Thursday, 18 April 2013

History in Four Pictures

These four pictures come from a walk we did in January which explored the area to the west of Ben Hiant.  The walk took just over two hours, yet in that time we passed a wealth of history waiting to be interpreted.  This area is fortunate that many structures in the past were built, at least in part, in the local stone.  So, although they may now lie in ruin, their outlines are left as evidence on the landscape.

This first pile of stones is all that remains of a small house that was part of the clachan of Skinnid.  In 1727 the settlement was home to nine families, a total of forty-six people, yet the people of Skinnid were cleared from their homes early in the 19th century, and their houses, if not destroyed, allowed to fall down.

This elongate pile of stones is much more of a mystery.  It is to be found on a ledge of grassland cut into the southwestern slope of Beinn na h-Urchrach.  It is too carefully arranged to be natural, and the rocks at the far end are formed into a neat square which resembles the chamber of a Neolithic cist burial, though on a much smaller scale. That it is about 2m long, and that it looks out on a magnificent view, might support the idea that it is a grave of some sort.

Sitting in a shadowed valley to the west of Ben Hiant lie these rocks.  They, again, are very difficult to interpret.  Had there only been an outer wall it might have been a sheep fold but within it, to the left, there is a much smaller structure, its internal measurements about 1m x 1m.  The structure's position, on a grassy bench of land beside a cheerful burn, tucked into the valley against the weather, suggests that it might have been a dwelling of some kind.

This photograph of a knoll whose southern slope drops steeply to the Sound of Mull shows a layering of enclosure boundaries.  A grass-covered wall runs from left to right across the bottom of the picture.  This is very likely the boundary wall or 'header dyke' of the infield land of the clachan of Choire Mhuillinn, another cleared clachan the remains of which lie about a kilometre to the west.  The wall separated the arable land on the far side, marked with the stripes of lazy beds, from the common grazing on this side.

To the left, running down from the top of the knoll, is a much more substantial stone wall.  It was built by the tenant of the sheep farm to make way for which Choire Mhuillinn was cleared of its people.  Finally, and much more recently, just this side of it, there is a high deer fence.

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