Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Another Illicit Still?

This is the Allt Rath a' Bheulain which drains the area between Beinn an Leathaid and Meal nan Con. For much of its course the burn is unexceptional, but for a short section it has cut a pretty little glen.  At the glen's highest point....

....there is a waterfall below which, just visible in this picture in the bracken, is a rectangular, drystone walled building.  This has always intrigued us as, while it could have been an animal pen, it looks more like a building which had a roof - yet it's an odd place for someone to want to live.

This picture shows it in winter, when the bracken has died back. The site is obviously liable to flooding when the burn is high as whoever built the structure had to put a wall at its upper end to stop the water entering. This makes it an even less likely a place for someone to live.

Having found the Choiremhulinn whisky still - see blog here - it now occurs to us that this is also the site of an illegal still. When these stills were at their height in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a remote area like Ardnamurchan would probably have had several. This one would have been on the common grazings of Skinnid clachan.

This sketch diagram shows the layout of the building. One of the intriguing features is the kink in the wall upstream of the building.

It's a good site for a still - plenty of running water, secluded, and the glen may have had much more woodland in it in those days. The only problem is that the burn runs below the level of the land on which the building stands, yet water needed to be brought into it to cool the copper coil.  However, this could easily have been done by....

....leading the water, either through a pipe or a duct made of wood, from about half way up the falls.

We need to go back in winter when the bracken has died down and look for evidence of distilling - like a bottle of finest, 200-year old Ardnamurchan whisky.

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