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RCAHMS Afforestable Land Survey: Upper Strathnairn, Highland

An area of 100sqkm (NH62NW/NE and NH63SW/SE) was surveyed by the ALS between October 1992 and March 1993; it included a large part of the upper reaches of the River Nairn and, in the west, a stretch of ground on the east side of the Great Glen. There has been considerable afforestation in the area, and much of the remaining ground is unimproved, with relatively narrow bands of improved grassland on the floor of Strathnairn and the adjacent side valleys. The area ranges in height from about 180m along the floor of Strathnairn to 630m on the hilltops. The topography is characterised by valleys with relatively steep sides and narrow, level floors. In broad terms, the monuments are located either on the valley sides, normally not above 300m OD, or along the edges of the valley floor.

Some 466 structures were recorded, using standard ALS procedures (RCAHMS 1993, 5), producing a database (USN93) which forms the primary archive for the survey. The area had already been well-covered by the Archaeology Division of the Ordnance Survey. Their recording brief resulted in a bias towards prehistoric material; consequently, the majority of sites recorded for the first time during the present survey were medieval or later townships, although a number of unnoted prehistoric monuments were located, as well as additional information on previously recorded sites. The opportunity was taken to plan a large area of archaeological landscape around Dalcrombie, most of the constituent parts of which had previously been identified separately, and to produce a depiction of a sample of the townships. Detailed surveys were also made of a burnt mound complex near Loch Ashie, two township buildings, and a ditched barrow cemetery, which may be of Pictish date (identified as a result of aerial survey by Mr R Gourlay prior to the ALS survey).

Fieldwork in Upper Strathnairn was carried out by Messrs S D Boyle, D C Cowley, P J Dixon and J B Stevenson, with survey and drawing work by Miss G Brown, Mr A Leith and Mr R Shaw, and record work by Mr P McKeague.