Ullinish Souterrain, Isle of Skye

This was my second attempt at finding this souterrain. Last time was in late summer and I set off from the car park for Dun Beag Broch (on the main road) instead of driving a little way down the Ullinish road. In summer the ground was so thickly covered with bracken that I thought it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack anyway.
In March there was no bracken (and no cows to be seen!) and the souterrain was obvious after a very short walk towards the north side of Cnoc Ullinish. The last thing my husband said to me when I set off was “don’t go inside anything”. He really should know me better! So here’s a slideshow of some of the photos I took.

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Claigan Souterrain, Isle of Skye

A good walk to a very muddy souterrain.
People driving down the single track road by Dunvegan Castle are usually heading for the stunning Coral Beach which can be reached from the car park at the end of the road. From the carpark, instead of taking the footpath towards the beach, there is a very good track which leads up the hillside and then the souterrain is a short walk from near the end of the track.
Many outlines of settlements and enclosures can be seen in the area around the souterrain, probably dating from prehistoric times up until more recent centuries.

1Claigan Souterrain
Track up to Claigan souterrain, looking back towards Loch Dunvegan
2Claigan Souterrain a. (1280x960)
Souterrain comes into view
3Claigan Souterrain a. (12) (1280x960)
4Claigan Souterrain a. (2) - Copy (1280x960)
Just inside the entrance

The entrance was so low I had to lie down and edge my way in on my tummy, pulling myself along the very muddy floor, head first, with the torch out in front of me – must remember to buy a head torch for future excursions into souterrains!

Once inside, the passage opened out more, but it was still very cramped and the ceiling was too low to be able to move along easily. In fact, with the tiny entrance several metres behind me and the end of the passage appearing to taper in, rather than end in a round chamber, the whole effect was very claustrophobic – certainly too claustrophobic for me to linger for long and this was one souterrain I was quite glad to get out of.

Kilvaxter Souterrain, Isle of Skye

Entrance to Kilvaxter Souterrain
Entrance to Kilvaxter Souterrain

Of all the known souterrains on Skye, Kilvaxter is by far, the most accessible  and is also in a good state of preservation. It was discovered in 2000 when a hole suddenly appeared in a field and some of the stonework was revealed.
After work by the local community and archaeologists it was opened to the public in 2006 and they also provided a car park and excellent interpretation at the site. The car park is at Kilvaxter, about 5 or 6 miles north of Uig, on the road that takes you round the far north of the island (A855).

Souterrains in Scotland are usually associated with Iron Age dwellings and were most likely built as places to store food. At Kilvaxter there is evidence of there having been Iron Age round houses just beside the souterrain.

Kilvaxter - site of round house
Sign showing the site of a round house beside the souterrain
Kilvaxter Souterrain
Inside the flooded souterrain

Unfortunately, Kilvaxter is prone to flooding and despite visiting again after a dry spell in summer, it was still flooded. I’d be interested to know if it ever dries out!

 I went back in August and it was just as flooded as last time. I waded in a little way but there’s something disconcerting about wading through murky water in a dark tunnel and it wasn’t long before I thought it was wise not to go any further.

Kilvaxter vent comp4web
Ventilation hole

Kilvaxter Souterrain plan


Each time I’ve been there the water has been almost up to the entrance so I’ve never been able to walk down the entire length, which is about 20m. The interpretation board above shows the shape of it (and shows what you are missing!). You have to crouch down to get through the typically low entrance way but then it opens out and a few metres along there’s a cubby hole in the left hand wall. The passage then curves to the left and you can’t see any further without wading along through the murky water.
At the end of the tunnel there’s a ventilation hole which is visible in the ground above.