For the very first time, archaeologists have investigated the area of Loch Lomond in Scotland for lost settlement sites, and have now discovered over 80 in number. Many of these were located along the west side of the loch, with further settlements found around Arrochar.
The lost settlements of Loch Lomond include farmsteads, byres, shielings, and homes, and archaeologists believe they may have also discovered the former site of a mill, as the Scotsman reported. Other areas uncovered around Loch Lomond were found to have ruined bridges, field clearance cairns, quarries, sheepfolds, and earth banks.
The many new sites that have been uncovered are believed to be part of 30 large settlements, and Dr. Heather James has explained that the new archaeological research shows that Loch Lomond has never truly been empty and that there were always groups of individuals living in this area, despite the previous lack of evidence.
“We found over 80 new sites, most of them which had never been mentioned before. We are bringing these sites back into common knowledge. These lochs and glens were not empty. There were lots of people out there farming and using the landscape.”
One especially exciting discovery was what may have been a watchtower set up by clansmen to keep track of what was going on in the waters around Tarbet Island, while at Creag a’Phuirt, what was most likely an almshouse in the 17th century, was also spotted, with Dr. James pointing out that, “on a quiet day, you can hear things for miles. It would have been very easy to keep and eye on what was going on in the area.”
“It is interesting that the almshouse was opposite the castle at Elanvow. They might have been used by those visiting the chief and perhaps they stayed overnight there before he went to meet them. I don’t think the building was lived in all the time but more used as a place for travelers to stop over. This area certainly was a busy place. It strikes you as you walk through this landscape, there would have been lots of people and animals wandering about.”
Very little research in the past has been done on this particular area of Scotland, and it has only been maps, word of mouth, and old rental records that previously shed light on earlier inhabitants in the region, with concrete evidence of earlier residents lacking.
One thing that was known is that a clan known as the MacFarlanes controlled much of the area around Arrochar, something that didn’t change until around the middle half of the 18th century. With Dr. Heather James noting that many of the members of this clan faced execution after the Battle of Glenfruin, they nevertheless struggled on.
“They were a clan who struggled to keep their head above water but they eventually made peace with their rivals, the Campbells, which helped them for a while.”
Eventually, the MacFarlanes became a much smaller clan when some of its men relocated to Ireland and America, along with other areas of Scotland.
With all of the new settlements and sites that have been discovered around Loch Lomond, and so much new information about its previous inhabitants, Dr. James will be taking her findings to Canmore, which is a large database for historic research in Scotland.