Saturday, 28 May 2016

Isolated Farmsteads

The view that, in pre-clearance times, the predominant settlement pattern was of houses grouped into clachans, seems largely true but, more and more, we're finding isolated buildings which were obviously dwellings, often with associated structures such as byres and sheep folds. A good example of such a farmstead is the settlement in this picture, close to Lochan na Gruagaich (just out-of-picture to the right, with Loch Mudle in the distance). Structures 2 & 3 are the house and, perhaps, a byre; 4 is what appears to be a very old animal enclosure; and 5 is a more recent enclosure.

Members of the Ardnamurchan History & Heritage Association have begun to map these isolated farmsteads across western Ardnamurchan. While there are ten identified so far, we're finding more. However, one of the problems associated with them is dating. The dilapidated condition of some, such as....

....this one, which was found during an expedition with the Raptor on Mingary clachan land near the summit of Torr Solais between Mingary Castle and Kilchoan, suggest they may be older than eighteenth century, when many of the stone houses in the clachans were constructed.

This map, drawn by John Cowley in 1734 for the then Ardnamurchan Estate owner, Sir Alexander Murray, at last offers some evidence of their age. The arrow beside the track between Mingary (1) and the Mill at Kilchoan (2) pinpoints a structure which is very likely a farmstead.  It's a large building, aligned roughly NW-SE, and at the southern end of Torr Solais. The one in the previous picture is too small and in the wrong place, so we went looking for something that might fit the description.

It's very pleasing when such a search is successful. This very substantial building was covered in brambles but is in exactly the right place. Measuring 12m by 5m, and with the right orientation, it's far bigger than the previous building and could well be the farmstead on Cowley's map.  So at least one these isolated farmsteads was in existence in 1734.

William Bald's map of 1806 - this clip is from a copy held by Ardnamurchan Estate - shows that the farmstead buildings have gone, the fields being marked in the colours of those worked by the Mingary clachan.

Sadly, Cowley's map was of very limited extent, so we're unable to use it to check for dating evidence for some of the other farmsteads.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Fallow Deer

One of the best places to see fallow deer is around the edges of the Beinn nan Losgann forestry which lies on the right of the road out of Kilchoan, as it climbs towards the Kilmory turn. These two were grazing in the valley of the Allt nan Gabhar, the stream of the goat, and, because we walk quietly....

....they weren't aware of our approach, becoming at one point more concerned with something further up the glen.

Even when they did see us, by which time we were standing very still, they weren't too bothered, but there always seems to be a trigger with deer when they suddenly decide we're unfriendly and....

....make off, clearing any obstacles with graceful ease.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Sunday Lunch

There was a time when Sunday lunch was a family affair and always included a roast and a bottle of red wine. These days, we tend to take a long walk on a Sunday morning, and always carry a picnic with us, in the pink container. It's pretty basic - a drink, a muesli bar, a packet of cashew nuts and a chocolate bar - but it enables us to enjoy Sunday lunch looking out over wonderful views, in this case the entrance to Camas nan Geall.

April Snow

Diane Todd has sent me some more of her super photos taken after the sudden dump of snow almost a month ago on April 28th, which melted away quickly enough at low level on Ardnamurchan but left us with some stunning distant views of snow-capped mountains. This picture shows Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse and the snow-free island of Muck with, behind it, the rugged mountains of Rum.

This picture looks from the banks of the Allt Grigadale across the weir and Loch Grigadale to the snows on Ben Hiant.

From the hills to the north of Sanna, this view looks north across Rubha an Duin Bhain to, from left to right, Muck, Rum and Eigg, while....

....this one shows a slightly different perspective of Muck and Rum, but with Canna visible on the horizon to the left.

Many thanks to Diane for allowing me to use her photographs.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Allt nan Gabhar

The Allt nan Gabhar, the stream of the goat, is such a favourite burn that we've wandered its banks many times.

It drains the west side of the forestry which clothes the slopes of Beinn nan Losgann. Its meandering has cut a series of steep bluffs between which lie sheltered, grassy terracettes; and, as one climbs upstream, there are constantly changing views of Ben Hiant and the ridge of Beinn na h-Urchrach.

This is the view downstream, with Beinn an Leahtaid to the right and Meall nan Con in the left distance. The road in to Kilchoan passes close to the corner of the forestry.

It's an area rich in archaeology. This is a very special site, one of our earliest archaeological discoveries, a stone circle which may be a Bronze or Iron Age hut circle but is more likely to be a rather older kerb cairn.

Fallow deer leave the cover of the forestry to come out to graze along its banks, while....

....the twisting nature of the glen means that we often come very close to red deer before they see us.

In places, the burn tumbles down a series of waterfalls, the tops of which....

....make ideal places to sit for a cup of coffee.

Sadly, the headwaters of the burn lie buried in the forestry, but if one continues up the hill one is treated to a panoramic view westwards. Mingary Castle is at bottom left, Kilchoan Bay in the middle distance at right, and the houses of Ormsaigbeg are strung out along the far side of the bay.