Old church path, Sleat
Start location: Aird of Sleat (NG 591 006)
End location: harbour, Acairseid an Rubha, Point of Sleat (NG 563 002)
Geographical area: Skye and Lochalsh
Path Type: Rural Path
Path distance: 2.7km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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Start at the Aird of Sleat where there is a car park just beyond the small whitewashed church, now a gallery. Go through the gate and follow the undulating track over heathery moorland, eventually ending above the harbour at Acairseid an Rubha.
There is a right of way continuing from this point to the lighthouse.
OS Landranger 32 (South Skye) or 39 (Rum & Eigg)
The ruined township at Point of Sleat numbered 16 roofed buildings on the OS first edition map surveyed 1875-6. Aird of Sleat township with its 91 roofed buildings was much larger. This path is marked clearly between the two townships. Interestingly, the church building at Aird of Sleat is not yet built, although the ruins of a chapel are marked at Cladh Aruisg. A School (Boys & Girls) is shown. Today on this relatively remote path, still cobbled in places, it is easy to follow in the footsteps of former churchgoers and schoolchildren:
The first Gaelic school in Sleat was at Camuscross. Opening in 1814, it later moved to Aird and then to Sasaig. Perhaps this was the Aird school, said to be open in the 1840s, that had closed by the 1850s. Compulsory education was introduced for all children up to the age of 13 as a result of the Education Act of 1872. Aird School opened in 1876. Although the school burnt down it was replaced on another site in Aird, and by 1895 there were 84 pupils in the school. At the time Aird School closed in 1957 it was attended by only three children.
In 1906 a request was made by the parish minister, Rev A Cameron for a site for a mission church at the southern tip of the parish. This was agreed and the church was built at Aird and put on a feu in 1908. By this time the Kilmore minister had assistance from two missionaries, one stationed at Isleornsay and a second serving Aird and Tarskavaig. The church builder was a Mr Donald Fletcher from Tobermory and the cost was £499. The records show that “A supply of good stone has been found in the bank of the burn, close by the site of the church. Sand had, of necessity, to be won off the seashore, at the foot of croft 16; lime, slates etc were brought in a smack, landed with difficulty in small boats, and all had to be carried to the site, with great labour on pony-back.” Aird church opened for Divine Worship on Wednesday 6 May 1908. The opening service was conducted by Rev Hector MacKinnon, Minister of Shettleston. Mr Angus Macfadyen was the first missionary for Aird & Tarskavaig. He left for Canada in 1914 and was replaced by Mr John Macintyre. The first Beadle to be appointed was Donald Macgillivray, Elder, No 18 Aird. The church continued in use until it was finally closed and sold for conversion to a family home in the 1980s.
There is a snug harbour at Point of Sleat. In 1902 the Congested Districts Board gave a grant of £20 towards the enlargement of the harbour. It could originally shelter up to 30 boats but this figure would be doubled by the improvements. The whole project was to cost £32 13s 6d, with the shortfall being made up by local contributions of money and labour. In its annual report, the Board reported that the local fishermen "have worked with zeal and intelligence and have contributed free labour to the value of £10 2s 6d". In the same year, the Congested Districts Board gave a grant of £27 towards creating a proper footpath to Point from Aird.
- with thanks to www.sleatlocalhistorysociety.org.uk