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Lewis, Both A' Chlair Bhig

Gathering Fold (Post Medieval)(Possible), Shieling Hut(S) (Post Medieval)

Site Name Lewis, Both A' Chlair Bhig

Classification Gathering Fold (Post Medieval)(Possible), Shieling Hut(S) (Post Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) River Chlair Bhig; Harris, Vigdale, V210; Both A' Chlair Bheag

Canmore ID 75023

Site Number NB11SW 1

NGR NB 11631 14798

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Western Isles
  • Parish Uig
  • Former Region Western Isles Islands Area
  • Former District Western Isles
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NB11SW 1 1161 1479.

Name applies to a cluster of shielings on the N side of Abhainn a' Chlair Bhig. {OS 1:10,000 map, 1973, shows a close group of four shieling-huts, centred NB 1162 1480, with a further two on the S side of Abhainn a' Chlair Bhig, at NB 1162 1475, and three, also S of Abhainn a' Chlair Bhig, at NB 1166 1475, NB 1167 1474 and NB 1168 1473. Described variously as 'Old Shielings' and 'Beehive Huts', they are situated at 70m OD, and, with the exception of that at NB 1162 1479, shown as a rectangle, all are shown as stylised circles.}

Name Book, Ross-shire (Insular), No. 114 p.9 (compiled 1851)


Note (6 August 1993)

(Scheduled as Both a'Chlair Bhig, beehive shielings). The monument consists of a shieling site which may have been in use since early medieval times. The shieling supports a group of temporary residences and associated structures.

The shieling is situated on both banks of the River Chlair Bhig. There are nine circular corbelled chambers and a rectangular enclosure in various states of preservation. There are five on the W side of the stream. The stones from the most southerly beehive hut have been used to repair the intact pair of huts to the NW. This pair are contiguous but do not interconnect. Both have an entrance facing the NE and each has a complete corbelled roof with a turf skin to stabilise the structure. The interior measurements are about 2.4m NW-SE by 1.9m NE-SW. The northernmost hut is 1.9m high compared to 1.5m for the other one. There are small niches built into the walls of the huts. The buildings are raised up on green mounds indicating the presence of several floor strata. The remaining two huts on the W bank are NW of those described and are interconnected. Only the lower courses remain. All of the group on the E side of the river are roofless. There is an unusual arrangement where a circular hut is joined onto a rectangular enclosure. Large boulders have been utilised here; some appear to have been shaped. A crude wall ledge has been built along the NE river bank.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 6 August 1993.

Note (26 June 1997)

Two unroofed buildings, which are annotated Ruins and one is L-shaped, are depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Ross-shire, Island of Lewis 1854, sheet 40). Two roofed circular structures, six unroofed circular structures and one unroofed building are shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1973).

Information from RCAHMS (SAH) 26 June 1997

Field Visit (3 June 2014 - 6 June 2014)

Both a’Chlair Bhig [bothies of the little plain] is a group of seven well-preserved shieling-huts, one of which is still roofed, which, together with an enclosure and pens, straddle the Abhainn a’ Chlair Bhig where it flows NW through undulating peaty moorland towards flatter ground at the head of Loch Reasort. Five of the huts stand on the SW bank of the river; the remaining two huts, the enclosure and the pens lie on the NE bank. The site has clearly been used for many years, though not necessarily continuously. It probably remained in summer use until the early 19th century, when most of the townships of Harris were cleared of their agricultural tenants (Lawson 2002).

The best preserved hut (A: NB 11665 14751) contains two subrectangular cells which are probably contemporary but which are not interlinked. The NW cell measures 2.6m from NW to SE by 1.9m transversely within walls up to 1.1m in thickness and there is an entrance on the NE which measures 0.5m in width and 0.8m in height. The inner skin of the wall is of drystone masonry which rises vertically from floor-level to a height of 1.5m, with the stones laid with their short faces towards the interior. Above this, the stones are laid with their long edges facing inwards to create a corbelled roof, which attains an internal height of 1.75m and is pierced by an aperture measuring 0.8m in diameter. The outer skin of the wall is built of stone-and-turf in its lower courses and turf in the higher.

The SE cell, which is of similar construction to the NW cell, measures 2.3m from WNW to ESE by 1.9m within stone-and-turf walls up to 1.2m thickness, with an entrance on the NE which measures 0.5m in width and 0.65m in height. The inner wall-face contains four niches, all but one set at ground-level, and the corbelled roof, which is complete, rises to a total internal height of 1.6m. The cell stands on the remains of a larger, earlier building and the incorporation of some of the walling of this structure into the SE wall of the cell has led to the roof becoming unstable.

At the SE end of the site, there are the footings of an oval stone hut (B: NB 11680 14738) which overlies the remains of another subrectangular hut. Immediately to the N, across a small stream, is another oval hut of stone-and-turf (C: NB 11683 14753). On the same side of the river, there are a further two huts; one, of two compartments, is set into a knoll and has been roofed with timber and turf (D: NB 11627 14765). The other, some 15m to the NW, is circular on plan and stands on a mound, truncated by turf cutting (E: NB 11611 14780). On the NE side of the river the structures are set into a boulder strewn slope and include two huts (NB 11613 14812 and NB 11620 14809) and enclosures, as well as stretches of wall evidently used to manage stock. The enclosure (F), and the intercommunicating pens, may have been used for the milking of sheep or goats. Areas of ground surrounding the huts have been stripped of peat and turf, presumably for use as both roofing material and as fuel.

Visited by RCAHMS (GFG) and Jill Harden 3 and 6 June 2014.

Measured Survey (3 June 2014 - 6 June 2014)

RCAHMS surveyed Both a'Chlair Bhig shieling huts between 3-6 June 2014 with plane-table and self-reducing alidade at a scale of 1:500. The resultant site plan and section were redrawn in vector graphics software.

Field Visit

V210 NB 11631 14798. Stone structure divided into two compartments. Main cell c. 5 x 4m with walls c. 1.1m in thickness, surviving to a height of c. 1.2m. Structure dug into raised mound of unknown origin. Second compartment c. 2.5 x 2.5m with wall preservation as above. Possible broadly rectangular enclosure located to south-west c. 6m x 3m visible as a turfed earthwork. Structure may represent reused Wheel House (?), certainly the largest structure within this complex.

Information from Western Isles Sites and Monuments Record


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