Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Rough Road to Plocaig

The track to Plocaig leaves the existing tarmac track just after it passes through Achnaha, seen here in the distance. For the first half mile or so, the track is easy to follow, and leads to....

....a set of stepping stones which cross a tributary of the Sanna Burn, the Allt Nean an Fhir-Eoin. Shortly beyond this the track....

....disappears in an area of rounded rocks, tussock grass and bog.

Before 1921, neither Sanna nor Plocaig had a road, but a campaign by the women of Sanna, who wrote to the queen describing how difficult life was without a proper road connecting them to Kilchoan, resulted in one being built. The reason Sanna won over Plocaig was that it had twenty crofts while Plocaig had only four, around which grazed three cows, a pony and a few sheep - and the Sanna ladies' campaign was supported by the author MEM Donaldson who lived at Sanna Beag.

It wasn't always so. The OS 6" map surveyed in 1872 shows Plocaig as thriving. It was obviously a 'planned' settlement judging by its neat row of houses facing out onto a communal green. By comparison, Sanna's houses were scattered.

Like Sanna, in 1872 Plocaig was a relatively recent settlement. Sanna was created to take some of the families being evicted from places like the Swordles during the mid-nineteenth century, and Plocaig must have been the same. Yet by 1921 the Plocaig population was already in steep decline.

Even as one reaches Plocaig's head dyke, its boundary wall, there is still no sign of the original track. It's likely that the original was so poor, so rough, that carts couldn't travel it, and everything that didn't come in by sea was carried in on the backs of humans and ponies.

After it lost the chance of a road, Plocaig died quickly. By the 1930s the thatched roof was being blown off the last cottage, though the one gabled and plastered building still had some of its corrugated iron roof when we first came here over twenty years ago.


  1. Interesting that you consider Plocaig a "planned" village whereas Sanna wasn't due to their respective layouts. I would have assumed exactly the opposite with Plocaig, being in a huddle, preserving more of the characteristics of an ancient "clachan" or "baile".

  2. Hi Neil - Many thanks for your interesting comment. I described Plocaig as 'planned' simply on the basis of the layouts of the clachans in Bald's Ardnamurchan map of 1806, where all the clachans' buildings are very haphazardly arranged. Plocaig's houses are, with one exception, all in a neat row, and appear all to have been built at one time, whereas Sanna was added to as 'refugees' from further east moved in. What intrigues me is this question: Why did people settle at Plocaig and, if it was 'planned', what were they put there to do? Jon