A couple of miles north of Claggain Bay and Ardtalla, and one mile south of McArthur's Head, is the old settlement of Proaig. There is now nothing more left than a bothy and some ruined outbuildings but from what I have been told there used to live a small number of people here in the old days, I don't know how many though. I'm not sure who told me the following story or where I have read it, but a long time ago kids from Proaig came to school to Ardtalla or even further south. Mind you, they had to walk to and from school every day, over rough grounds, all year round. Now you don't want to think of the footwear of these days, if any. This is hard to imagine nowadays. I myself haven't been to Proaig (yet) but Teresa Morris of Islay Wildscapes visited Proaig last weekend and she sent me some beautiful images, which were an excellent reason for me to start this post.
There is little written online information to be found about Proaig. Pictures seem to do better though. Douglas Wilcox who runs the Sea Kayaking Blog visited Proaig in 2008 and took some beautiful pictures. Armin visited this place in 2004 during his walk islay week and you can find some images on the Geograph website but that's about all the useful information Google coughs up. A search on the photo site Flickr reveals some really nice images as well. Continue reading.......
This lack of information was the reason for me to do a little research in several books and publications about Islay and I came up with some interesting information and facts. It looks like this deserted place played a role in illicit whisky distilling (not backed up by books though), sheep farming, acted as cattle station on one of the drove routes and Proaig Bay acted once a safe haven for a mail steamer in distress. The historical guide for Islay, Jura and Colonsay by David Caldwell has the following information: "Proaig is a mid 19th-century shephard's house and sheepfold. The complex stands on a platform adjacent to a shelving shingle beach, with the possible remains of an earlier house projecting at the back of the present one. The name is a Gaelic version of the Norse for "broad bay". Proaig was at the end of an old drove route from Storakaig, off the Ballygrant-Cluanach road (Glen Road). It belonged to the MacArthurs, hereditary pipers to the Lords of the Isles.
Proaig Bothy and outbuildings
The Canmore Database of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) writes: Proaig is a ruinous house and associated buildings and enclosures lies close to the coast edge. The house is currently undergoing refurbishment, including the addition of a new concrete floor and a tin roof. The main part of the house measures 10m by 5m (internal); there is a second room built on to it which measures 8m by 5m. To the front of the house there is enclosed garden ground. To the rear there are ruinous sheep pens, while to the N there is a range of outbuildings. The house lies within a larger enclosure that measures at least 400m N-S by 100m E-W. The area is now very overgrown with heather and bracken and lies close to a pebble beach used by breeding terns. The cottage has been previously noted as a mid-19th C shepherds cottage.
The booklet an Islay Miscellany has a written account of a mailboat in distress off Islay on the 12th of March 1937: The Pioneer, a steamer of 241 tons, built in 1905 by A. and J. Inglis, Glasgow, left Port Askaig yesterday morning at 8.30 on her usual service run to West Loch Tarbert. On board were about 15 passengers and a crew of 22, the master being Captain Lachlan Beaton. About one o'clock she was observed by the lighthouse-keeper at McArthur's Head to be flying distress signals, her position being five miles E.S.E. It was noticed that she was drifting towards the shore, driven by a north-east gale that at times reached a velocity of 50 miles per hour. Half an hour later she was in Proaig Bay, about one and a half miles off the shore, and two miles south of the lighthouse. There she was able to drop anchor. Later the crew and passengers were rescued by lifeboats and the Lochinvar, another MacBrayne owned steamer in the area.
Proaig is nowadays in use as a bothy, a place where you seek shelter and stay over night. Matresses are provided for as well as a new tin roof. Unfortunately you have to share the space with pigeons and their droppings but apart from that it's dry and it can act as a good shelter against the elements. I'm convinced that there is a lot more information around about this remote location on Islay which is only accessible on foot or by boat. If any of the readers would like to share their story or information of Proaig I'd like to invite them to contact me. Thanks for any help!
Proaig Bothy and Bay
Inside Proaig Bothy
Inside Proaig Bothy