Sunday, 21 June 2015

A Visit to Choiremhuilinn

When Bald drew his superb map of Ardnamurchan and Sunart in 1806, clachans such as 'Corivouline', less than a mile east along the coast from Mingary Castle, were still inhabited.  Low, surveying the area in 1807, complained that it was "oppressed with a number of tenants" but that the four farms of which it was composed would make a "very good sheep farm" if stocked with Cheviots.

Low's report is interesting since it seems to suggest that the community had already been reorganised into 'farms', rather than being the co-operative commune that is the typical 'clachan'.

Choiremhuilinn was duly cleared, some time during or after 1828, so that, when the OS surveyed the area for the 1872 25" map, few buildings remained. '1' is an isolated building, and '2' looks like one of the 'farms' to which Low referred. One roofed building, numbered '3' at bottom right and called Coiremhuilinn, appears to be new.

Yesterday afternoon, despite the continuing dull weather, members of the Ardnamurchan Community Archaeology group walked to the site.  This is the view from the hill to the north, looking across the 19th century wall - probably constructed using many of the rocks which had once been the walls of the clachan's buildings - with the farm, '2', arrowed.

From the site itself there are superb views along the coast - even on a dull day - looking west across the rocks of Rubh a' Mhile to the point Rubha Aird an Iasgaich where Mingary Pier and the Tobermory ferry can be seen, to the distant hill Maol Buidhe at the end of Ormsaigbeg.

 Looking east to Maclean's Nose, the twelve cages of the new Marine Harvest fish farm can be seen.

The isolated building, '1', is the best constructed and must have given its occupants a wonderful view. One wonders whether this was the house of the Archibald McMillan whom Low names as the 'tenant' of Choiremhuilinn in 1807.

The linear buildings, marked '2' on the 1972 map, are also easily found.  While it is difficult to be certain, it seems that the building at right, at the southeast end, was the dwelling house, and the other parts perhaps byres and stores.

Other buildings, in much poorer state of preservation, are also visible, and these may well be the other three farms to which Low refers.  It would be interesting, on a fine day and when the bracken is dead, to return and map the site.

Inevitably, as we walked across the hills to and from the site, we stumbled across a wealth of wildflowers, including this orchid, one which we've only found at two other sites on West Ardnamurchan. It's a lesser butterfly orchid, Platanthera bifolia, and, despite a search, the only one we could find.

Bald map courtesy Ardnamurchan Estate. the OS map is at the National Library of Scotland.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think we need to be surprised by, or read anything into, Low's use of the word "farm" - an old style clachan may have been organised and worked differently from a modern farm but it was nonetheless a farm by the standards of the time.