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the Degree Confluence Project
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United Kingdom : Scotland

19.6 km (12.2 miles) ESE of Eriskay (Island), Western Isles, Scotland, UK
Approx. altitude: 0 m (0 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 57°S 173°E

Accuracy: 17 m (55 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: Barra Head on Beneray Island #3: Map #4: GPS #5: A closer look to Barra Island #6: South Uist #7: Rhum

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  57°N 7°W (visit #1)  

#1: Barra Island seen from the Confluence

(visited by Captain Peter, Volodymyr Kokorev and Volodymyr Sydorenko)

10-Jul-2002 -- After a not unsuccessful visit to the New World we are now approaching Europe again. Sailing on the Great Circle Route from Cape Race (Newfoundland) to the Pentland Firth North of Scotland, today we passed the channel between the Outer Hebrides and Scotland, in which there are two confluences.

This channel can be divided into three parts, namely the southern one, called the "Sea of The Hebrides", the central part, named "The Little Minch", and the Northern part, known as "The Northern Minch".

Coming from West, we first had to round Barra Head on Beneray Island (the southernmost island of the Outer Hebrides Group), with its conspicuous lighthouse on top.

The first confluence to visit was 57°N / 7°W, an offshore point in the Sea of The Hebrides.

The confluence is located 23.2 km East of Barra Island.

The Outer Hebrides are a chain of islands and islets, North of Beneray comes Mingulay, then Barra, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, and finally the far largest one, Isle of Lewis.

On the Eastern side of the Sea of The Hebrides there is the Isle of Skye and several smaller Islands, of which the closest to the confluence ones are Rhum and Canna. In the vicinity of these two there is another very small island, Òigh Sgeir, but it is only 8 metres high and therefore not visible on such a distance.

These names show us already, that we are, although within the UK, no longer in the range of an Anglosaxon language.

Although Scotland seems to be a peaceful and scarcely populated country, its history is written with blood.

Already after the last glacial period nomadic hunters began to settle in Scotland, but they had left hardly any trace. This changed with the next wave of immigration in the Younger Stone Age after about 3,500 b. Chr. Men began to settle down there and villages formed. The population increased rapidly. This period seems to having been a Golden Age, for we know a lot of relics from this time, as burial chambers and stone circles, having presumably served for astronomical calculations.

Around 1,500 b. Chr. this civilization began to decay again, and 500 years later armed intruders, coming across the Irish Sea landed first on the Outer Hebrides, just in the vicinity of this confluence. From there they reached the Central Highland. From 600 b. Chr. Celtic tribes began to invade the country. From this time come the well known "wheel-houses", and "Hill-forts", well conserved especially on the Eastern Coast.

The Romans called Scotland "Caledonia". In 121/122 AD they began to secure the conquered territory with the "Hadrian's Wall", 120 km long, extending from the Firth of Solway in the West until the Mouth of River Tyne in the East. Later the border has been shifted farther towards North, but could not resist the encroachments of the Northern tribes, the Picts. All buildings of the Picts had a protecting function: pile dwellings on artificial islands in the lakes ("crannogs"), underground chambers and tunnels ("soutterains"), double wall stone towers ("brochs") and small stone fortresses ("duns").

The Birth of Scotland:

The Picts later were joined by three new tribes in the 4th century. They came from Ireland, were of Celtic origin and spoke Gaelic. These so called Skotes settled on the West coast. British and romanized Celtics from the South founded the Kingdom of Strathclyde. In the 5th and 6th century the Germanic Anglosaxons, coming from continental Europe settled down on England's coast and spread themselves until Southeast Scotland. In 563 the Irish St. Columban built a monastery on the Island of Iona in order to christianize the local population.

The political power struggles between the Skotes and the Picts ended, when they united in 843, in view of the permanent menace of the Vikings. Under the Skotes' leader Kenneth MacAlpine the Kingdom of Scotia was formed, which incorporated in 1018 the territory of the Angles and the Kingdom of Strathclyde. Scotland was united within its today's borders.

After the conquest of England through the Normans in 1066 under William the Conqueror the Anglosaxon aristocracy flew towards North and brought with them the highly developed culture they had attained from the Romans (jurisdiction, Latin ecclesiastical rites, Roman architecture), displacing the Celtic ecclesiastical system and the traditions of the Gales.

In the 12th and 13th century commercial centers ("burghs") with own legal independence were formed. Many of these old towns had broad streets on which a market was held, they had a huge cross ("mercat cross"), a "tolbooth tower" as prison and a city hall, a beautiful stone church ("kirk", mostly in Gothic style) and a castle above the port.

The Battle with England:

After a long time of peace and welfare (1214-1285) raids and attacks from England began, especially in the area of the borders. When Robert the Bruce and John Balliol where fighting for the Scottish throne, Edward I. of England (the "Scots' Hammer") saw the opportunity to extend his power towards North. With Edward's help John Balliol obtained the Crown, but formed subsequently an alliance with France and invaded England. Edward defended himself and occupied wide areas of Scotland, and finally John Balliol had to abdicate. The country remained occupied and was administered by English officials. The Scottish aristocracy subdued itself.

A citizen from the Lowlands, William Wallace, called for resistance. His small group grew with each success, and in 1297 he defeated the English in the Battle of Stirling Bridge. But in the following year his troops were annihilated near Falkirk. Wallace, however, succeeded to go into hiding, but in 1305 he was betrayed and executed.

In 1306, when Robert the Bruce, the grandson of the former rival of John Balliol, was incoronated, he fought a long and troublesome guerilla war against the English occupants. The end of his battle against the English was his famous victory in 1314 in the Battle of Bannock Burn. In 1328 a peace treaty was signed, and Scotland was granted independence.

After the death of Robert the Bruce an unstable time began under his son David. David's nephew, Robert II., followed on the throne. His family obtained the hereditary title of "High Stewarts". In order to make this more clear the family changed its name from FitzAlan into Stewart, later Stuart.

The early Stuarts:

The reign of the Stuarts resembles a Renaissance-epic, full of coups d'état and betrayal, murder and revenge. In the 15th and 16th century all kings from James I. to James V. fought against the intervention of the powerful aristocracy. Every single ruler tried to knock down the well established nobility and to replace it by trustworthy royal adherents. But whenever a step was done in the direction to reinforce the central power, the early death of the monarch annihilated and cancelled this development again. An aggravating fact was, that the heir of the throne in most cases was still a child. Finally the weakened Scottish army was defeated by the English in the Battle of Solway Moss in 1542. The last thing dying king James V. had learned, was that his wife had given birth to a daughter, named Mary.

Here we interrupt and leave Mary Stuart alone for a while, the next Scottish confluence is already in sight.


 All pictures
#1: Barra Island seen from the Confluence
#2: Barra Head on Beneray Island
#3: Map
#4: GPS
#5: A closer look to Barra Island
#6: South Uist
#7: Rhum
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)
  Notes
In the Sea of the Hebrides, between the Inner and the Outer Hebrides, but with a view of land.