essential, says the Islands Book Trust, adding that wearing gaiters can keep you dry and reduce the risk of ticks. 

Walkers should also bring a packed lunch and a drink. The events are free (donations welcome), and numbers are not restricted. 
For further details, contact Alasdair MacEachen (07721 992047).