MHG13984 - Deserted Settlement - North Holm


A settlement, a sheep farm, comprising eight ruined houses and a larger ruined house. An earlier settlement lies to the south (MHG5267).

Type and Period (1)

  • SETTLEMENT (Medieval to 19th Century - 1058 AD? to 1900 AD?)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

NG55SW 1 518 507 to 518 517.
NG 517 513 Holm: described as a'village' c. 1695 (Martin 1934). and shown as a township by Johnson in 1824 (Information from W Johnson's Map of Skye, 1824) but totally deserted by 1875 (OS 6"map, Isle of Skye, Inverness-shire, 2nd ed., 1875).
M Martin 1934.

Holm consists of two distinct depopulated townships. The earlier run-rig settlement, centred at NG 518 507 (MHG5267), is situated on a shelf of a steep cliff at a height of about 500' OD. It comprises about 12 ruined houses with a number of yards and outbuildings, the whole clearly contemporary with the surrounding lazy-bed system.
The later settlement, at NG 518 517 (MHG13984), a sheep farm, is situated on the 250' raised beach. There is a large ruined house of mortared rubble masonry standing to the height of the gable at the E end, which is surrounded by about eight ruined houses. A considerable area of cleared land is visible round about but no run-rig, and to the S there is a large sheepfold.
Visited by OS (A C) 29 April 1961.

A township (centred on NG 518 517, MHG13984) comprising five unroofed buildings and a short length of wall is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Inverness-shire, Island of Skye 1878, sheet xviii). Approximately 650m to the S (NG 518 510) are a roofed and an unroofed building attached to the wall of a field and a further 300m to the SE is another roofed building. Another unroofed building lies approximately 450m S of the township (NG 5192 5127).
On the current edition of the OS 1:10560 map (1968) the township comprises eight unroofed buildings and two lengths of wall. The field is shown with one unroofed building attached and the single roofed building is not shown. A second township (centred on NG 518 507, MHG5267) comprising twelve unroofed buildings, four enclosures and a length of wall is also depicted.
Information from RCAHMS (SAH) 10 October 1996.

Scotland's Rural Past (SRP)
The township of Holm was part of the tack of Scorrybreac, which was held by the Nicolson chiefs from Lord MacDonald of Sleat, until 1827. It then 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').
The township had two foci (North Holm MHG13984 and South Holm MHG5267). Local tradition states that people remained in Holm after the sheep farm was created in 1827, but that they lost their tenancies and remained only as cottars and fishermen. There is lazy bed cultivation at the South Holm settlement, but not at North Holm, which suggests that the people were cleared from South to North Holm about that time. About 1840 those cottars left ‘en masse’ to the jute factories in Dundee. The shepherd’s house (building number 1) at North Holm (MHG13984) is said to have been one of seven shepherd’s houses associated with the sheep farm. It seems likely that the attached enclosures and perhaps buildings 2 and 3 were also in use during the sheep farming period.
Both townships were surveyed by SRP Storr Lochs during June 2011 and detailed descriptions, plans and photographs were made during this survey.
Information from SRP Storr Lochs, July 2011.

The township of North Holm lies in rough grazing on an E-facing terrace, c650m NW of Holm Island. The ground slopes steeply behind it and there are cliffs to the N and W. It comprises three substantial stone buildings (1-3 on attached plan), one having a complicated enclosure attached which may incorporate earlier buildings, and the grass–covered footings of twelve earlier stone and turf structures (4-16), terraced into the slope, at least nine of which appear to have been buildings. A detailed description of the site follows below, and this should be read in conjunction with the plans and photographs which are linked to this site record (in particular, see the 'measured plan of township showing building numbers').
Building 1 (NG 51858 51703) was the latest occupied building on site and is thought to have been one of the shepherd’s houses for the extensive Scorrybreac sheep farm, which covered the land between Portree and Lealt from 1827-c1927. It is a coursed stone and lime mortared building and overlies at least two earlier buildings, which have been partly re-worked to form an attached out-shot to the W and a complicated enclosure to the E. The building is aligned E-W and measures 13.0m x 5.6m externally, over walls 0.76m thick. It has square corners inside and out and the walls stand up to 1.84m high in the E end gable wall. The W end wall has collapsed, but the small volume of stonework here suggests that it was not a gable wall. There is a centrally-placed entrance in the S wall, with a window to the E (right) surviving with full window splays and an intact base lintel. There may also have been a window to the W (left) of the entrance, but the wall here is so badly tumbled that it is difficult to say with certainty. The entrance is 1.1m wide, with possible door-bar-slots to accommodate the door frame, and a stone-built curved ‘shelter’ wall outside. There is a fireplace, 1.14m wide, in the E gable wall.
An inserted stone wall divides the building into two rooms with internal dimensions of 6.2m x 4.4m (W) and 5.2m x 4.4m €. The E room may be a later addition, as its floor level is lower than the W room and there is a slight misalignment in the back (N) wall at its junction with the dividing wall. The stonework on the gable € and back (N) walls of this room certainly suggests that repairs or rebuilding have taken place, perhaps relating to the insertion of the chimney in the gable wall.
There is a blocked doorway, 0.9m wide, in the W end wall. This would have provided access to the W outshot which is terraced into the bank on its N and W sides and measures c5.3m x c5.0m, with an entrance, c1m wide, in the SE corner. It is reduced to grass covered footings with a few stones visible, and has rounded corners at its W end.
A substantial, roughly rectangular, enclosure is attached to the E end of the building, whose boundary walls appear to be formed from the re-use of two or three earlier buildings. The first of these is on the same alignment as building 1 and may partly underlie it; the second lies at right angles to the first and forms part of the E wall of the enclosure; the third is aligned SW-NE and forms the W wall of the enclosure. The remaining boundaries of the enclosure are a mixture of turf wall and embankment, but are difficult to make out amongst the grass, rushes and nettles. There is a small pen built into the S corner.
Later twinning pens have been built in the NE corner of the main building and the NW compartment of the enclosure.
Building 2 (NG 51841 5171) is aligned N-S and measures 12.0m x 6.5m externally, with rounded corners inside and out. It appears to be of black house style construction, with thick dry-stone battered walls standing up to wall head height of 1.53m, tapering from 1.84m at the base to 0.91m at the top. The entrance, 0.76m wide, is on the E wall, there is a fireplace, 0.76m wide, in the S end wall, and a recess, 1.04m x 0.67m, in the W wall.
Building 3 (NG 51837 51679) is aligned N-S and measures 7.62m x 3.68m internally, with rounded exterior and square interior corners. The stone walls stand up to 1.4m high and are 0.76m thick. There is a centrally placed entrance, 0.71m wide, on the E wall, which has been blocked with a stone slab set on edge, back-filled with earth. A track runs behind the building in a N - S direction.
Building 4 (NG 51832 57705) measures 5m x 3m and is aligned E-W, with an entrance in the E (lower) end. It is terraced deeply into the hillside at the W end with some stone wall showing. The walls are well spread and are grassed over.
Structure 5 (NG 51826 51709) is a circular hollow, c5m in diameter, which appears to be stone built but is now heavily grass-covered. It lies at the N end of building 4 and may be the remains of a kiln, or together, these may have formed a kiln barn.
Building 6 (NG 51822 51699) is aligned E-W and is open at its E (lower) end. It measures 5m x 2m and is terraced into the hillside at the W end and along its N side.
Building 7 (NG 51812 51698) is aligned E-W and measures 10m x 4m, with an entrance in the N wall near the E end. There is stone in the centre of the building which may have fallen in.
Structures 8 & 9 (NG 51812 51694) may have formed a two-compartment building, each compartment measuring c2m x c2m. The W compartment is terraced deeply into the bank.
Building 10 (NG 51810 51690) is aligned E-W and measures 11m x 4m, with a possible entrance at the E end of the N wall. It is terraced deeply into the bank at the W end. Stones in the centre may indicate a dividing wall.
Building 11 (NG51823 51693) measures 8m x 4m and is aligned E-W, with a possible entrance on the N side close to the E end.
Building 12 (NG 51814 51682) is aligned E-W and measures 9m x 4m, with rounded internal corners and a possible entrance at the E end. Good stonework is visible in the W end where it is terraced into the bank and there is stone lying inside the building which may indicate internal divisions.
Building 13 (NG 51804 51672) measures 5m x 4m, with an outshot at the W (upper) end, 4m x 3m. The outshot is terraced deeply into the bank with stonework showing.
Structure 14 (NG 51793 51673) appears to be a small building or shelter, 3m x 2m, enclosed by an L-shaped enclosure, c 8m x 8m. The W walls are terraced deeply into the slope and there is a lot of fallen stone within the building.
Building 15 (NG 51823 51655) lies approximately 20m S of building 3. It measures 10m x 5m and is aligned E-W, with a slight downward slope to the E. There is a possible entrance at the E (lower) end and another on the N wall, near the E end.
Structure 16 is situated on a small terrace directly below building 12 and appears to be a building platform, aligned N-S, measuring c12m x c5m. It survives as little more than grass-covered depressions, terraced into the ground on the W side and built up on the E.
The 1st Edition OS 6-inch map (Inverness-shire, Isle of Skye 1878, sheet xviii) shows five unroofed buildings and one enclosure at North Holm. These correspond with buildings 1, 2 and 3 described above; the remaining two buildings being incorporated into the enclosure attached to building 1. The object name book for the 1st Edition map describes Holm as ‘a few ruins and some pasture land situated ¾ mile to the NE of Armishader.’ The 2nd Edition map (revised 1901) shows the same five buildings, all unroofed, and a well to the SE of building 3.
Information from SRP Storr Lochs, July 2011.

Sources/Archives (1)



Grid reference Centred NG 5181 5168 (167m by 191m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NG55SW
Geographical Area SKYE AND LOCHALSH
Civil Parish PORTREE

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