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Archaeology Notes

Event ID 871586

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Archaeology Notes


The remains of four or five buildings are situated on a WNW-facing slope about 200m inland and at an altitude of around 75m above the E shore of Loch Long, about 2.5km south of the village of Arrochar. They are backed by a row of crags and surrounded by a head dyke. The head dyke runs from NN 2750 0137 to NN 2769 0182 and incorporates numerous natural boulders along the stretch NW of the main group of buildings. The nearest visible water sources are around 65m NNW or around 80m WNW. Several rows of hawthorns and a pollarded rowan grow close to the buildings. The remains of two further buildings have been identified; one at the SW limit of the head dyke, and one around 50m W of the main group of buildings, situated between these and the loch. Three of the buildings are associated with enclosed garden plots, some of which have been terraced.

There are numerous clearance cairns and evidence of rig and furrow on the hillside below the buildings, within the head dyke, as well as small, terraced areas at the bottom of the slope, close to the loch. The combined extent of the terraced areas, rig and furrow, and clearance cairns (excluding the garden plots associated with the buildings) amounts to around 1 hectare.

All the buildings are of dry-stone construction and none have evidence of fireplaces. The remains of virtually all walls are below window height. Within the main group of buildings, the principal building measures about 14.6×5.6m externally and is oriented WNW-ESE, with two possible entrances on the NNE side. The external walls are about 0.8m thick. There is a low, internal wall across the width of the building, and evidence of modification of the ESE end of the building by the addition of internal walls. An irregular, roughly circular, terraced plot about 20-28m diameter surrounded by a low wall is located 3m WNW of this building.

A second building located SSW of the principal building measures about 7.2×5m externally and is oriented SSW-NNE with a doorway facing WNW. Its external walls are about 0.7m thick. There is a small addition on the outside of the NNE wall and an irregular, roughly circular, terraced plot about 22-26m diameter surrounded by a low wall attached to the SSW wall.

A third building is located NNE of the principal building. It measures 5.4×4.6m externally and is oriented almost N-S, with an entrance in the S wall and a possible window in the N wall. Its external walls are about 0.8m thick. There is evidence of extensive modification including possible narrowing of the doorway and the additon of an internal wall in the SE corner. The distribution of rubble to the west of the building suggests that it may once have extended in this direction. The head dyke abuts the NE corner of this building.

A fourth building is located WNW of the third building. It measures about 3.8×4m externally, but is of poor construction and the ESE wall is slightly longer than the opposite WNW wall. The walls are about 0.6m thick. There is an entrance in the SSW corner.

A fifth building lies about 29m N of the principal building. It is oriented N-S and is almost square, measuring approximately 5.8×5.8m externally, with an entrance in the W wall and a possible window in the S wall. The external walls are about 0.7m thick. A roughly rectangular plot bordered by a stone wall surrounds the building, joined to the NE and SW corners, with an entrance to the W, adjacent to the building. The plot (including the house) measures about 19×14m and its enclosing wall incorporates some large, natural boulders. Part of the wall surrounding this plot has a more regular appearance, with a squared corner to the SW, than the other plots and there is evidence of a possibly earlier plot to the N of the building.

The earliest mention of the site (referred to as Murlagan) is noted in a manuscript dated 1514, when it was given to John McFarlane by Dugal McCoull, in payment of a debt (Hill Collection of McFarlane Manuscripts, Procurator Fiscal's Library, Glasgow). Throughout the late 1500s and 1600s, Murlagan was valued at 20 shillings, and was given as life-rent to the spouses of various members of the Clan McFarlane. In 1787, the Duke of Argyll commissioned the building of a road along the east side of Loch Long below High Morlaggan. This was soon followed by the construction of a small group buildings on the roadside below High Morlaggan, also taking the name Morlaggan (modern-day Morelaggan). Estate records from the early 1800s record four tenants at Murlagan when, together with the neighbouring farm of Tynalarach, Murlagan provided pasture for 600 sheep. Muirlagan was included in the sale of lands to Luss estates in 1821. The West Highland Railway was built in 1890, parallel to the road on the hillside above High Morlaggan. Only two buildings are marked as roofed on the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map (1914), and the last mention of anyone living there was in 1916. It is believed that much of the stone from High Morlaggan was used to construct the newer buildings beside the road.

Information from SRP High Morlaggan, October 2009.

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