The view of Loch Maree is breathtaking in any weather. Vast mountains enshrine the water’s dark blue that seems to stretch to eternity. The road takes you to Poolewe and further on your way towards Ullapool. The sheer beauty of Scotland’s West Coast is almost unbearably sublime. The grass, green in all its lushness, covers a fertile stretch of land as you approach Gruinard Bay. A village here, a few meadows there, the idyll seems perfect.
But death lurks off the shore. A little treeless Island, obviously uninhabited. The seagulls are circling, their loud screeches travel across the waves like warnings never heard.
The view is good from Gruinard graveyard. The island is close, here where the dead are buried, just over a mile as the crow flies, and it is more deadly than is thought possible: Gruinard Island. Anthrax Island.
bacteria used as a weapon
Deserted since the Second World War because of its contamination with the deadly Anthrax bacteria An island of death. It all sounds rather familiar these days.
British Forces detonated anthrax bombs to test them on sheep. All 60 died quickly. The old 16mm film is now declassified and a haunting document of lethal intentions. The anthrax strain used was a highly virulent type, a biological weapon intended for a number of German cities. It was never used in combat.
the decontamination of Gruinard Island
Nobody knows how long anthrax spores can survive in the ground. Gruinard was officially decontaminated in the 90s. It remains uninhabited, the “Keep Out” signs are gone. It is still not wise to go anywhere near it.
Gruinard graveyard is a place of death but Gruinard Island feels more deadly still.
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The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for my blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. Find treasure all over Scotland with my latest book. I am Nellie Merthe Erkenbach, journalist and author.
My main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel. This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share my passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.