Big Bothy Walk #23

There was once a large orchard at Cadderlie; a vibrant, brimming garden so fantastic and beautiful it was written into both history and local lore. We have only old words and handwritten records of it now after a freak tide chased up the land during a devastating storm four hundred years ago and swamped the trees entirely.

The name of the place reflects the place that was. Cal-der-lys; a derivative of the Gaelic for ‘the burn at Dierdre’s garden’, but who was Dierdre? A star crossed lover of course; one who eloped with her Irish husband against their esteemed families wishes and took to the hills to live out their days amongst the braes and lochs and built their home at Cadderlie. Whether the story is true or not can never be confirmed, but enough landmarks around Loch Etive carry Dierdre’s name to cement the ghost of a woman once worth remembering.

The ghost lingered as centuries passed and pilgrims came and went to the Priory at Ardchattan, and then ceased to do so. As Hanoverian Campbells squeezed their Jacobite tenants dry and the settlements emptied. As cattle reiving gave way to the smuggling of tobacco and brandy. As charcoal and lumber brought new busy industry, and then as those industries dried up. The dwellings fell to only eight. To five. To three. To one. The last tenant died and the sheep settled around the ruins that stood in the quiet grassy glen that had once belonged to the lingering ghost.

The ruin remained roofed, making it a transient shelter for shearers and wandering artists, until the MBA breathed new life into it in 1994, and with that, a revitalised story of Dierdre and all she gave up for love, and all she gained here on the banks of Loch Etive.

I am not one for romance or love stories anymore, but there is magic in the long stretches of Loch Etive that dance out to a fickle sea, with the heartbeat of a land written in the moving silhouette of mountains and a small, wood walled hut where an orchard once stood.

The ghost has her home again.

I had met a bikepacker riding away as I walked in who had told me he was also staying at the bothy. He would be back late and so I wasn’t to worry or call Mountain Rescue on seeing his things there with the hours into night ticking by. This was all I saw of him, he would return after I had fallen asleep, and I would leave before he woke.

He had taken the middle room of the three; the small room. The inside, like Essan, was covered in dark wood with high ceilings, the two outer rooms both held fireplaces and a large bunk stood in the left hand space. Desks were pushed, beneath the windows and a large map of the area hung on the wall.

I set up on the bunk of the left hand room and ventured out to the loch. Dedicated to a Goddess, the name of Loch Etive translates as little, fierce one. As far as I was quickly becoming aware, it might have been named for the clegs as well.

Such a beautiful setting, but I was swiftly chased inside by the bites. As bad as midges are, at least they can’t chomp through clothing and anything more than a mild breeze scatters them. No so for the clegs. They went for the backs of my thighs and managed to bite through my trousers, defying swats and clinging on. I danced a lunatic’s dance on my retreat back to the bothy; slapping my posterior as if it on fire.

I was told eagles soared above this loch frequently, I wouldn’t know. I was hiding from the insects.

Thankfully, someone else is able to better capture the scenery of the lochside bothy better than my confinement enabled me to; the grandfather of Scottish singer-songwriter Dougie Maclean was brought up in this house. It was once part of the sizeable and bustling community of Cadderlie that had grown here from at least the 1300s. Whilst the cottage itself is only just over a hundred years old, it is the last remaining relic of a township and its history that stood here for seven hundred years. The last relic perhaps of many of the townships that sprung up around this end of the loch. A space now thought of as isolated, peaceful and remote is only so because it has been emptied. Greed and heartlessness forced out the clans; their homes now just pasture for the many grazing sheep seen over by only a handful of tenant shepherds. In the quiet of a cleared land, the life now on the banks was the most isolated it had ever been since humans settled here.

Dougie Maclean returned to Cadderlie to visit the place where his grandfather, a shepherd, lived and where his father was born. He captured the place in his song Eternity:

‘Standing here on Cadderlie, between the burn and the turning sea, I
gaze across at these golden hills, I’m looking all the way to eternity.’

I’m guessing Dougie visited in winter; there’s no way he would have had time to gaze in August with all the midges, ticks and horseflies around.

For more information about bothies, visit the Mountain Bothies Association website

If you are visiting a bothy, please be sure to follow the Bothy Code

When hiking in Scotland, familiarise yourself with the Outdoor Access Code

Cadderlie (1994)

Owner: Loch Etive Estate

Fuel: Deadwood and fallen timber in surrounding woodland

Water: Burn to the left of the bothy

Notes: Closed during stalking season (20th September-20th October)

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