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Glen Shira, Blarowin

Corn Drying Kiln (Pre-improvement), Township (Pre-improvement)

Site Name Glen Shira, Blarowin

Classification Corn Drying Kiln (Pre-improvement), Township (Pre-improvement)

Alternative Name(s) Inveraray Estate, Blairowin, Blarone

Canmore ID 23639

Site Number NN11SW 6

NGR NN 12209 11442

NGR Description Building A1

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/23639

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Inveraray
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NN11SW 6 121 115.

One unroofed building of the township is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Argyllshire 1874, sheet cxxxiii) and on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1976).

Information from RCAHMS (AKK) 21 July 1998.

NN 278 148 to NN 116 118 A desk-based assessment and reconnaissance field survey were carried out in March and April 2002 along the route of a proposed 132kV electricity power line between the N end of Loch Sloy (NN 278 148) and the existing sub-station at Dubh Loch, Glen Shira (NN 116 118).

Most of the ten sites located by the study have been previously recorded and include the designed landscape associated with Inveraray Castle, including the Garadh Crom enclosure boundary and the deserted settlement at Blairowin (NN11SW 6); and other medieval or later settlements at Brannie Burn, An Caorachan and Inver, Glen Fyne. The only new sites discovered were two parallel field banks at NN 121 118 and NN 122 119, running about 50m apart below the Garadh Crom and probably associated with Blairowin.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: ASH Consulting Group.

K Cameron 2002

Activities

Field Visit (April 1984)

The remains of this small township are situated at a height of between 80m and 100m on the E slope of Glen Shira, about 350m E of the N end of the Dubh Loch and 1.2km S of Maam (No. 224). It was abandoned shortly before 1750, when the S end of the glen was enclosed as part of a major scheme of agricultural improvement by the Argyll Estate. The Garadh Crom, or 'Crooked Dyke', a massive boundary-wall erected at that period, runs along the hillside about 80m E of the site.

The buildings and enclosures of the township comprise two main groups, occupying a series of terraces on the steep hillside, and are bounded to the S by the gorge of a rapid stream. At the top of the steep slope immediately above the upper group there is a turf dyke, which continues to the N along the same contour for some distance, channelling the water from a series of small springs into occasional drains or streams. Some 220m to the NNE of the upper group, and just below the Garadh Crom, there is a building 15m in internal length, with an associated enclosure; this building, like those in the main settlement, appears to be shown on an estate-plan of the 1740s (en.1).

Most of the buildings are heavily overgrown with turf and bracken, and in some cases the identification of door-openings is uncertain. They appear to be uniformly of drystone construction, the masonry being composed of irregular rubble with some rounded field-boulders. The walls are about 0.9m to 1.2m in thickness and stand, in places, to a height of about 0.7m. Several of the buildings are aligned with the E to W slope of the hillside, and in some cases their upper ends are set into artificial hollows in the slope.

The upper, or SE, group contains two principal structures, each measuring about 14m by 6m over all, which were probably dwellings. The upper one (A1) has a probable cruckslot in its E end-wall, while the other (A2) has a possible slot in the E side-wall. They overlap at right angles and form a compact cluster with three smaller buildings (A3-5) immediately to the S. One of these (A3) has doorways in each side-wall, but they are not opposed, in contrast to those in another building, of squarish plan (B), 25m to the N, which was probably a winnowing-barn. The latter forms the S boundary of a small enclosure or stackyard, and a larger enclosure, partly cut into the hillside, lies immediately NE of the dwelling (A1).

The lower group includes a very overgrown structure (C1), 19m in overall length and of varying width, which may be of more than one period. To the NW there are two smaller buildings close together on the same axis. The upper one (C2) is set in a deep hollow, while the other (C3) has been almost entirely removed to provide material for a rectangular sheep-pen which partly overlies it.

At an intermediate level, between buildings B and C1, there is a corn-drying kiln whose bowl measures about 3m in diameter at the top. It is much overgrown and obscured with tumbled stones, but appears to have been of D-plan, with a small chamber, or at least a protective wall, to the E where the fire was lit.

Despite the evidence afforded by the kiln, no remains of arable cultivation are identifiable in the township area. A turf head-dyke follows an irregular course some distance above the Garadh Crom. The land of Blairowin is associated with a shieling of 'Over Mollich' in a document of 1631 (en.2), but the name is no longer current and no shielings have been identified on the hill-ground E of the settlement, much of which is now afforested.

The Garadh Crom enclosing Glen Shira on the E rises steeply from Stronshira (NN 114097) to reach the l00m contour NE of the Garron Bridge. It attains its greatest elevation, of about 125m, above Blairowin, and descends to cross the River Shira at Kilblaan. The section above Blairowin was probably completed in 1752, along with the road that accompanies it on the upper side (en.3*). Built in a series of straight sections, the dyke forms a massive revetment against the slope, about 2m in average height, whose parapet rises about 0.8m above the roadway. The masonry is composed of angular slabs with frequent pinnings, quarried from the adjacent hillside and bonded in lime mortar. The roadway is about 5m in average width and is carried across the stream SE of Blairowin (NN 123113) by a well-built bridge, 5.2m wide over 0.5m parapets. Its semicircular arch, which has a span of 2.8m and a height of 3.5m, incorporates diagonally-tooled blocks of schist characteristic of Argyll Estate masonry of the period.

This township is named on Pont's manuscript map of about 1590 (en.4) as 'Blairowin', a name which probably means 'Hugh's field'. In 1559 Duncan MacIver of Stronshira succeeded to the 2 1/2 merkland of 'Blairone', but between 1617 and 1631 Mr Archibald MacVicar of Blairowin was involved in several transactions to raise money on the security of his property (en.5). Its subsequent ownership is poorly documented, but it paid rent to the Argyll Estate in 1690, and two tenants are named in the 1693 hearth-tax assessment (en.6). In 1726 'Blairowin' and adjacent properties were acquired from James Campbell, former provost of Inveraray, by Alexander Campbell, one of the ministers there, whose son granted them to a relative in 1739 (en.7). A resident in 'Blaroin' is recorded as receiving poor-relief in 1745 (en.8) and the settlement of 'Blarone' is shown on Roy's Map of about 1750, but in or shortly before that year it had ceased to operate as a township of traditional type.

The Argyll Chamberlain's account for 1751 records that in the previous year no rents were paid from Stronshira, Blarown or Achnatra, 'which are under his Grace's stock of cattle' (en.9), and, as noted above, the construction of the enclosing wall proceeded rapidly. The lower part of Glen Shira was to be used for fattening cattle, bought in the Highlands, for sale in the Lowland markets, and areas within the park were separately enclosed for plantations or haymeadows (en.10). This policy continued, although with more emphasis on the breeding of improved stock, until the end of the 18th century, and culminated in the construction of the great hay-drying sheds at Maam (No. 224), which can be seen from the abandoned township.

RCAHMS 1992, visited April 1984

Publication Account (1990)

Small settlement, with two tenants in 1643 Hearth-tax record, situated 100m above valley-bottom on E slope of Glen Shire. Substantial stone footings of several buildings and corn-drying kiln. In 1750 no ent paid to Argyll Estate because 'under his Grace's stock of cattle', and new park boundary-dyke (Garadh Crom) built above settlement in 1752.

Information from ‘RCAHMS Excursion guide 1990: Commissioners' field excursion, Argyll, 7-9 May 1990’.

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