Screapadal, Raasay


by Steve Taylor

EMPTY PLACES (28th April 2007)

Today I walked through empty places. Places that once vibrated to the sound of happy children – the chatter of the women and discussions among the men as they lived, worked and toiled.

Standing below the now deserted houses by a small stream, shaded by ancient trees I could almost see children running, playing and calling to one another, as they had done for generations. But now all was silent. The peace and tranquillity were tangible – not just a normal quietness but a quietness that held within it a deep spirituality.

The name of the place is Screapadal, a small deserted township on the east coast of the Isle of Raasay – remote, beautiful ……… empty. This is a “clearance” township – its inhabitants driven from their homes many years ago by heartless landlords to make way for sheep – which they considered of much more value than their human tenants.

Only rarely do I experience such tranquility and silence – yet these times and places have some things in common. They are empty and far from anywhere, yet once sustained living, vibrant, abundant communities. It is as if these places have been saturated with a special kind of spiritual tranquillity – a tranquillity to be found nowhere else in the world.

After too short a time wandering and wondering among the deserted ruins, I retraced my steps along the path, which, for generations, the inhabitants of the croft houses I had just left behind must also have walked. As I did so a though slowly began to crystallise in my mind. God is drawn to emptiness! Perhaps that is why this place is so special. The trouble is though that the emptiness in our lives is not very often accompanied by tranquillity! Yet it is just in to such emptiness God is drawn, longing to bring His peace – His tranquillity. There is no doubt God is in Screapadal – even in its emptiness. There is no doubt also that God in our emptiness – longing for us to open ourselves to His peace.

Callum (Guest) 16/02/2011 20:39
The place you are refering to is called Hallaig, Sorley MacLean, the Gaelic poet wrote about it. - it is located on the Screapadel Fault which runs past Beinn na liec.
Martin Lisemore 16/02/2011 23:05
From the richness, busyness, turmoil and deceit of the rich East of England, my soul longs for a place such as this, if only for a short time, for a rest in God.
samuel whiskers (Guest) 17/06/2011 17:34
It isn't called Hallaig. Hallaig is another 'clearance village' further down the coast.
The Screapadal Fault was formerly called the Holoman Fault after the village (presumably also cleared) at the other, western end. It is a line separating the limestones and sandstone to the south from the very much older Torridonian sandstone and even older Lewisian gneiss of northern Raasay and Rona.
Alec (Guest) 17/06/2011 18:23
Careful Samuel, there are people who hang around this site who think that all these rocks are less than 10000 years old.....
Penny Lee 17/06/2011 20:05
I don't believe ever seeing anyone here putting an age on rocks. None of us can confidently claim they are either younger than 10,000 years or older than 60 million years, or whatever because none of us were around at that time!

Since I have complete confidence in the bible, I believe that the world which supports life in its current form is as old as the Bible says it is. Whether or not the rocks were there before God fashioned the planet is anyone's guess but I can't say it is something about which I spend time agonising!

There is something quite sad about deserted areas which once supported vibrant communities. I feel the same about St. Kilda and am quite fascinated by its history.
Paul Whitworth 18/06/2011 10:15
I think that these abandoned settlements are not so sorrowful. The hardships and struggle endured in these places should not be underestimated. Modern civilisation provided some solutions and people moved to less harsh environments. The loss of community is sad though and carries a heavy price.

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Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Archive > Around the Region > Skye and Lochalsh > SL Photo Gallery > Screapadal, Raasay