The Angry Corrie 18: Apr-Jun 1994

Science Section: (ii) All quiet on the Western Front?

The ground-breaking article by Prospect (TAC17, pp4,5) announcing the existence of a substantial number of hitherto undiscovered islands in the Northern Highlands was most stimulating, and parallels work I have been undertaking in the same field.

Prospect is quite correct in asserting that there exists a cluster of islands to the northwest of Glen Shiel, but has failed to identify the very substantial island which rises to the north of the region and includes the mighty Applecross peaks. Applecross, as is well known, is bordered to the west by the Inner Sound, but the discovery of the Lundie-Gaineamhach Trench on its eastern side has confirmed its status as an island.

Why there should be a lengthy trench in craggy Applecross deserves further research, as most trenches were constructed in Flanders some time ago. One theory suggests the trench is the result of attempts by one of the many retired military officers who have settled in this area to recapture the feeling of camaraderie experienced on the Western Front. Another theory is that the trench was created by the Applecross hills themselves in order to give some degree of protection from the hordes of baggers that would no doubt arrive if Beinn Bhan achieved Munro status.

We can see, therefore, that this island chain as well as being Very Inner, is also Very Craggy and Very Extensive. With this in mind, I propose that the title of Very Inner Hebrides be modified to the Very Inner, Very Craggy and Very Extensive Hebrides.

Another island grouping has been discovered by subjecting OS Sheet 40 to a Guinnessvision scan. This revealed the existence of two islands at the western end of Loch Morar. The most northerly of the pair has the port of Mallaig as its administrative centre, and is separated from the mainland in the east near Brimacory on Morar, and from the southerly island by the western outflow of the same loch. The southern island has no major settlements other than the hamlet of Arisaig and a number of dilapidated holiday caravans, due to its rugged terrain and the fact that it has no major National Trust properties to attract an influx of settlers. During the summer months however, it does attract the Tartan Army (not Ally's one), so called because of their habit of filling every available parking space on the A861 while they sip soup on tartan travelling rugs. They ate a particularly militant grouping within the larger group of "Picnickers from Hell", as described in TAC17, p12. At the eastern extremity of this island can be found another example of an "electric" lochan, whose outfall flows both north and south simultaneously. This island (Lochan Feith a'Mhadaidh) can be found at gridref NH740874. I propose that these islands be known as the Very Inner and Very Craggy, but not so Extensive Hebrides, to distinguish them from their more northerly cousins and to preserve their unique character. Clearly the discoveries of Prospect and myself will have major implications for the SMC (The old SMC presumably, not the new one - Ed), who are now faced with a costly revision of their guidebooks as a result of this new information. Certainly it is quite possible that further evidence will come to light in the next few months to confirm claims forwarded in previous TACs that Scotland west of the Great Glen is in fact an archipelago. It remains to be seen how quickly the SMC responds to this new data, given its reluctance to accept change. With this final point in mind, it is unlikely we will see before the year 2024 a Northern Highlands volume with similar dimensions to that of an Exciting Hillwalks in Albion text. Further, it is certainly going to be many years before those hillwalkers who cannot venture forth without at least a copy of Muriel Gray's video and the relevant SMC regional guide are forced to purchase a small trailer to transport the vastly expanded Islands tome when venturing to the west of Fort Bill.

Dr Stephen Pounder, University of Thomson at Dundee

Ed. - Personally, I prefer labelling all these west coast islands the Western Front. Quite if and when an Eastern Front will appear remains uncertain. Is Burntisland possibly an island? Is the Black Isle really detached? Or even the mighty Gorms themselves? Doubtless TAC research students are diligently poring over maps at this very moment...

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