Monday, 8 February 2016

A Walk in the Sun

The forecast suggested that the weather today might be an improvement on recent form so we took the car to where the silage bales are piled by the bridge across the Allt Choire Mhuilinn and walked due south along the burn's right bank, directly towards the coast (See map at bottom of post). To our left Ben Hiant, its summit wrapped in mist, lay in shadow but that blue sky above it held some promise.

By the time we reached the coast all hope of sunshine had vanished as layers of low, heavy clouds rolled across the entrance to Loch Sunart, bringing occasional drops of rain. Maclean's Nose is to the left, with the Marine Harvest fish farm in front of it, and Morvern lies across the loch.

We had seen a couple of diggers at the mouth of the Allt Choire Mhuilinn a few days ago. Now we know what they were doing, replacing the footbridge which was washed away in a storm a couple of years ago; and the job has been done much better this time, so it's unlikely to get lost again even if the river rises very high.

Looking across the entrance to Loch Sunart, with Drimnin and Drimnin church silhouetted on the Morvern side, we saw one of our local fishing boats laying creels beyond a new group of buoys which mark the location of the wave energy machine which is being installed near the fish farm, in part to provide it with electricity.

We walked east along the beach towards Maclean's Nose. We've done this walk so many, many times, yet we'll never tire of it. This beach always has something happening along it, and the main thing today was that the sun began to appear.

Looking back along the beach, we could see what a huge difference the repointing has made to Mingary Castle, which now stands out brightly against the background of the hills behind Ormsaigbeg.

This beach collects more rubbish than any other on Ardnamurchan, a fact which we've ascribed to it being down wind of Tobermory - certainly that notice to the right of the boot came from Tobermory. However, it's interesting rubbish. This little collage includes no less than four items of footwear: a boot, a trainer, a water shoe, and a flipflop. Incidentally, because of the flotsam, it's the best beach for a proper beach barbecue, and certainly the best if you're looking for somewhere to drop out of society and live the Crusoe life.

We walked almost as far as the fish farm and then climbed an almost vertical, and rather too slippery slope, to reach the....

....rolling grasslands of the Estate grazing land, bathed in warm sunshine, across which we wandered back to the car.

Map courtesy StreetMap.

Spring Barges Through the Door

Yesterday the westerly was blowing at almost gale force, we had rain on and off all day, and the temperature struggled to 7C. Today spring didn't arrive, it barged through the door, with the midday mercury hitting a staggering 12.4C.

So it seems quite logical that the first bee seen this year in our garden should be on the snowdrops, and....

....the first fly was sharing the peanut feeder with the blue tits.

Sunday, 7 February 2016


Most of the red deer stags we see while out walking at the moment are still proudly carrying their antlers. Once the rut is finished these cease to have any use for fighting - we don't even see the stags sparring - so presumably they're kept for some other reason, which may be the very male thing of posturing to their mates.

At this time of year the stags are going round in bachelor groups some of which are very large. The largest group we've ever seen was during last September - blog post here - when we saw over fifty together.

So it was a little surprising to see this fine stag all by himself yesterday - until we noticed that his antlers were a little.... sad.  His left antler is broken off about 6" above his head, and the right one is a bit worn.

Perhaps he's so ashamed of them that he'll remain an outcast until they're shed in March/April and he can grow new ones in time for this year's rut.

Camas nan Geall Map

Following yesterday's post, here is the map that has been produced using the data we collected at the Camas nan Geall clachan. It's been made using as a base a satellite image from Bing Maps which.....

.....through the wonders of modern technology, can be removed to leave the outline map.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Camas nan Geall Clachan

The Ardnamurchan Community Archaeology group - all two of us - met at Camas nan Geall this morning to make a start on a map of the clachan there. Most people know of Camas nan Geall's much older archaeology, particularly the neolithic chambered cairn and the graveyard with its bronze age standing stone, but the little community in which the ordinary people lived for perhaps a thousand years and more is largely forgotten.

Like most clachans, the dwellings, byres and other domestic and agricultural buildings were located on some of the rockiest, and therefore least agriculturally valuable, of the land - marked on the picture above by the green ellipse.   From a distance, the buildings are almost impossible to distinguish except, just beyond the wall that runs right-left beyond the field, there is one house which may have continued in use, possibly occupied by one of the shepherds employed on the sheep farm created after the clachan was cleared in 1828.

From the road that runs along the top of the steep slope above the clachan a few structures can be seen. The most evident is the oval-shaped, walled structure at upper right. This is some 18m along its longest axis, by 11m, and may have been an animal enclosure. At lower left is a typical house.

This picture shows part of the big enclosure's northeastern wall, which was about a metre thick and, in its day, judging by the amount of fallen stone, probably quite high.
This is the other structure, an 8m x 4m building which was probably a dwelling. Basically rectangular in shape, it exterior walls have rounded corners, and the door was probably on the left as this picture shows it. Beside it is a smaller building which might have been a byre. These are typical late-clachan buildings, their occupants probably cleared from them in 1828.

Generations of people have lived on this small patch of land, many in buildings which were largely made of wood and turfs, structures which are long gone.  We rather assume that the rectangular stone buildings with rounded corners are the most recent, being immediately pre-clearance. However, three of the buildings, of which this picture shows the most interesting, have ends which are curved so the ground plan is roughly lozenge-shaped. They have another similarity in that all three have substantial walls and, unlike the others, are covered in brambles.

In all we found, mapped and briefly described eight buildings and a couple of enclosures, as well as the large enclosure. There's much more to be found - but next time we'll visit on a warm, sunny and dry day.

Many thanks to Dave Kime for his company.