Camas nan Geall
The bay we know as Camas nan Geall has been occupied for at least 5,000 years, since Neolithic times. The chambered cairn is of this age, while the standing stone by Cladh Chiarain, the Campbell graveyard, is assigned to the Bronze Age (4,000 years ago), although it was later engraved with images including a Christian cross and, above it, what may be a dog. These carvings may date to the time of the coming of St Columba, after he began his west coast journeys in 563AD and founded the abbey at Iona. At the roadside 200m east of the car park, water from a spring, known locally as Tobar Chalum Chille (tobar well, Colum Columba, cille church or cell), falls across a stone wall.
Towards the end of the 8th century the Vikings arrived on this coast, first as raiders and later to settle. It is inconceivable that they did not use this protected haven to pull up their longships, yet evidence of Viking occupation has yet to be found. Further, the name is not Norse, though the meaning of the Gaelic is disputed – the bay of the stranger, the bay of the pledge, promise or wager, and the bay of the churches are all suggested.
n the hundreds of years following the absorption of the Vikings into the population, both the bay area and the rough area to the northwest of the bay were occupied by a small communally-run ‘clachan‘. We know little about the early history of this community but we do know that, during the Lordship of the Isles, it was part of the lands of the Clan MacIain. This clan held Ardnamurchan and Mingary Castle from the early 14th until the early 17th century. Camas nan Geall would have been little different from the twenty-three other clachans within the clan’s lands in Ardnamurchan. Each had inbye land – arable land close to the houses – where crops were grown, and extensive common grazings which were used for summer pastures. In Camas nan Geall’s case, the common grazings extended north as far as Loch Mudle. The clachan contributed, mainly in the form of agricultural produce, to the upkeep of the MacIain chief and his retinue, and provided men for the clan’s army in times of war.
In 1828, under Sir James Milles Riddell, at a time when Camas nan Geall was held by Lachlan MacDonald, the clachan, along with Torr na Moine and Bourblaige, was finally cleared of any remaining residents to make way for a sheep farm, although some men may have stayed on as shepherds. Lachlan lost the tenancy in 1829, having held it since 1811. The sheep-farming tenant who replaced him was called MacColl.
Pinched with grateful thanks from the Ardnamurchan History and Heritage Association webpage
Please do go down for a wander. just park your vehicle in the small area at the top of the bay and walk down. If you have dogs, please keep them on a leash as we have sheep roaming free on this area (as well as deer, foxes, badgers).
It’s a great place for photos too.