Achnahaird Hut Circle, Achiltibuie

Location Map (NC 02297 12650)

Aug 26 set up/ Sep 1 clear up
Aug 27-31 Dig
Aug 28 Open Day
Aug 29 Primary School visit

See Finds and Results for initial results.


The results are back from the radiocarbon tests analysed by SUERC. Go to Radiocarbon Results page for more information.

A Volunteer's Diary

“So why am I here……… at Achnahaird?"

I am one of a group of enthusiastic amateur archaeologists investigating a hut circle or roundhouse, the remains of a circular stone-based structure probably dating from the Iron Age. But we don't know how old it is so we are excavating, hoping to find datable evidence.

We have come from near and far and are so well-directed by Anna, all our physical limitations accommodated so even I feel I have something to contribute. We also have the expertise of Martin, a professional archaeologist. He too is a volunteer for one of the three days he is with us. He is an enthusiast as well.

I have come here to develop an understanding of this site within its wild and beautiful landscape, to gain a sense of this place over time. I have come here to learn new skills: surveying the site including how to use a plane table and to record levels, drawing, soil sampling and recording finds. I have come to brush up on other skills like photography and to share my enthusiasm and meagre knowledge with visitors to the site including children from the local primary school. Over the course of the five days I get to know the other enthusiasts as we work or enjoy a break together. I enjoy hearing what others have learned on similar digs and what ideas they have about this site and what we have found. Tea breaks and lunchtime are important, we need to rest and we need to enjoy the wonderful home baking! I have come here to glean a better understanding of the past we share in Scotland.

The weather is, on the whole, kind to us and although there is one day on which the midges launch a full-scale attack, intent on dire torment, we are prepared and undaunted. In the evenings, there is the pleasure of exploring the nearby villages and coastline. We enjoy excellent food at the local pub or gather in Cathy’s home; she is one of the local people who has done so much to support this excavation.

Our findings have been modest, many “potboilers" and hammer stones. We have found some very delicate charcoal that will be sent for carbon dating. The hearth was elusive and the entrance not where it appeared to be. The structure we were excavating was probably built on top of another but our time has run out and we must replace all the stones, soil and turf. Soon the bracken and heather will grow over it again and when we return we will need to search once more for that telltale outline.

So why am I here? Because of those nagging questions: who were my ancestors, how did they live and what sustained them?

Jenny Nicholls

Aug 23rd

Lots of bracken to clear from the site. We had stalwart and invaluable help from David G and Gerry K. We managed to plane table the roundhouse and to peg out the trenches.

Aug 26th

Eager volunteers appeared. We did a tour of the site and surroundings, then erected notices and deturfed the trenches.

Aug 27th

An array of campervans of various sizes lined up hopefully in the carpark. Lots of eager volunteers emerged. A windy rain shower began the day. Trowelling began. Martin arrived and regular cake from Cathy kept us going. Ali Beag made us a lethal weapon for forcing stones from the wall fill and he mended our turf edger with great skill.

Aug 28th
Weather wet and windy all day (windy means gale force!!). with spells of sunshine. Achiltibuie Primary visited. Irene organised activities for the older ones and in the afternoon the wee ones came to see what we were doing. The children were happy and didn’t want to go back to school!
We found that there were two phases of roundhouse occupation. A number of cracked stones and some smooth faced stone tools were found. Some diggers got excited over a phallic shaped stone wedge in the wall core! Jeremy’s posthole under the later phase wall was an important discovery. Lots of visitors dropped by including a party of 12 interested Germans who did not speak English.

Aug 29th
No wind –but much worse—a plague of midges so thick that sometimes we couldn’t see through our midge nets. Cake still available but not sufficient to cheer us up! Most of the trenches were fully dug. We all persevered bravely and drawings were completed, albeit covered with black smudged midge corpses. . After work all 9 diggers who were staying in the area went to suss out the local broch and then to a convivial meal at Cathy’s home.

Aug 30th
Sun at last. We backfilled the trenches and said goodbye to the amazing Achiltibuie vistas over land and sea.