Wheelhouse, South Uist

wheelhouseI’d spotted signs from the road for something called the Hallan Wheelhouses. I had no idea what these were but decided to investigate. Following signs down side roads and a track I parked outside a modern church with a large graveyard, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

I then walked down a sandy track assuming I’d know when I got to the wheelhouses. I did even though they weren’t signed. There were actually three information boards on the opposite side of the track but they had been placed on the ground behind a bit of a dune, so are not visible unless you go around there. I like poking around and so I found them.

wheelhouse wheelhouse

The remains of the wheelhouses are thought to date to the early years of the first millenium. Archaeologists have found evidence of them being lived in for about 1400 years, some of the most continually lived in properties in Britain.

The houses are round and have thick stone walls with entrance passage ways and fireplaces. They also have burial places within them and bodies have been excavated. This seems to have been a way of honouring a respected dead person or as some sort of good luck charm. The houses are known as wheelhouses because of the round sides and spoke-like chambers leading of the main central room. Others have been identified in the area but many are buried underneath the drifting sands and these are the best exposed examples.

wheelhouse wheelhouse
I could see that if I continued to follow the track I would have come to the beach, but as time was getting on and I’d only stopped for a quick look, I left and walked back the way I’d come.

pathThe following day I followed a short walk in my walking book entitled ‘The Wheelhouse’. this started slightly further south than my walk the previous evening and at first I thought it might be a walk leading to the same wheelhouse. A check of the map showed that this was a different location albeit not very far away.

For this walk, I parked on the side of one of the roads I had driven down yesterday. I then set off across the machair and cultivated fields along a good track for about 1km. Coming to a crossroads of tracks I turned right along a distinct track though it wasn’t as good as the one I’d just been walking along. I knew the wheelhouse was somewhere off to the left along here and the book warned me it could be hard to see. I kept veering off to look at any mounds or hollows, but when I came upon the wheelhouse it was actually really obvious. It wasn’t as distinct as the ones yesterday, but was still clearly a wheelhouse.

wheelhouse wheelhouse

I continued on my way turning right after a short way to head north along the dunes and the beach. Finally I left the dunes to join up with a path leading east and back to my car.

As I walked along this path I kept getting glimpses of the graveyard where I’d parked yesterday. If I was to do this walk again I’d join both together. Walking a bit further along the beach I’m sure I could have come inland at the sandy track I’d followed to get to the Hallan Wheelhouses. It would then have been a relatively short walk along the quiet lanes to get back to my car.

beach beach

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