Delve into the history and heritage of the Ardnamurchan peninsula and beyond. Take time to discover Neolithic chambered cairns, Bronze Age standing stones and Iron Age forts. Lose yourself in the romance of medieval castles. Wander around deserted settlements to discover the devastating impact of the Highland clearances on the local inhabitants and their way of life. Become acquainted with the spread of Christianity across the Highlands and the importance of the church in the local community. Revel in the uniqueness and location of a 19th century lighthouse. These are just a few of the delights that await you as you explore the social history of Ardnamurchan that began in the Mesolithic period, some 8000 years ago.

We hope that this small selection of scheduled monuments and townships will give you an insight into the lifestyle, culture, traditions and allegiances of some of the inhabitants of Ardnamurchan and beyond.

Take time to visit some of these historical sites when you are wild about Ardnamurchan.

 

1

 ( Ardnamurchan Peninsula )

Take the opportunity to visit Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, the most westerly lighthouse on the British mainland. The lighthouse was designed by Alan Stevenson and built in 1845. It is unique in the world in being the only lighthouse built in an Egyptian style; it has a 36 metre pink granite tower with Egyptian stylised figurines decorating its lamp base.  The flat-roofed keepers' dwellings and store houses are found at the base of the tower, with an open courtyard, where the Principal and Assistant Lighthouse keepers and their families lived a subsistence lifestyle. There is also a barn, byre and workshop which have been converted into a small shop and cafe.   Part of the lighthouse keepers' dwellings now serve as an exhibition centre which documents the history and workings of lighthouse. There is also an opportunity to explore the engine room and workshop. The exhibition centre also includes displays on the geology and natural history of the Ardnamurchan peninsula and the surrounding seas. 152 steps and two ladders take you to the top of the lighthouse tower and out onto a corbelled walkway.  Here you are rewarded with stunning views of the Ardnamurchan peninsula, The Small Isles and Hebrides on a clear day.

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse is accessed via a minor single track road from the B8007. It is spectacular drive to Ardnamurchan Point, although not for the faint hearted.

Open from the start of April until the end of October. There is a small admission charge for the exhibition centre and the lighthouse tower.


2

 ( Ardnamurchan Peninsula )

Take the opportunity to visit Greadal Fhinn, the remains of a Neolithic chambered cairn on the summit of a small knoll. The mounded cairn is roughly circular in outline and located on croft land 300m NW of Ormsaigmore, near Kilchoan. There are two burial chambers within, one of cist-like construction, and the other a passage-grave. The larger passage-grave consists of seven upright stones, a capstone, plus two stone stumps. The burial chamber, which is aligned ESE and WNW, would have been entered through a short passage. The smaller chamber is rectangular in shape with four slabs and a capstone. It is located in the centre of the mould and possibly of an earlier date. The cairn may have been orginally surrounded by several upright stones, long since removed.

Take time to explore this enigmatic cairn, a scheduled monument, on the southern shores of the Ardnamurchan peninsula.

The chambered cairn can be accessed by taking a track by Grianan croft, near Kilchoan.


3

 ( Ardnamurchan Peninsula )

Glendrian ('blackthorn glen') is a small remote crofting township surrounded by a circle of low hills on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. The hills are the ring dykes of the Ardnamurchan Tertiary Volcanic Complex and are of interest in their own right. This scheduled monument consists of over 17 unroofed buildings, scattered over the low lying ground. The buildings consist of dwelling houses of a mostly but-and-ben design, with byres, barns, shieling huts and other associated buildings.  There are also some enclosures, a kail yard and the remains of a plot and field agri-system. A more modern, two storey dwelling house stands towards the centre of the settlement. First written reference to the settlement is found in 1619, and the last of the inhabitants departed in the mid 20th century.

Take time to wander around the buildings and imbibe the atmosphere of this once thriving community, set amidst stunning scenery in the heart of The Ardnamurchan peninsula.

Glendrian can be accessed from the old quarry car park, approximately 1km south-east of Achnaha (on the Sanna road). Take the gravelled farm track which heads towards the deserted village of Glendrian.


4

 ( Ardnamurchan Peninsula )

Enjoy a lovely walk to the ruined church of St Comghan at Kilchoan. St Comghan and the adjacent burial ground overlook the village of Kilchoan and Kilchoan Bay.  Most of the church dates from 18th century but some features of an earlier medieval church (12th or 13th century) are evident in the west gable-wall. The Church is dedicated to the Irish monk St Comghan (Comgan, Chomhghain); one of several churches he established on his travels in the Highlands and Islands. St Comghan was eventually replaced by a new building in a nearby location in 1831. Details of history of the church can be found on an interpretation board at the site.

Take time to wander around the church and its graveyard.  In the graveyard look out for two decorated stones in the Iona tradition dating from the 14th or 15th century.

Continue up Glebe hill to a cairn made up of coloured pebbles, taking time to admire some fabulous views over Kilchoan, Kilchoan Bay and beyond.


5

 ( Ardnamurchan Peninsula )

Swordle Bay on the north coast of the Ardnamurchan peninsula has been the subject of a long running archaeological research programme carried out by the Ardnamurchan Transitions Team, which has focused on the excavation of key archaeological sites in the area. Sites excavated so far include a Neolithic chambered cairn (Cladh Aindreis), a Bronze Age kerbed cairn, a Bronze Age ring ditch, an Iron Age site Dun (Dun Mhurchaidh) and the site of a Viking boat burial.

The Neolithic chambered cairn (Cladh Aindreis) dates from around 6000 years. The Clyde-type chambered cairn is situated on the east bank of Allt Sordail, 0.5km north of Swordle. The cairn is aligned in NW and SE direction and consists of a divided chamber approximately 3 metres x 0.8 wide. The cairn would have originally been covered with a mound of stones, few of which now remain. Cladh Aindreis is thought to have been used on multiple occasions over a 1000 year time period. Close by there is a Bronze Age kerb cairn, a circular structure about 7 metres in diameter with a single entrance and stone-lined burial chamber. The cist would have been originally covered over with stones and the entrance blocked.

However, Swordle Bay is probably best known for the discovery of a Viking boat burial, which was identified from a low lying mound by the shore. When excavated, the mound was found to contain the remains of a small boat in which a warrior and some of his key possessions were laid to rest in the 10th Century.


6

 ( Ardnamurchan Peninsula )

The settlement of Bourblaige is one of the best preserved cleared settlements on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. The settlement is located on the south-east flank of Ben Hiant, between Camus nan Geall and Maclean's Nose.

The village consists of approximately 36 unroofed buildings of drystone construction (dwelling houses, barns, byres), with the remaining walls between 1 and 2 metres high, scattered across an area of 400m x 300m. There are also two enclosures, a field system and a head dyke. The buildings are mostly oblong with rounded corners, with the largest building measuring 12m by 6m.

Take time to wander around this former thriving settlement on the southern shore of the Ardnamurchan peninusula with with its stunning coast and hill views. 

The village can be accessed by a short walk along a track off the B8007, just west of Camus nan Geall.  However, you should note that once off the track, access to the village is mainly across rough uneven damp grassland with boggy areas.


7

 ( Ardnamurchan Peninsula )

Camas nan Geall (Bay of the Strangers) highlights the long history of settlement on the Ardnamurchan peninsula with historic structures ranging from a prehistoric standing stone, Neolithic chambered cairn, early medieval cross-incised stone, early bronze age to Pictish fort (on the promontory), a post medieval cruck (curved timber) framed cottage, a farmstead, a sheep fold, a township and an18th century burial ground. As such, this is a site well worth a visit.

Take the track down towards the sandy beach at Camas nan Geall to explore the remains of Neolithic chambered cairn at the head of the bay. The Clyde-type chambered cairn is roughly aligned in NW and SE direction and is thought to have been originally semicircular in plan. Only remnants of the cairn remain, with two impressive portal stones marking the entrance to the chamber. The other stones have fallen or since been removed. Other points of interest nearby include Cladh Chiarain, the 18th century burial ground, a prehistoric carved standing stone and a medieval crossed incised stone.

On the headland to the west, there are remains of an Iron Age promontory fort. Look out also for the remains of round-angle stone houses and sheep fanks.

Head down the Ardnamurchan peninsula on the B8007 and park at the view point which overlooks Camas nan Geal.  The viewpoint also affords good views of Ben Hiant whose geology and landmark features are described on the interpretation board at the viewpoint. 


8

 ( Moidart )

Take time to explore a medieval castle located on a rocky outcrop on the tidal island of Eilean Tioram, at the confluence of the River Shiel and Loch Moidart. The castle is enclosed by a thick round-angled, pentagonal defensive curtain dating from 13th century. Within the walls, there are a range of residential buildings (great hall, kitchen, cellar, sleeping apartments etc) of later periods, each reflecting the fashion of the era and the desire for the "gentrification" of the castle. The castle was entered by small gate on the landward side, above which is a small defensive machination. Castle Tioram is the former stronghold of Clan Ranalds and has witnessed a turbulent history, ultimately leading to the castle being abandoned and set alight in 1715.  An historical account of the castle, its features and clan history can be found in a leaflet produced by the Moidart History Society, which can be purchased locally (Walk no 4: A visit to Eilean Tioram and Castle Tioram).

Take in the romance and the history of this impressive castle and surrender yourself to the beauty of its surroundings.

Castle Tioram can be accessed from the car park at Dorlin. Please note that access to the tidal island, upon which the castle stands, is only possible at low tide, when the courseway and a lovely sandy beach are exposed.  Entry to the inside of castle is not possible. 


9

 ( Moidart )

Shielfoot Torr consists of a vitrified fort on a wooded ridge overlooking the River Shiel. The fort conforms to the contours of the ridge and consists of heavy vitrified wall up to 4.5 metres in thickness and standing to height of 0.5 metres. A sub-rectangular enclosure is evident at the south end, and there is an oval enclosure at the northwest side which probably served as a small dun with a timber-lace wall. Although there is some doubt as to the chronological relationship between the fort, dun and enclosure, it is likely that the small dun was constructed on the ruins of the univallate fort.  Although little remains of the three structures, this scheduled monument provides an interesting insight into the changing nature of fortifications over time.

The fort is accessed by a short walk through the lovely ancient oak woodland at Shielfoot.


10

 ( Morvern )

Wander through the abandoned crofting township of Aoineadh Mòr, a casualty of the Highland Clearances in 1824. This remote settlement near Lochaline on the Morvern peninsula consists of abandoned buildings which are scattered along a river valley. The buildings include family homes, corn drying kilns, winnowing barns and kail yards. The life of this settlement and the trauma of the evictions have been brought to life through the use of interpretation boards and an audio account based on the diary of Mary Cameron (a former inhabitant).   Two short walks have been named in remembrance of the settlement and its inhabitants- Mary's walk and James's walk (Mary's husband).

The site is accessed via a short walk from the Forestry Commission car park which takes you through native oak and birch woodland to the abandoned settlement. Well worth a visit!