Tuesday, 31 May 2016
This wall is an example of one which can, to some extent, be dated. It follows the course of a burn which drains the northern slopes of Ben Hiant and disappears into the forestry that covers the slopes of Beinn nan Losgann. The picture shows it at bottom right, with Beinn na h-Urchrach in the background.
Bing satellite image. While it doesn't drain into Lochan Poll an Dubhaidh, the lochan is a useful feature in locating the wall. It's possible to zoom in to the pink area....
The wall can be seen to run along the boundary between Choiremhuilinn's common grazings and those of Tornamona, and it's right beside the point where the old road into Kilchoan crosses that boundary. So it's main use was probably to delineate the boundary between the two clachans. Such walls are called march dykes.
Since these clachans are probably hundreds of years older than Bald's map, this is likely to be a very old wall.
Many thanks to Holly Bull, manager of Mingary Castle, for sending the Diary these beautiful photos which were taken by Changing Light's Andy Lock. The beautiful weather over the bank holiday weekend was perfect for celebrating the completion of Mingary Castle, which is now open for bookings.
Monday, 30 May 2016
This is the first dor beetle of the year. He was making his way across a sheep-mown field in the rain, and making very heavy weather of it.
Dors are big beetles, this one being almost an inch long. Although they look black, in certain lights and from certain angles they have a beautiful purple-blue sheen to their carapace. This was best seen back in July 2014 when some dors were seen falling around - blog entry here.
Sunday, 29 May 2016
Greadal Fhinn is a neolithic cairn of the Hebridean type, with a smaller central cist chamber (right) and larger passage chamber (left), both once covered in a mounded cairn structure of about 22m diameter.
That the cairn is known as Greadal Fhinn is confusing. Local lore has it that the ‘Fhinn’ refers to a Viking chieftain Ketill Flatnefr of Raumsal, known on the west coast as Caithil Fin. In 888AD he fled Norway and, according to the Sagas, settled on the west coast of Scotland, where he later died. The suggestion seems to be that he was buried here.
Similar large local cairns are at Camas nan Geall and Swordle. All have in common that they are set near but back from the coast, and have associated settlements.
Historic Environment Scotland's designation is here and the Kilchoan Diary history of Ormsaigmore is here.
Saturday, 28 May 2016
The view that, in pre-clearance times, the predominant settlement pattern was of houses grouped into clachans, seems largely true but, more and more, we're finding isolated buildings which were obviously dwellings, often with associated structures such as byres and sheep folds. A good example of such a farmstead is the settlement in this picture, close to Lochan na Gruagaich (just out-of-picture to the right, with Loch Mudle in the distance). Structures 2 & 3 are the house and, perhaps, a byre; 4 is what appears to be a very old animal enclosure; and 5 is a more recent enclosure.
Sadly, Cowley's map was of very limited extent, so we're unable to use it to check for dating evidence for some of the other farmsteads.
Friday, 27 May 2016
Thursday, 26 May 2016
Many thanks to Diane for allowing me to use her photographs.
Wednesday, 25 May 2016
It drains the west side of the forestry which clothes the slopes of Beinn nan Losgann. Its meandering has cut a series of steep bluffs between which lie sheltered, grassy terracettes; and, as one climbs upstream, there are constantly changing views of Ben Hiant and the ridge of Beinn na h-Urchrach.
Tuesday, 24 May 2016
However, by the time the first OS map was published, both Upper and Lower Sanna are well developed, and Plocaig has four buildings. Both settlements came into existence in the 1840s or 1850s, when clachans to the east, such as the Swordles, were being cleared, and the landlord had to find somewhere to dump those of his tenants who wished to stay rather than emigrate.
This photograph looks towards Plocaig from the south-southeast, across its fields, with the Allt Sanna to the left. Even by Ardnamurchan standards, these are poor fields.
But it was not the miserable fields which finally destroyed Plocaig. In 1921 the decision was made to complete the road beyond Achnaha - not to Plocaig, where the old track had run, but to Sanna because by that time Sanna had twenty crofts, each grazing two cows, while Plocaig had only four crofts, each grazing three cows, a pony and a few sheep. No doubt the decision was helped by the fact that MEM Donaldson lived at Sanna and fought on its behalf.
This picture shows Plocaig in the 1930s, soon after it had been abandoned but with many of its houses still roofed.
Plocaig is gradually merging back into the landscape, but its fields are still used: a crofter grazes sheep across them, and visitors stop to sit by its houses and imagine what it must have been like to live in such an idyllic setting. It can't have been idyllic: life must have been extremely hard.