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Recording Your Heritage Online

Event ID 567308

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Recording Your Heritage Online


SUNART and ARDNAMURCHAN Much is revealed about the settlement and ownership patterns of 'this great headland of the heaving seas' by the many structures, abandoned and occupied, that lie scattered across the most westerly part of mainland Britain. Too often dismissed as a windswept and inaccessible peninsula, Ardnamurchan was, of course, at the hub of a great sea highway. The wild landscape is relieved by dramatic escarpments of volcanic origin, green fertile pastures, shell-white beaches and pockets of ancient woodland, and it is rich in minerals such as lead and copper. An overlying wealth of archaeological material confirms that Ardnamurchan was well settled in ancient and medieval times; more precise documentation exists from the 19th century, when it was transformed into a vast sporting ground. Like its West Highland neighbours, this promontory was anciently settled by Picts and the people of Dalriada, with Scots bringing Christianity over from Ireland in the 6th century and Vikings invading from the 8th century. In the 12 th century it became one of the territories of the Lordship of the Isles, held from the 14 th century by the MacIans, an offshoot of the all powerful Clan Donald. By 1626 the Campbells had ruthlessly suppressed the MacIans and acquired a charter for the lands. In 1723 , Campbell of Lochnell sold Ardnamurchan and Sunart to the optimistic, land-improving mineralogist Sir Alexander Murray of Stanhope, who opened lead mines in Sunart. The eventual failure of this venture resulted in him selling up in 1767 to a lowlander, James Riddell. By the late 18th century there were 28 slate-roofed houses in Ardnamurchan, but the problems of a growing population of small tenants and landless cottars, exacerbated by potato famine in the 1840s, prompted enforced clearances from as early as 1828. However, the Ardnamurchan clearances were not the worst, and a mix of small tenantry and croft holdings was in some measure retained. Moreover, regulations set out by Riddell for the repair and construction of buildings on his estate effectively saw the replacement of the ubiquitous creel (or turf) houses of the 18th century with improved dwellings.

Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press

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