MHG5158 - Shieling Hut Settlement, Airidh Na Creice

Summary

Large group (c.70) of shieling huts to the south of Allt Aigeinn. Another large group of shieling huts are located to the north.

Type and Period (1)

  • SHIELING SETTLEMENT (Post Medieval - 1560 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

On the flat valley bottom between the head of Loch Slopin and the base of Garbh-Bheinn is a large group of about 40 shielings. The eastern end of the group is very well preserved and comprises about 20 single-cell stone huts, mostly round but with some oval or rectangular, interspersed with the turf mounds of earlier shielings. The western end of the group is ruined and consists mainly of green turf mounds with depressions in the top, occasionally with some walling visible, and includes a double-cell example.
This group of shielings is called Airidh na Creige (Information from Neil MacKinnon, Heaste, Broadford) -'The shielings of the rocks'. Visited by OS (C F W) 19 June 1961; Visible on RAF air photographs CPE/Scot/UK/271: 3418-19.

In July and August 1991, the Skye and Lochalsh Museums Service carried out a small excavation (at NG 556 227) on this shieling complex, using local volunteers.
Evidence for four phases of activity was recovered:-
Phase 1
The earliest was indicated by three large pits, 2m by 1m and 30cm deep, cut into the bedrock, two of these had a post at each end with a central hearth, the third a single post. A single isolated post hole was also cut into the bedrock. Sealing these features was a layer of char and black ash 100mm to 150mm thick. Numerous reddened and heat cracked pebbles were recovered from this deposit.
Phase 2
At a later, and as yet indeterminate date, a small turf mound, 4m in diameter, was raised. The turf for this mound was obtained by skinning the surface leaving an artificially levelled surface involving partial removal of the underlying period 1, char and ash layer. A large charcoal deposit lying on the skinned period 1 surface and centrally under the turf mound would appear to be the primary deposit for this structure.
Phase 3
Subsequently a large twin-celled shieling was built partly inset into the turf mound. The larger cell, which had an eastward-facing entrance, was 4.5m in diameter with walls 1m thick. The subsidiary, satellite, cell was 'D'-shaped, measured 2m by 2m and was linked to the larger cell by a narrow passage roofed with large stone lintels. At this point there was clear indication of two hearth levels. Throughout the life of the shieling this passage appears to have served also as a stoke-hole to the 'D'-shaped cell, perhaps indicating the smoking of produce, such as cheeses and perhaps even fish.
Phase 4
Thereafter a large rectangular cell was inserted against the SW wall of the larger cell. This addition measured 3.5m by 2m and included a well laid cobbled floor. As first built this cell had a wide door opening facing SW, away from the larger cell. This entrance was soon blocked up, the blocking laid over the SW end of the cobbled floor restricting access to a low linteled creep from the larger cell. A rammed earth floor overlay the cobbles. Finally, the whole complex was abandoned. Soil and charcoal samples were recovered for analysis.
The site has been set out to display the shieling phase.
Sponsor: John Muir Trust <1>.

A survey of this group was carried out in October 1991, extending the number of known structures from 40 to 77.
NMRS MS/530

In June 1992, the Skye & Lochalsh Museums Service carried out excavation on a 'typical' single cell shieling, one of 30 similar cells in a group of 76 related structures which presumeably comprises the shieling settlement. Evidence for four phases of activity were recorded:
Phase 1 This earliest phase was indicated by a scatter of unabraided sherds of course black, hand-made pottery. This pottery was found in close relationship with a small charcoal and peat-ash hearth. No structures associated with this early activity were encountered within the confines of the excavation.
Phase 2A At a later date, a single cell turf structure 2.5m in diameter was built. The turf for this cell was obtained by skinning the surface leaving an artificially level top to the underlying Phase 1 deposits. Access to this cell was by a door-opening 0.6m wide on the NE side.
Phase 2B Subsequently, and without necessarily any significant interval, a stone-built cell measuring 3m by 2.5m internally was added to the S side of the turf cell. Access being by a narrow opening through the S wall of the turf cell. This addition consisted of a wall 0.6m thick built of large well-laid stones. A buttressing bank on the outside of the wall had a row of large stones around the bottom to prevent slumping. Associated with Phase 2 were several sherds of a fine wheel-turned pottery with a delicate flared rim, in an orange fabric. Evidence for leather working and the collection of winkles was also recovered.
Phase 3 After a considerable period of abandonment, represented by 20cm of black earth, a small stone-lined turf cell, 1m in internal diameter, was built. The internal stone facing of this cell, in one place, rested directly on the remains of the earlier Phase 2B structure which the turf wall encased further fragments of the earlier cell. Entry was by a narrow opening on the N side, giving access directly onto a well-laid stone floor within the cell.
Phase 4 During the life of this small cell the N door was blocked with several large stones, and a new opening was broken through the S wall. A cobbled path led up to and through this opening onto a floor of rammed earth which now overlay the stone floor. Lying directly on this earth floor were the blades of two scyths, one with fragments of a handle attached, while a sherd of brown glazed teapot was found on the surface of the cobbled path.
The site has been returned to its pre-excavation condition <2>.

The finds from Shieling 9 are in Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre. These include metal fragments, wooden fragments (from scythe handle), and pottery sherds. Listed under Acc. No. 1993.1. The Archive Centre also contains within their archive files a labelled distribution map of all the shieings . <3> <4>

Two shielings at Torrin were excavated by the Skye and Lochalsh Museum service in 1991 and 1992. Descriptions <1> and <2> above are DES summaries of these excavations. Information regarding the precise location of the two shielings, the excavations and subsequent post-excavation including radiocarbon dates is awaited. GW 11/05/20

Sources/Archives (5)

Map

Location

Grid reference Centred NG 5577 2254 (738m by 327m)
Map sheet NG52SE
Geographical Area SKYE AND LOCHALSH
Civil Parish STRATH

Finds (2)

  • SHERD (Medieval - 1058 AD? to 1559 AD?)
  • SCYTHE (Post Medieval - 1560 AD? to 1900 AD?)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (2)

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