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Skye, Tottrome

Field System (Period Unassigned), Kiln Barn (Period Unassigned), Township (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Skye, Tottrome

Classification Field System (Period Unassigned), Kiln Barn (Period Unassigned), Township (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 311716

Site Number NG55SW 21

NGR NG 50048 52615

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Portree
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Skye And Lochalsh
  • Former County Inverness-shire


Field Visit (June 2010 - June 2010)

Field sketch and photographs.

This township is situated on a gentle SE facing slope between the Storr Ridge to the W and Loch Leathan to the E. There are at least seven buildings, including a kiln barn, and two rectangular enclosures, lying on both sides of an un-named, fast-flowing stream. The buildings are all of dry-stone construction with a rubble and earth core, and their walls, which are predominantly grass and moss-covered, stand up to 2m high, although most are lower. The enclosure walls are built of turf and stone. Discontinuous sections of head dyke run in an E-W direction across the hillside above the buildings, and below them, lies an extensive area of rig and furrow. A substantial dry-stone sheep dyke runs downhill in a SSE direction through the E part of the field system, dissecting a small farmstead at NG50201 52702. This farmstead and several other buildings which survive in a forestry plantation on the E side of the dyke, may have been part of the township, but as their relationship is not clear, they have been recorded separately.

A detailed description of the township follows, below, and this should be read in conjunction with the site sketch and photographs which are linked to this site record.

The core of the township lies on the W side of the stream, where there are five buildings grouped closely together. The principal building (6), a dwelling, is aligned roughly NE-SW and measures 16.6m x 7m externally, over walls c1m thick. The NE (end) wall, which sits above the stream, is battered and stands up to 1m high. There is an entrance, c1m wide, in the centre of the E wall, and two internal walls divide the building into three inter-connected sections measuring (from SW to NE) 4m x 4.5m, 3.3m x 4.5m and 5.3m x 4.5m. There may have been a fireplace in the NE (end) wall.

In front of this building, on a similar alignment, is another possible dwelling (5) measuring 8.8m x 5.7m internally, with walls c1.1m thick, standing up to 2m high at the NE end. Like the principal building, the NE wall also sits above the stream and is battered, presumably for extra strength. There is an entrance, 1m wide, in the E wall, and an internal wall, 0.8m thick, lies immediately to the right of the entrance, dividing the building into a large upper section and a smaller lower section. A twinning pen is inserted in the SW corner of the smaller section and a rectangular outshot, aligned E-W, is attached to the NE corner of the building. It measures 7.3m x 3.5m and is reduced to low stone footings.

Immediately S of these buildings is a byre, or, byre dwelling (7), aligned approx E-W, which measures 12.1m x 6m externally, over walls c1m thick. The doorway is centrally placed in the E (lower) end and has a capped byre-drain. The footings of an outshot or earlier building, measuring 12.5m x 6m, extend from this end of the building.

Roughly-built walls run between these three buildings (5, 6 and 7), forming an irregularly shaped enclosure that seems to have been used for sheep work after the buildings became disused.

Immediately to the S is another byre, or, byre dwelling (8), aligned approx E-W, which measures 10.2m x 5.5m externally, over walls 1m thick. The entrance is in the centre of the E (lower) end and leads to a semi-circular outshot of low stone footings, with an external radius of 3.5m. The entrance to the outshot is in the NW wall, next to the main building.

Running from the W of this byre towards the kiln barn (3), c80 m below (SE), is a straight line of widely placed grass-covered stones. It is said that these may have demarcated a planned boundary or dyke that was never built.

A little distance to the S of this byre (8) are the slight, grass-covered footings of a small square or rectangular building (9).

On the E side of the stream opposite the principal building (6) is a small building or enclosure (6A), measuring 9.7m x 4.5m externally. It has been terraced into the slope and is aligned NW-SE. Below this lies a large enclosure (4) measuring 40m x 25m over earth and stone walls, 1.5m thick. Some 50m to the SE is another smaller enclosure (2), 21m x 13m, with a possible dividing wall across the centre. The ground level is built up substantially inside both of these enclosures.

The kiln barn (3), which is also on the E side of the stream, lies c30m S of the large enclosure (4), beside a bend in the stream. It is aligned approximately NE-SW and measures 10.1m x c6.1m externally, with the kiln bowl, c1m in diameter, at the NE (upper) end of the building. There are opposed entrances in the SW (lower) end.

The sheep dyke runs downhill in a SSE direction from the cliffs below the Old Man of Storr to the shore of Loch Leathan. It is now in a state of disrepair and some parts are almost completely collapsed. There are sheep creeps at regular intervals along its length and at least one stone style. The gate post for the old Portree-Staffin road survives in a very tumbled section just above the modern road, at NG50305 52553.

This settlement was part of the tack of Tottrome. In 1745 it was held by MacQueens from Lord MacDonald of Sleat. By 1816, along with the tack of Rigg, it was held by the Nicolson chiefs of Scorrybreac. In 1827 Tottrome became part of the large sheep walk called Scorrybreac Sheep Farm, which, by the mid-nineteenth century had become one of the largest sheep farms in Scotland (for further information see the attached file, 'Scorrybreac Sheep Farm'). Buildings 5 and 6 may date from the period of the Sheep Farm, unlike the other buildings on site which appear to be earlier. The whole settlement was clearly unoccupied well before 1878 when the 1st Edition OS map (Inverness-shire, Island of Skye 1878, sheet xviii) was published, showing no settlement at this location.

In the mid-twentieth century, local shepherd, John Nicholson, called the site ‘Tote Betty’, which translates from the Gaelic ‘tobhta’ (the wall of a house or the ruins of a house) as ‘the ruins of Betty’s house.’ Calum MacLeod, a Hydro linesman in the early 1960s, also sang a song about Betty. No further details were recalled and census and other historical research have not revealed any further information about who Betty was or when she may have lived.

Information from SRP Storr Lochs, July 2011.


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