MHG54319 - Township and/or distillery - West Mulchaich (Ferintosh)


The remains of several buildings and at least one enclosure visible on a modern aerial photograph. Local tradition has it that this settlement was the former Ferintosh distillery.

Type and Period (2)

  • TOWNSHIP (Medieval to 19th Century - 1058 AD to 1900 AD)
  • DISTILLERY? (In use, 17th Century to 19th Century - 1690 AD? to 1815 AD?)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

An aerial photograph taken by Jim Bone clearly shows the earthworks of at least five buildings and at least one enclosure lying approximately 100 metres north of a chambered cairn. <1>

Following whin clearance this site was surveyed in February and March 2009 by volunteers from the North of Scotland Archaeology Society. It was clear that several of the buildings had been completely overwhelmed by whins. Local knowledge suggests that this settlement was a distillery and from the solid nature of the structures and their uniformity it is quite possible that the majority of the buildings were constructed at the same time and to a plan, making a positive case for this site being one of the distilleries that John Forbes built in the 1760s. The site was found to comprise the remains of seven buildings, a large enclosure, a quarry and several working areas. Two of the buildings were kilns with barns. The survey report gazetteer entry reads as follows:

"The site is located to the N of the farm of Mulchaich on the slopes of the Black Isle opposite the town of Dingwall just 1km from the shore of the Cromarty Firth. These slopes are NW facing and intensively farmed, but the site itself appears to have been neglected and is heavily overgrown with gorse and whins; the small patches of grass that remain free of gorse are grossly trampled by cattle. The settlement covers an area of 100m x 70m and is situated on two steep spurs of ground which enclose a marsh. The majority of the buildings are on the north most of these spurs. The site comprises the remains of 7 buildings, a large enclosure and several working areas.

The remains of six substantial buildings are very obvious. A seventh building on the south spur is barely discernable; this building continues into a neighbouring garden where it has been enhanced to form a platform for a garden seat. Apart from these 7 buildings the site also comprises an enclosure and several working areas. A quarry and some of the worked areas in the NE part of the site may be relatively recent. See plan for layout.

Five of the six buildings are of similar construction. They have the remains of solid stone footings, the walls probably robbed of much of their stone, on substantial turf and stone platforms. The platforms have underbuild of as much as 1m height at their lower ends, buildings 04, 05 and 06 for example. The wall footings are generally of stone and turf, although in some places they have double faced stonework with a rubble core. The walls vary from 0.5m to 0.7m height externally and 0.2m to 0.5m internally.

Two of the six buildings are kilns with barns. The upper one, site 07, is constructed into a steep bank and is much more wasted than the lower one, site 02. This is more substantially constructed and has 3 compartments; the upper compartment being a kiln bowl which has been filled in.

Two of the buildings, sites 03 and 05, have opposing entrances, although in both cases one of the entrances is not very convincing. Site 01, straddles the lowest part of the marsh and has 4 compartments, the south one of which extends into the neighbouring garden where its limits are undiscernible. Site 06 also has 4 compartments each having a wide entrance in the east wall.

The enclosure, site 09, too has the remains of quite substantial surrounding walls and slopes gently towards the NW. The quarry, site 12, has a south and west face of 1.5m deep, the NE bank is 0.7m deep and appears to respect the adjacent enclosure, but it is difficult to say whether or not it is contemporary with the settlement, it may well have been in use at a later date. The working areas, sites 10 and 11, slope gently to the west and are bounded on their west sides by an embankment of 0.5m to 0.8m height. A possible trackway descends the slope towards the marsh."

The survey plan is linked to this record and full background information is available in the survey report, also linked. <2> <3>

Micro-element soil analysis was undertaken at the site by R Warren in 2011 as part of work for a BSc In Environmental Science at the University of Stirling. This project aimed to establish, by pedological analysis, if the remains of a settlement site at Mulchaich, was, a location at which Ferintosh whisky was distilled. The project sought to identify different processes related to whisky production amongst the various structures on the site. The techniques used to meet these aims were: the use of multi-element soil analysis by ICP-OES, testing magnetic susceptibility of the soil, and analysis of soil pH and organic matter content. A discussion of the results assesses evidence of whisky distillation and associated whisky production activities taking place across the site. The findings of the project were not conclusive; however they are sufficiently supportive of the distillery proposition to suggest further soil analysis at this and comparison sites. <4>

The site has now been adopted by NOSAS under the Archaeology Scotland 'Adopt-a-Monument' scheme. The remains of the kiln at Mulchaich were to be prepared for presentation to the public by removing the material within the bowl, identifying the kiln features and then protecting the site by consolidating the structure and making it safe. The excavation of the kiln was completed in 2013. <5>

Sources/Archives (5)



Grid reference Centred NH 5766 5688 (135m by 142m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH55NE
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (2)

External Links (1)

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