MHG55075 - Shieling - Delachurn


The shieling of Pressmuchrach farm, the last and highest township on the Badenoch side of Drumochter. This is the biggest and most complex of the shieling sites in Drumochter Pass.

Type and Period (2)

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

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Delachurn itself was the shieling of Pressmuchrach farm, (on the Crubenmore-Dalwhinnie road) the last, and highest, township on the Badenoch side of Drumochter. Taylor’s survey of Laggan in the early 1770s, when detailing the lands of this farm, refers to the ‘Hill Grazings called the Sheallings of Dellachurn & Aultanchraggan lying in the Forest of Drumochter along the East side of the Great Highland Road; 7 miles south of Presmuckroch’, giving a total for this hill ground of 1593 Scots acres. In 1746 there were as many as 11 subtenants living at ‘the Press’ (as it is known today), so there would need to have been a considerable number of shieling bothies to accommodate these families.

Bishop Forbes gives us a specific description of the Delachurn site: ‘We came to 7 Sheallings, almost by the Highway-Side to the Right. I proposed stepping out to see the Fashion of them. We entred [sic] into one of them, where we found a Woman big with Child, spinning at the Mickle Wheel, and another Woman carding the Wool for her. The Fire-place was in the Midst of the Floor, and there was a hole at the Top for letting out the Smoke. There were two Beds or Shake-downs on the Floor. This place, called the Sheals of Dalquhirn, belongs to Macpherson of Breakachie. …We drank good Health to him and his Family in a draught of good Milk…. The pregnant Woman’s name was MacPherson, and her husband’s MacGregor. … We likewise saw a Woman boyling Pottage in the open Green; and, when we asked the Reason for so doing, She said the Bothie was too warm wt a Fire.’

However, there is an added complication when interpreting this site, because it seems also to have been used as a communal shieling. (Bil refers to a large communal shieling of 37 huts at Dalnaspiddal, on the south side of Drumochter.) Pressmuchrach was run by the tacksmen of the neighbouring farms of Crubenmore and Breakachy. Malcolm Macpherson of Crubenmore and his nephew, Donald Macpherson of Breakachy, were two of the most powerful and wealthy of all the Badenoch tacksmen in the mid 18th century. They were susbtantial cattle farmers and drovers in their own right, with the added prestige of being the Duke’s foresters for the whole of Drumochter Forest (the post of forester being regarded by the Breakachy family as a heritable right), with total responsibility for the preservation of the Forest for hunting, and protecting its extensive grazings and livestock from their predatory neighbours in Atholl and Rannoch. The documentary evidence shows that Delachurn (and all the land south from there as far as the disputed march with Atholl) was frequently shieled by the Breakachy tenants conjointly with the Pressmuchrach ones.

The site contains 30-40 structures. On the south-eastern edge of the site is a substantial and well-constructed ditch. There are several small clusters of rectangular shieling huts, 3-5 metres in length, one or two with the typical ‘L-shaped’ end found in many Badenoch [sites]. There were small roughly circular enclosures associated with some of these clusters. The site, however, is not a typical shieling complex, as there are a few substantial buildings of approximately 12 metres in length, with two or three compartments and / or extensions, and of a width that would have required cruck frames. They are in fact just like some of the long houses found in the townships, except that they also have a narrow L-shaped compartment at one end. There were two possible corn kilns, one with possible barn attached. None of the buildings had mason-cut stone or mortar, and are probably no later than the end of the 18th century. It should be pointed out that there are other shielings in the Drumochter / Loch Erricht area with remains of these more substantial structures.

Further information and discussion can be found in the attached report. Information from David Taylor. <1>

GIS spatial data created in 2018 based on 2013 vertical APs. <2>

Sources/Archives (2)



Grid reference Centred NN 6356 8044 (392m by 361m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NN68SW
Civil Parish LAGGAN

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