Sunday, 11 June 2017

AHHA North Coast Walk

Despite yesterday's weather, members of the Ardnamurchan History & Heritage Association walked to the north coast from Achnaha to look at a number of archaeological sites but, as so often happens, were frequently distracted by the wildlife. There seem to be far more newts than usual this year: this is a young one which was swimming around in a small pond half-filled with dead grass.

The orchids will be at their best in the next few weeks. We weren't sure of this one's identity - its unusually broad and deep-green leaves misled us - but it's almost certainly a lesser butterfly orchid with greener and wider leaves, and a more compact flower head than the usual ones.

At the base of this grim-looking cliff there's a settlement site. It consists of....

....two or three rock shelters, this one with a 'forecourt' defined by a stone wall. Dating a structure like this is very difficult. Suggestions included that it could be very old, used by hunter-gatherers as they move around Scotland's west coast, or it could have been used by inhabitants of the nearby clachans, either as a shieling or as a place of refuge in troubled times.

We reached the north coast near Glendrian Caves, but the site we were looking for was almost obscured by bracken. It's a hut circle, about 8m in diameter, sited on a natural platform above the beach. The outline of the hut can be seen where the bracken has been broken down.

These hut circles, which are bronze to iron age, were used by nomadic people, and resembled an American Indian's teepee, though the roof material might have been of grass and reeds rather than hides.

While there, three seals gave such a fine display of jumps in the bay below us that we initially thought they might be dolphins. The island in this shot is home to a colony of grey seals, often up to twenty basking on its rocks at any one time.

On the way back to Achnaha, visible in the distance, we passed through a saddle between two hills in which there is what has been identified as a grave, formed of piled rocks, and roughly teardrop shaped with the thin end running downhill. It would have been a superb place for a chieftain to have been buried, looking out across the land he had ruled.

As well as the many heath spotted orchids, the first fragrant orchids (above) are appearing. The orchid which seems to be late this year is the common spotted.

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