Thursday, 19 January 2017

East of Mingary

I went out archaeological 'field walking' today in the land to the east of Mingary, in the area to the right of the road just after it leaves Kilchoan. Field walking involves simply wandering around looking out for things of archaeological interest, a pastime which suits me well.

In this Bing satellite picture one can see that the area is divided by a series of lumpy ridges which run roughly northeast to southwest between which are extensive areas of flat marsh. The buildings of Mingary Steading are at bottom left, the Choiremhuilinn burn is at right, and the coast is just off the bottom of the picture.

The marsh areas have all been drained, probably in the first half of the 18th century when Sir Alexander Murray, Lord Stanhope, held the Estate. At present I am trying to research his time here, a period which was troubled by Sir Alexander's eccentricities - the developing page on the Heritage Ardnamurchan website is here.

During Sir Alexander's time, the mapmaker John Cowley drew a map of Kilchoan and Mingary which included this area, and he indicated that there were two buildings in it. The map isn't very accurate, but my morning did yield the remains of two buildings, both thickly covered in moss, though I am not at all sure that they are the ones on Cowley's map. This one is 5m by 4m with its long side running north-south and an entrance in the centre of its east side.

The area's west end is at this stone wall - the houses at the east end of Kilchoan are in the distance, and the hill at right is Glas Bheinn. The wall....

....continues round the area's south side, separating it from the sea. The wall isn't on Bald's 1806 map so it is probably mid-nineteenth century. The two large rocks in the centre of the field is the central cist burial of Erikson's cairn, described in the Heritage Ardnamurchan page on Stone Circles here.

The east side of the area is formed by the Allt Choiremhuilinn, and it is in a small depression above the burn that....

....the second building is to be found. It is larger, 7m by 5m, round-cornered, with moss covering the rocks of which it was built.

One can only speculate as to the age of the structures and their use, but most of the buildings marked on Cowley's map seem to have been occupied houses rather than byres, and the second one is certainly the size of a typical dwelling of the time.

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