Location: Colonsay and Oronsay
vikings, fishing, archaeology, gaelic language and placenames

Traigh Tobar Fhuair: ancient battle site

There is an ancient superstition attached to the sands of Traigh an Tobar Fhuair (the strand of the Cold Well) on Colonsay.

To this day fishermen do not dig for lugworms there, as to do so would cause a fearful storm to occur. It certainly was recorded in the island tradition that the last time bait was dug there, a storm came on which half-swamped the boat and the men who set the lines. Could it be that digging the sands was thought to disturrb the spirits of the dead that are throught to rest there?

The fact is that Traigh an Tobair Fhuair was once the location of a hard-fought battle against Norse invaders. According to Malcolm Ban McNeil, a Colonsay tradition bearer, it were the MacDuffies, or McPhees, who fought them with thorn staves as their only weapons, which is why the event is recorded as 'Latha cath nan sguab air traigh an tobair fhuair ri taobh tuath Dun Ghallain' (the day of the battle fought with staves on the strand of the cold well, to the north side of the Fort of the Strangers).

Certainly the number of human bones which are exposed in the sands from time to time would suggest it would have been a very deadly battle. Overlooking the sands, the much eroded remains of Dun Gallan can still be seen, the slight stony mound now a scheduled monument.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.