Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Choire Mhuilinn

Choire Mhuilinn was one of about twenty-five clachans, small, self-sufficient settlements, into which, for hundreds of years, the western end of Ardnamurchan was divided.  Each had its area of rough grazing, its arable inbye land, and its compact community of low, stone-walled houses.  While a some of these clachans remain as croft townships, others were cleared in the mid-nineteenth century to make way for sheep farms.  One of these was Choire Mhuilinn, cleared on the orders of Sir James Miles Riddell in 1828.

To visit it today, we walked across Ardnamurchan Estate land to the east of Kilchoan, leaving the car about a mile out of the village and striking out across the hills.

We walked in beautiful weather, sunny with a slight southeasterly breeze.  Just above the site of the clachan, we came across six red deer stags, of which two stopped to watch us as we passed before....

....moving off and following their fellows across a wire fence.  We stood to watch the easy grace with which they jumped the obstacle.

Of all the West Ardnamurchan clachans, Choire Mhuilinn has the most spectacular site but, looking at it today, you would be forgiven for not noticing it.  So thoroughly were the stone walls of the settlement destroyed that, today, hardly one of them stands above a couple of feet high, and most of the remains, visible in the foreground of this photo, are obscured by bracken and brambles.  Yet early in the 18th century seven families lived here, some 30 people in all.

The best preserved of the houses stands on a slight rise with an uninterrupted view of the Ardnamurchan coastline and Mingary Castle and, across the Sound of Mull, of Mull itself.  All the land in front of it, now grazed by the Estate's animals, was worked as arable land, and the clachan had a fine beach, just visible in this picture, onto which its fishing boats would have been drawn up.

Bald's map of 1806 - this is a very good copy, made in 1856 - shows the clachan, with its arable fields in blue, the small burn which ran close by its houses, and a much bigger burn to the west, the Allt Choire Mhuilinn, beside which are two buildings, one of which was a mill for grinding the clachan's corn.

After wandering across the site we dropped down to the beach and wandered along it for some distance.  The point seen at right is Maclean's Nose, while the summit of Ben Hiant is at top left.

An interactive map of the area is here.
Many thanks to Donald Houston of Ardnamurchan Estate for the Bald map.


  1. To your knowledge, has a clachan ever been rebuilt and traditionally run as an experiment in alternative community living?

    Derryck - willing volunteer - wife not too keen

  2. Auchindrain is the only one I know of, but it's a museum. I wondered whether there would be a market for holidays in a reconstructed Highland village - cutting peats, milking cows, and distilling a little illegal whisky - that sort of thing. Jon