Ardnamurchan

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Ardnamurchan (Gael. ard-na-mor-ehinn, 'height of the great headland'), a hamlet and a promontory in Argyllshire, and a parish partly also in Inverness-shire. The hamlet lies on the southern coast of the promontory, 7 miles NNW of Tobermory, and has a post office, with money order and savings' bank departments, under Fort William. The promontory forms the extreme NW of the mainland of Argyllshire, as also the most westerly point of the mainland of Scotland, lying 137 miles in a straight line W of the mouth of the South Esk river in Forfarshire; was, from the time of Somerled till the reign of James VI., the boundary between the two great divisions of the Hebrides, Northern and Southern; and has a bluff, wild character, more notable in aspect and more terrible to mariners than any other headland between Cape Wrath and the Mull of Kintyre. The neighbouring rugged shores have been the destruction of multitudes of vessels, and the seaboard here, and onward on either side for many miles, is all mountainous, bleak, and wild. A dreary spot in a creek, at its uttermost point, contains the graves of shipwrecked seamen. A castle-like lighthouse was built here in 1849, at a cost of £13,738; its fixed light, 180 feet above sea-level, is visible at the distance of 18 nautical miles.

The parish contains also the post office villages or hamlets of Kinlochmoidart, Arasaig, and Stroutian, all under Fort William, and comprises the districts of Ardnamurchan proper, Sunart, Moidart, Arasaig, and South Morar-the first and second in Argyllshire, the three others in Inverness-shire. It is bounded N by Loch Morar and the river Morar, which separate it from North Morar in Glenelg; NE by the Ardgour, Locheil, and Locharchaig districts of Kilmalie; E by the Kingerloch district of Loch Lismore; S by Loch Sunart, which separates it from Morvern; W and NW by the Atlantic. Its greatest length, measured along the shortest practicable line of road, cannot be less than 70 miles, its greatest breadth is about 40 miles, and its area is estimated at 200,000 acres of land and 73,280 of water. Ardnamurchan proper is a peninsula, extending E and W; projects, at the promontory, 4 miles westward of the longitude of Tobermory in Mull; is washed to the S by the northern end of the Sound of Mull and by Loch Sunart; connects, at the E end, by an isthmus of 3 miles in width, with the Sunart district; measures about 16 miles in length, and about 7 in extreme breadth; and consists chiefly of a range of comparatively low hills, running from E to W. Kilchoan or Ardnamurchan harbour, adjacent to the hamlet, is of great utility, serving for communication with Tobermory and with vessels coming up the Sound of Mull, and used to be an occasional resort of craft conveying cattle from some of the Western islands to the mainland. Glenmore Bay, about ½ mile W of the first narrows within Loch Sunart, also affords good anchorage. Much of the seaboard, for about 10 miles from the vicinity of the promontory eastward, consists of well-cultivated arable land. The hills along the same distance consist of palæozoic rocks, with a carpeting of very fine pastoral soil. The seaboard farther E includes scanty patches of cultivated land, and the hills there consist chiefly of gneiss or mica-slate rocks, partly bare, and partly covered with coarse herbage. The isthmus, at the eastern end, is partly flat moss, and partly low or sloping ground. Wood is scanty throughout the western half, but occurs in considerable masses in the S of the eastern. The districts of Ardnamurchan proper and Sunart are computed to comprise 4134 Scotch acres of arable land, 10,371 of pasture, 2598 of woods, 2690 of flat moss, 67,472 of moor, and 488 of lakes, or, altogether, 87,753 Scotch acres. Alexander Macdonald, a Gaelic poet of last century, was a native; a curious episode in the history of the parish was the foundation in 1723 of the mining village of New York by Sir Alexander Murray of Stanhope. Chambers' Domestic Annals (iii. 474-476) gives a full account of the failure of his plans. Nine proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, and five of between £100 and £500. Ancient Caledonian remains, in the form of a rude altar with a circle of small stones, and known as Fingal's Griddle, are at Orsaigmore in Ardnamurchan proper; and at Ormsaigbeg is a very small ruined tower, called the Black Castle of the Minstrels. So late as the year 1630, Ardnamurchan proper was a parish of itself, called Kilchoan, from a church dedicated to St Coan; while the other districts formed the separate parish of Eileinfinnan or Island-Finnan, named after a beautiful little island in Loch Sheil. The districts of Arasaig and South Morar also, in more ancient times, formed a third parish, called Kilmarie or Kilmorie, and had its church at Ardnafuaran, now the village of Arasaig. Ardnamurchan parish is in the presbytery of Mull and synod of Argyll; its minister's income is £350. The parish church stands at the hamlet, was built in 1830, and contains 600 sittings. Most of the quoad sacra parishes of Acharacle and Stroutian, and the missions of Achosnish, Arasaig, and Laga, are within the civil parish, whose own quoad sacra portion had 2293 inhabitants in 1871. There are Free churches of Ardnamurchan and Stroutian, Episcopal churches of Kinlochmoidart and Stroutian, and Roman Catholic churches of Arasaig, Glenfinnan, Mingarry, and Glenuig; and the quoad sacra parish has eight schools under its board-three of them in Argyll, viz., Kilchoan, Kilmorie, and Achosnish (Society's); and five in Invernessshire, viz-, Glenfinnan, Glenuig, Arasaig (Soc.), Arasaig (R. Cath.), and Polnish (Soc.). With total accommodation for 457 children, these had (1879) an average attendance of 236, and grants amounting to £287,17s. Valuation (1881) £19,455,9s. 10d., of which £10,372 was in Argyllshire. Pop., mostly Gaelic-speaking, (1831) 5669, (1861) 4700, (1871) 4259, (1881) 4102, of whom 914 were in Ardnamurchan proper.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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