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Kiloran Bay Sweeping Across the Isle of Colonsay, Argyll and the Isles (Credit: VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins)
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Colonsay Cave Folklore

By Marg Greenwood

Colonsay, Argyll and the Isles
Image provided by Marg Greenwood
Colonsay, Argyll and the Isles
Image provided by Marg Greenwood
Mysterious circular patterns on the surface of the water, Colonsay, Argyll and the Isles
Image provided by Marg Greenwood

Natural sea-caves penetrate into the rocks at both ends (west and east) of Kiloran Bay in Colonsay, for considerable distances.
I followed a signposted track from the road near Uragaig, crossed a newly scythed meadow, and came to some tall thin caves a few metres above the sea.

In one of these caves, the Uamh Ùir, (the Cave of the Grave), flint tools and the bones of domestic animals of a Neolithic people have been found.

There are a number of folk tales associated with these particular caves. One story concerns the last of the MacPhee lairds of Colonsay who had been defeated by his enemies, the MacNeills. He took refuge, with his three dogs, from an approaching gang of MacNeills, in the Slochd dubh Mhic a Phi (MacPhee’s Dark Cave, or Pit).

This had an entrance from the sea and another from the land. At the sea end MacPhee placed his three dogs. He stood in the cave at a point where anyone trying to get in from the land entrance would have to get down on all fours to pass through. MacPhee cut the head off each MacNeill in turn as he crawled through. Eventually the MacNeills who waited outside suspected trouble and started to dig an entrance through the roof, whereupon MacPhee went out by the sea entrance and swam across the bay to a rock still known as the Black Skerry of the MacPhee.

I climbed over some broken rocks, stumps of bracken and natural debris partly blocking the mouth of an open-ended cave, which I hoped was MacPhee’s Dark Cave, and as my eyes adjusted to the dark, managed to see one or two unusual features.

Whether the cave I explored was the Dark Cave or not, there were colourful patterns on the walls to admire, and on the ground I noticed some startling circular patterns in water which at the time I thought was a puddle. My photo shows the cave 'puddle’ with circular patterns. There wasn’t anything dripping from the roof of the cave, so this might have been a well. A mystery!