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History Trail Ardess, Rowardennan

The Ardess Hidden History Trail

In the heather, amongst the bracken and under the oaks, the archaeology of Ardess is waiting to be explored.

Trail length: 1.5 km, time minimum 40 minutes.

The trail begins at Ardess Lodge National Trust for Scotland Ranger Centre. (approx 15 minute walk from Rowardennan Hotel)

Rob Roy MacGregor owned land around Ardess from 1711 to 1713. The property was confiscated when he was declared bankrupt and branded an outlaw.

Points of Interest

1. In the 19th century, Victorian gentry came hunting at Ardess. The Stone Kennels at the foot of the slope and the hunting lodge (now the Rowardennan Youth Hostel) both date from this period.
2. Beside the small burn at the foot of the slope you can see the stone base of a building, thought to be a house or mill last in use 250 years ago. It is well placed for getting water, but the midges must have been irritating neighbours!
3/4. If you look closely, you can see the faint, undulating lines of rig and furrow. This pre-dates the present oak woodland.

'Rig and furrow' was the common form of cultivation from the 16th to 19th century. The rigs consisted of long built-up lines of earth, cattle dung and organic materials, which provided a fertile strip for growing crops such as oats and barley. The furrows were dips that helped drainage.

5. You are now moving up to the hillside grazing areas. This turf and stone 'head dyke' marked where cultivation ended and livestock grazing began.
6. Iron was once smelted at a furnace on the hillock, the site of which may be marked by the stones here. Bog iron (an orange silty substance) was collected from wet ground, while nearby woodlands, now gone, provided the vast amounts of charcoal needed for fuel.

Once smelted (separated by intense heat), the iron was either shaped here or taken to a blacksmith to make tools and weapons. The ground here is much greener as turf has grown over piles of 'slag', the waste product from the smelting process.

Around 40m further on are the stone footings of a building - perhaps it was connected with the iron smelting work?

7. The oak woodland was planted in the late 18th century. The timber and bark served several purposes, from use in industrial leather making to building material and fuel.

The traces of buildings and agriculture suggest that several families may have been displaced when the woods were planted.

Native tree species such as holly, hazel and rowan are making a comeback because the Trust has erected fences to protect them from grazing sheep and wild deer.

8. It is not clear what this stone bank is for. it is possibly to create a working platform linked either with a house site or charcoal production.
9. The outlines of a turf building can be seen here. It may have been lived in for a short time by people working in the woods. Excavation revealed the entrance, a lot of 19th century pottery and a handle for an iron girdle for cooking over an open fire.
10. This large stone-walled house is marked on a map from 1866 and named Tigh an Eas (House by the Water). Excavation showed it had a door facing north and a well-cobbled floor at the west end. Finds included window glass, iron nails, pottery, bottles and shirt buttons. This house was probably home to the shepherd who used the large sheepfold uphill to the north.
11. Here among the oak trees, you can see the remains of two houses. They both had large boulders as foundations but probably had turf walls. Excavation revealed only some bottle glass. Given the lack of finds and the method of construcion, these buildings may date from the 18th century.
12. You are now standing next to the remains of a long building, most likely separated into living quarters and animal byre. The naerby burn and access to water may account for the cluster of the buildings in this area.

Loch Lomond

Broken clouds
  • Broken clouds
  • Temperature: 21 °C
  • Wind: South, 13.8 mph
  • Pressure: 1015 hPa
  • Rel. Humidity: 73 %
  • Visibility: 6.2 mi
Reported on:
Fri, 2020-08-07 16:20

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