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Eadar A'chalda

Farmstead (Period Unassigned), Head Dyke (Post Medieval), Hut Circle (Prehistoric), Tacksmans House (Post Medieval), Township (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Eadar A'chalda

Classification Farmstead (Period Unassigned), Head Dyke (Post Medieval), Hut Circle (Prehistoric), Tacksmans House (Post Medieval), Township (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 70436

Site Number NC22SW 12

NGR NC 2434 2382

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Assynt
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Sutherland
  • Former County Sutherland

Archaeology Notes

NC22SW 12 243 238.

NC 243 238. Some 8 unnamed buildings shown.

Home's Survey of Assynt 1774-5.

Six rectangular or subrectangular buildings remain, five surviving as footings on average 0.5m high, and the sixth, 12m by 5m survives to the wall head for much of its length, this being 1.9m high along the flanks. This building is mortared and possibly post-dates the footings. Extensive lengths of field walls stretch to the NE and E.

Visited by OS (JB) 12 August 1980.

A township comprising two unroofed buildings, one enclosure and a length of possible head-dyke, is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Sutherland 1879, sheet lxxi). Five unroofed buildings, one enclosure and a similar length of wall are shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10,560 map (1967).

Information from RCAHMS (SAH) 21 September 1995


Field Visit (1 November 2007 - 30 April 2008)

SRP Field Recording

Field Visit (26 November 2009)

119A - A head-dyke with associated dykes and enclosing a meadow area. Consists of a curvilinear, truncated earth and stone dyke up to 0.6m high and 2m wide at the north edge of the site. At the north end of the dyke is a 3m diameter, 0.5m high grass covered stone clearance cairn.

119B - An uneven rubble building measuring 3m by 3m and up to 0.4m in height with 1m thick walls that are very badly slumped. It is situated in a corner of the head-dyke and enclosure of 119C. There is a possible entrance on the south elevation and an associated 2m diameter clearance cairn 2m to the south.

119C - An uneven rubble building measuring 9.5m by 3m and up to 0.5m in height, aligned E-W with 0.6m wide walls. It has an associated enclosure to the N/NE with the north wall of the building acting as the south wall of the enclosure. The enclosure walls are very spread and up to 1m wide in places; dimensions are 27m by 22m, aligned N-S.

119D - The most completely preserved building in the township. An uneven stone rubble building with patches of lime render, 11m by 4m and 3.5m to the gable top. An adjoining secondary compartment only survives as low ruins 6m by 3.5m and up to 0.4m in height, attached onto the E end of the building. Lime mortar with large inclusions is present throughout the structure. There is a window, a blocked window (with a large chamfer on the interior) and a door on the south elevation. The internal west gable has an obvious chimney flue which is showing through the wall due to areas of collapse. There is also a window on each gable end and a slanted arrow slot-type feature on the north elevation.

119E - Uneven stone rubble building remains 11.5m by 4m and up to 1m high, aligned N/S with 0.75m wide walls. The building sits within the head-dyke, which forms its N wall. An entrance is clear on the E elevation.

119F - Uneven stone rubble building remains 7.5m by 5m and up to 0.6m high, aligned WNW/ESE. The walls are 0.7m wide and an entrance is clear on the SW elevation.

All of these structures are built predominantly with limestone, sub-angular random rubble averaging 0.3m x 0.4m x 0.15m but using some larger stones up to 1m by 0.4m by 0.4m (especially on 119E). The stones tend to be roughly brought to course with pinning and chocking stones.

(HLP_no 119)

Assynt's Hidden Lives Project 2009

Srp Note (7 October 2010)

Eadar a’Chalda farm is situated on a series of roughly parallel NW – SE terraces separated by limestone ridges which lie above and to the NE of Ardvreck Castle. It is bounded to the NW by the Allt a’Chalda Beag and for the most part by the Allt a’Chalda Mor to the SE. Most of the structural remains are at between 100m and 200m above sea level.

The farm seems to have been created in the mid 18th century as a small single tack held for a time by Robert Gray of Creich and then from the mid 1770’s by Alexander Mackenzie in whose time a new house was built c 1775. Mackenzie also introduced sheep to the farm. Earlier the lands were part of the township known as either Achmore or Ardvreck, and in 1812 it was again incorporated into Achmore, although the former tacksman’s house remained in use until 1819. The ruins of both Calda House and Ardvreck Castle lay within the farm’s boundaries but are not included in this survey.

The population list for 1774 lists 13 inhabitants which had reduced to 9 in 1811 and in 1819 the last resident was cleared. Home’s map of 1774 shows a cluster of four structures around an enclosure, a further two buildings to the SE and one or two buildings around a small enclosure to the NW. The first edition of the OS 6 inch map shows two unroofed buildings, an enclosure and a stretch of dyke. The 1967 edition of the 1:10560 map shows the enclosure and dyke together with 5 unroofed structures.

The Historic Assynt survey found several structures not previously recorded together with the remains of most of the features shown on Home’s map (except the cluster to the NW) and the early OS 6 inch maps, but no sign of a number of the structures added on the recent OS map, which we interpreted as natural features. The main surviving structures, together with some enigmatic features were surveyed at 1:100. Similar structures were then measured, sketched and comparisons made.

The Main Buildings and associated features A - F (centred on NC 24333 23818)

The remains of up to ten possible structures cluster around two enclosures (B4 and C1) on one of the wider terraces in the limestone close to the old main road along the Loch. Some are clearly the main Tacksman’s farmstead created c 1775 but others may date to earlier periods. The surviving remains will be described in turn before an attempt is made to interpret the relationships between them.

House A (NC 24319 23806) is the Tacksman’s House of the mid 1770’s and associated structures.

A1 is a substantial lime mortared, masonry house. Its back wall still stands to eaves height with the gable walls surviving to a higher level, but now in a dangerous condition. The front wall survives above sill level but lintels and the top few courses of masonry have fallen. It is aligned NW – SE and stands close to the edge of an exposed ridge overlooking Ardvreck Castle and Loch Assynt. It not only commands wide views, but would have been a very visible and windswept feature in the landscape perhaps indicating that the estate was trying to make its improvements very visible. The internal space of 10.5m x 4.1m has the remains of plaster on all the walls. The SW front wall has a central doorway (A1.1) between two windows with internal splays (A1.2 & A1.3). The rear wall has a single narrow window (A1.8) placed centrally, while both gables have the remains of fireplaces (A1.4 & A1.6) and wall cupboards (A1.5 & A1.7). The chimneys have largely collapsed and rubble now fills both fireplaces and spreads out into the interior. There are no signs of cruck slots and the surviving remains suggest that the house had a further half storey built into a roof supported on A frame couples and provided with dormer windows, similar to the surviving Tacksman’s house at nearby Stronchrubie, which is broadly contemporary. A field dyke (B5) runs NE from the NE corner towards complex B

A2 lies to the SE of A1 and appears to be a largely ruined outbuilding attached to the SE gable. It survives only as a low bank with some areas of dry-stone walling showing both internal and external faces. Its best-preserved SE corner curves slightly. It is on a marginally different alignment to A1, narrows from 3.5m to 3.1m N - S and could be an earlier structure partially built over by A1.

A3 is a very low embanked enclosure attached to the SE wall of A2 enclosing an area approximately 2.8m x 2.8m and with rounded corners. No stonework is visible but it is presumed to be the foundation of an outbuilding associated with A2. A stretch of embankment (A4) runs SE towards structure C.

Complex B (NC 24347 23831) lies due N of House A and is linked to it by the enclosure dyke (B5) that leads off the NE corner of House A. It consists of two buildings aligned very approximately at right angles to each other (B1 and B2) overlying a possible earlier building (B3).

B1 is a substantial, rectangular, dry-stone building built of large rough-hewn blocks of local limestone. It is aligned NE – SW, survives to three or four courses throughout and the NE corner and gable survive above sill level. The corners are approximately at right angles and the internal space is approx 13 x 3.5m. There is a central doorway (B1.1) in the SE wall, but the walling does not survive well enough to establish whether there were windows. To one side of the doorway, at B1.2 a whole section of the wall has slipped forward. There are no signs of fireplaces or any other internal features.

B2 is very ruinous and incorporates a large amount of rubble debris. It is aligned almost due N – S with its NW corner almost touching the front wall of B1. Its ruinous NE corner and the N end of the E wall are part of a confused rubble pile which also incorporates stone from an enclosure dyke running NW – SE alongside and heading towards structure F. The S end appears semi-circular externally but rectangular internally, and thus very wide in the centre. There are signs of two possible outer faces. B3.1 is a foundation layer and B2.2 is recessed in from it at a higher level. A gap in the centre of the W wall (B2.1) is presumed to be the remains of an entrance.

B3 is only partially discernable but appears to be the foundation of a long oval building underlying both B1 and B2. The most obvious part of the structure is a curving section of wall foundation (B3.6) surviving to the N of B1. It continues SE into B4 which runs parallel to the back wall of B1, but at B3.5 there appears to be a curving junction between B3.6 and B.4, which corresponds to the curve of B 3.6. The curve of B3.5 seems to be followed under the N wall of B1 at B3.4 and may reappear across B.1 at B3.3 and again at B3.2. The low curving foundation already noted at B3.7 may be a continuation underneath the later B2. None of the SE wall of B3 is visible under the rubble side of B2 or inside B1 except possibly where a single stone projects under the N wall of B1 at B3.7. If B3 is indeed a building then it would have had an internal length of about 15.5m or 16m and a width of 3.8m. The ground slopes to the SE which could have been the byre end of a longhouse. The dyke B5 which links complex B to House A currently ends at the NW corner of B1, but we suggest that the final link to B1 is contemporary with B1 and that at an earlier stage it followed the line of the now largely robbed embankment B4 to join the curving N end wall of B3.

C1 and associated structures. To the SE of both A and B is an almost rectangular enclosure (C1). Outside its N corner is a small square foundation (F) with an internal measurement of approx 2m x 2m. F is in turn linked to complex B by the dyke that runs parallel to B2. On the outside of the E corner of C1 is C, a dry-stone, round-ended footing with internal measurements of approx 8m x 3.5m linked by a short stretch of embankment (A4) to House A. The S corner of C1 is much more irregular than the rest of the enclosure and seems to incorporate the SW and SE walls of a structure almost identical to C. This in turn overlies another similar foundation (E) at right angles, the SE and NE walls of which are also incorporated into the enclosure. To the SE of both C1 and House A three embankments at right angles to each other (A5, A6 & A7) suggest a kaleyard or garden in front of both A1 and the structures on this side of both enclosures B4 and C1. There is a gap in A6 at A6.1 with traces of pathways linking it to both A1 and A2. This apparent gateway is directly above the presumed old road line and leads to a gently sloping route down.


Home’s survey was probably conducted before the building of the new Tacksman’s house. We compared his map with the structures around both C1 and B4 and concluded that the large enclosure he marks is more likely to be B4 than C1. Thus the building he shows leading off the NW corner is B1, and building C is to the one to the SE. The small building he shows a little to the S of the enclosure could be A2 and the structure to the NE, which he shows as only partly roofed, could now survive in a much modified form as F, with the unroofed section demolished. If these conclusions are correct then it suggests the following -

· B1 is the earlier main house possibly occupied by a subtenant of Achmore, overlying an even earlier substantial byre house (B3) which could therefore date back to the late 17th or early 18th centuries. B1 could have continued as a house for a labourer or been turned into a barn or some other outbuilding after the building of A1.

· B2 is a barn or other outbuilding associated with B1 when it was the main house.

· A1, the new house, was built over the N end of A2 with a garden/kale yard laid out in front of it (A5, 6 &7) and with a new enclosure at C1.

· C and F were originally associated with B1 or B3 but probably continued in some modified form as outbuildings after the building of A.

· D and the underlying E could have been outbuildings or small labourer’s houses of one of the earlier periods.

Buildings G & H are both situated where Home marks roofed structures and are assumed to be the buildings he noted.

The footings at G (NC 24598 23594) suggest a small dry-stone house (G1) within an enclosure (G2). G1 is orientated EW, has internal dimensions of 6m x 2.5m and the W wall is built into a slope. There is a doorway (G1.1) centrally placed in the S wall. G2, bounded by an insubstantial stone dyke to the W and by much more massive banks to the N and SE, is presumed to be a kaleyard.

H (NC 24563 23650) lies nearby and appears to have been modified at least once. H1 is a more substantially built dry-stone structure than G1 and incorporates or was itself incorporated into a field dyke along the SE side. It is aligned NNW – SSE and has a straight NNE wall. The rest of the structure is oval with a doorway roughly in the centre of the SSW wall. The walling is more massive to the S of the doorway than elsewhere. H2 is an extension to the NNW adjoining the straight wall and with an entrance at H2.1 beside the NNW corner of H1. There is no stone visible in the footings bank of H2, but in plan H1 and H2 suggest a single oval building. We interpret this structure as originally a single, possibly largely turf-built house of approx 10m x 4m internally which was subsequently partly rebuilt in stone to create a living space of 6m x 4m (H1) with an enclosure or outbuilding attached (H2). There are no signs of a Kale yard.

Buildings J, K, L & M and associated features all appear to be pre-clearance houses, outbuildings and enclosures which were not recorded by Home or by anyone subsequently and are thus presumed to pre-date 1774.

J (NC 24247 23905) is a dry-stone round ended foundation aligned NW – SE and standing one course high. Most of the surviving stones are large and positioned vertically and seem to indicate both inner and outer faces. The internal space is 7m x 5m with an entrance in the centre of the SW wall, which like the entrance to H1 has a more massive section of walling to the S of the doorway. Opposite the doorway is a small enclosure (J1), possibly a kale yard and to the north a roughly rectangular stone pile (J2) that could be the fragmentary remains of a small outbuilding 4m x 3m or perhaps just a clearance cairn. The embankment around J1 continues along a prominent limestone ridge and becomes A6.

K (NC 24322 24027) is almost identical to J but sits within a possible Kaleyard (K1). The entrance does not display the thickening to one side observed at H and J. To the SE two fields (K2 & K3) extend along the terrace towards the main farmstead.

L (NC 24470 23673) is the oval earth foundation of a possible house of similar size aligned NE – SW. There is a linear dump of stone over the NE wall and extending beyond it in both directions. This latter feature could be the remains of stone cleared from the adjoining foundation.

M (NC 24423 23615) is another small house very similar to J and K, this time aligned NE – SW. It has no SW wall but is built directly against a rock face. To the SE of the house foundation a small enclosure is bounded by rock faces to NE and SW and a possible bank at the SE.

Feature N (NC 24461 23603) is a level rectangle of grass aligned NW – SE and bounded to the NE by a partly excavated rock face. The other sides are revetted, most noticeably towards the S corner. It is a golf green – the only surviving feature of a nine-hole course laid out around Eadar a’Chalda, Ardvreck Castle and Calda House at the turn of the 20th century by Eric Chaplin, then owner of Loch Assynt Lodge.

Features O and P (NC 24509 23747).

O is a complex structure with five main components lying on the SE facing slope of a sheltered valley SE of the main farmstead. O1 is an oval bank with a few large stones embedded within it, some delineating possible internal and external wall faces. Its SE arc is largely destroyed but the internal area can be reconstructed at 7m x 5.5m. The ground surface slopes down towards the SE. On top of the W arc is a smaller oval foundation (O2) with stonework exposed to several course where it lies over O1 but largely turf covered around the rest of the circuit. It is 2.8m x 2m internally and there is no obvious entrance. Immediately adjoining it to the NE is a similar sized structure (O3) at a lower level, its W wall foundation underlying the edge of the E wall of O2 and probably built up against the wall of O1. An arc of embedded stones (O4) lies directly to the E of O3 and might once have been a structure similar to O2 and O3. A low pile of stones within the S arc has a vaguely rectangular plan.

O2, 3 & 4 are all of the size, shape and construction associated with lambing pens and could thus be successive pens dating from Alexander MacKenzie’s introduction of sheep in the 1770’s. 02 would presumably be the most recent. O1 could be a roughly contemporary enclosure built to enclose either 03 or O4, but it could also be a hut circle from the Bronze or Iron Ages robbed of its stone to create the pens.

P lies SE of O and consists of what might be a small curving section of wall (P2) with a possible outer face, and a single stone at P1 within an eroded hollow, which could have been created or enhanced by sheep. If the circuit suggested by P1 and P2 is completed it is almost exactly the same size as O1, but the feature is so insubstantial that it may never have been a built structure.

Q (NC 24506 23740) consists of a roughly circular scatter of large stones and mounds approx 11m across close to a substantial field dyke on the SW facing slope of the same valley in which O and P are located, and below an eroding rock face. In the centre of the area of stones is a NW – SE aligned recess approximately 1.5m by 1m bounded by a mix of large and smaller stones and with a possible 1m long lintel at its SE end beyond which a hollow runs SE. Q could be the remains of a burial cairn, robbed to create the neighbouring field dyke and with the remains of a cist or passage in the centre. Alternatively it might be a largely destroyed small lambing pen in an area of naturally occurring fallen stones, some overgrown.

R (NC 24565 23794) lies beyond a high ridge NE of O, P and Q in a natural sheltered hollow opening towards the NW. It consists of the fragmentary remains of a dry-stone oval foundation aligned NW – SE with an interior measuring 3.7 x 1.8m. There is a possible entrance in the centre of the SW wall. To the NW a short section of embankment curves towards the S before petering out close to a sub-rectangular foundation enclosing an area approx 1m square. Further NW some seven clearance cairns can be found along two ridges on either side of a more open area. Clearance cairns are very unusual on the limestone at Eadar a’Chalda, and such an obvious collection of relatively large ones stands out. The oval foundation and nearby small structure appear to be a Shieling hut and dairy of the kind found all over the area, but the curving embankment recalls the circular foundations O and P and together with the clearance cairns could suggest pre-historic settlement remains.

Information from Historic Assynt

Ground Survey (23 September 2014 - 24 September 2014)

This report is for an archaeological desktop and walkover survey conducted for McGlade Forestry Ltd for an area of proposed forestry at Inchnadamph Estate, Sutherland, Highland.

The walkover survey was conducted on the 23 and 24 September 2014.

The area of proposed forestry is of a total of 200 hectares on a predominantly south-west facing slope situated above Ardvreck Castle with areas of peat with the ground rising to 165m above sea-level to the south-east corner of the scheme.

Work revealed nine unrecorded archaeological sites ranging from clearance cairns to structures. Also situated in the scheme are a number of existing archaeological sites.

A number of recommendations have been made in relation to the proposed scheme, including setting out exclusion zones around the most sensitive areas, and hand planting in the less sensitive.

Funder: McGlade Forestry Ltd

Stuart Farrell


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