On an island with as few sandy beaches as Mull, Calgary Bay really is outstanding. The bay faces west towards Coll and Tiree. The beach is broad and sandy. The sea is an idyllic blue if you catch it in the right weather conditions. And arms of high ground sweep round the north and south sides of the bay, framing it perfectly. It lies some 12 miles west of Tobermory and nearly 6 miles west of Dervaig.
The name comes from the Gaelic cala ghearraidh, which translates as the meadow beside the bay. The origins of settlement here are unclear, but it seems unlikely that in their travels around the Western Isles the Vikings would not have spotted what would have been an almost ideal location for them, combining shelter, a beach on which to draw their boats clear of the water, fertile land for planting, and surrounding high ground to make attack difficult from the landward side. But this is all supposition: if the Vikings were here, we are not aware of any evidence of their stay.
There is more solid evidence of three facets of the area's more recent settlement, two of which have survived rather better than the other. On the hillside rising to the east of Calgary Bay is Calgary Castle, a castellated mansion largely built in 1817, as an expansion of a laird's house built in the 1780s. This, in turn, reused the site of an earlier house originally built in the 1600s. Meanwhile, an old burial ground below the castle and at the head of the bay suggests that significant numbers of people once lived here.
But to find where these people lived you need to follow the track from the beach car park along the north side of Calgary Bay. In the shallow valley of a stream flowing down to the shore below, you can still find the walls of up to 20 houses plus their associated barns. This is all that is left of the crofting township of Invea, whose story came to a halt in the early 1800s. Its 200 inhabitants were "cleared": invited to leave by their landlord so he could earn more from his land by grazing sheep on it. Departure was not optional, and on the north shore of the bay you can still see signs of the stone pier from which many of the residents of Invea left for a new and uncertain life in North America.
Today the area immediately around the bay is largely uninhabited, with the exception of a couple of houses near its south east corner; the nearby informal camping ground much loved by motorhome users; and an odd construction using an upturned boat near the beach car park that serves as a kiosk selling refreshements in summer (and which we understand has had a significant makeover since we photographed it).
It's been said that some of those cleared from Invea took the name of Calgary to their new home in Canada, lending it to what has since become a major city. The reality is less romantic. In 1875 the Canadian North West Mounted Police established a fort in southern Alberta at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers. The following year it was named Fort Calgary by the NWMP's Assistant Commissioner, A.G.Irvine, at the suggestion of a colleague, Colonel James F. Macleod, who had stayed as a guest at Calgary Castle on Mull and who had family connections with the area. So while it is possible that descendents of those cleared from Invea township ended up living in Calgary, Canada, the name was not directly a recognition of their ancestors' forced journey, or their own heritage.
Half a mile to the north east of the bay, what used to be the Calgary Hotel has become self catering accommodation, while the nearby the Carthouse Gallery & Tearoom remains open.
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