Thursday, 4 April 2013

A Treasure Hunt

This was the moment before sunrise yesterday so, with the promise of fine weather all day from the forecasters, we set off with the family for a long walk.  As the grand-daughters need to have some sort of carrot for following the planned long and circuitous route - The Diary needed to look at some archaeology at Glendrian - we promised them a treasure hunt at one of the remote, hidden beaches on West Ardnamurchan's north coast.

We started at Achnaha, the point where last Friday's muir burners began their fire.  Achnaha is a small crofting township almost in the centre of West Ardnamurchan, but it must at some point have had a much bigger population as, to its northeast, there is an extensive area of drained peat land which was once used for agriculture.

It was this which had been the object of the burning.  Crossing it was like traversing a moonscape, the ash rising in black clouds around our feet as we walked.

As we climbed into the hills to the east of Achnaha we had a view across to Lower Sanna: the muirburn had travelled a little further than intended, though the village was quite safe.

Having 'done' the archaeology, we headed for the beach where the treasure hunt would take place - but the treasure wasn't gold or diamonds but cowries; and it's quite amazing that not only children but adults of all vintages will spend time with their noses to the sand looking for these little beauties.

There are all sorts of shells on that beach but it's the cowries that are the favourite find - there are four of them in this picture.  There's something about their shape and structure, and about the fact that they really are quite difficult to find, that makes them special; but the older grand-daughter also wanted as many as possible so she could make them into jewellery.

We walked back to Achnaha via the abandoned village of Plocaig, standing on a knoll surrounded by a scorched landscape.  The Sanna Burn runs through the foreground of this picture - after the weeks without rain, it has little water in it.

Here's one product of the expedition - a mosaic made of the remains of sea urchin tests.


  1. Very sweet to hear about your treasure hunt, daughters spent hours doing exactly the same thing up at Balnakiel beach, Durness last year before we headed down your way again..and they're rather older than your grandaughters....and yes, I did join in too : )

  2. I don't know what it is about collecting shells - it's such a peaceful activity, and it brings back many memories of being young. I had the good fortune to be brought up on an East African beach, where the shells came from a tropical reef - and included cowries. Jon