Ballygrant Feature Page
From Bridgend to Ballygrant
The distance is around 8km and the road runs through good quality farmland and some very interesting points of interest. Just after Bridgend on the main road is a track on the left to Eallabus, Knockdon farm and the lovely woodland around Loch Skerrols. The loch is worth a visit and so is the woodland situated around the loch. Back on the mainroad and only one km further north is another track on the left towards Scarrabus farm and one of the many standing stones on Islay. Also on the mainroad towards Ballygrant is the last Dairy farm on Islay called Esknish, which is only two km before Kilmeny and the first houses of Ballygrant. Just before reaching Ballygrant, there is a small wood on the right in which stands Kilmeny Church. A little track before the wood leads to Kilmeny Farm and the old Kilmeny chapel and cemetery, which has a few beautifully carved medieval grave slabs. South of the chapel are the earthworks of Dun Guaidhre, an Iron Age fort. The village of Ballygrant starts one km further down the road with houses on the left and right of the road.
The earliest record of a meal mill at Ballygrant appears in a 1686 rent roll and then regularly throughout the 18th century. As Ballygrant is an anglicised version of Baill a Ghrana, the town of the grain. Ballygrant is surrounded by good arable land where barley as well as oats would have been grown to supply the local (farm) distillery, now Lossit Kennels. Ballygrant is also the longest established village on the island. Lossit Kennels was a whisky distillery in the early days, although there are no remains left to be seen. It was a medium-sized farm-scale operation and in 1826-7 it produced 12,200 gallons (54,480 litres) of proof spirit. It was operated by Malcolm McNeill from 1826 to 1834, by George Stewart until 1852 and a John Stuart thereafter for a further 10 years. This makes it one of the longest surviving 19th century farm-scale distilleries on Islay.
From the 17th to the 19th centuries, Ballygrant was the centre of a considerable mining industry for both lead and silver. A book published in the eighteenth century, "A tour of Scotland and voyage to the Hebrides", describes how Thomas Pennant had set out on an epic journey to Scotland in the year 1772. When he visited Islay he was shown around by a Mr. Freebairn of Freeport and when they visited the mines Pennant wrote: "the ore is of lead, much mixed with copper which occasions expense and trouble in the separation; the veins rise to the surface, have been worked at intervals for ages". And about the workings he writes: "The lead-ore is good; the copper yields thirty-three pounds per hundred; and forty ounces of silver from the tun of metal. The lead-ore is smelted in the air-furnace, near Freeport;" Lead mining came to an end with the production of 38 tons of lead in 1880 and 1,214 ounces of silver. There were four mines in total in the area, the Gartness Mine, Ballygrant Mine, Woodend Mine and the Robolls Mine east of Loch Finlaggan. All that remains visible today are decayed buildings, holes in the ground and spoil tips.
The village itself is quite small, there is a good shop and post office, a village hall and the Ballygrant Inn, just outside the village on the main road to Port Askaig. In the centre of Ballygrant, just after the quarry, is a turning to the right where the single track Glen Road to Cluanach starts. Despite the fact that Ballygrant is only a wee village, it is interesting enough to include it in your travel plans. The area around Ballygrant is very beautiful and a perfect place to make really nice walks. The woodland around Loch Ballygrant is perfect for a sheltered walk while this loch, loch Lossit and loch nan Cadhan are also well known for fishing. The woodland is part of the Dunlossit Estate and there is a track that runs from the west side of Loch Ballygrant to Port Askaig. Lossit Kennels, the house of the Dunlossit Headkeeper can be found here and on the single track road just outside Ballygrant is the Dunlossit Estate Office.
Ballygrant Local Information: Pictures of Ballygrant in the Islay Gallery
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