HOUSES AND STONE IN COIRE LEACHAVIE
Following an enquiry from a hill-walker, we investigated the remains of two houses and a small standing stone near the Allt Coire Leachavie burn, about 2.5 km north of where it flows into Loch Affric. The houses, at approx. NH 137 241, are shown on the 1972 edition OS map but not on current maps, although they are quite well preserved and easy to see.
They are situated one on either side of the track which leads up the corrie, above the Allt Coire Leachavie burn at a point where it is easily accessible, with low banks, and a shallow gradient, although there are waterfalls with steep banks both immediately upstream and downstream.
Their isolated location up a steep track leading to Mam Sodhail suggests that both buildings were sheilings, for seasonal occupation when stock was moved to summer grazing on the higher slopes. The first house, on the east side of the track, is just a sub rectangular spread of stones, about 7m x 5m, quite consistent with this interpretation.
The second, however, on the west side of the track, is much bigger and better preserved, about 9m x 4m, similar to actual houses for permanent occupation. The gable walls stand up to four courses of stones high, and there is a probable entrance on the western long side.
A few metres further on, on the east side of the track, is a small circular tumble of stones, possibly a storage structure associated with the habitation of the houses. One possible interpretation of the site could be a sheiling with storage hut, abandoned and the stones partially reused for the construction of the more substantial house, which could be a shepherd’s cottage, albeit for seasonal occupation only.
On the west side of the track, about 20m beyond the second house, is an upright stone about 60cm high, set in a circular depression, with a flat stone in front of it. It is remembered locally (we are indebted to John MacLennan of Affric for this information) that a couple who used to come on holiday to Affric in the 1950s or early 1960s liked to climb Mam Sodhail every year.
The wife requested that when she died, her ashes should be scattered on the top of Mam Sodhail. However, by the time of her death her husband was no longer able to climb to the top of the mountain, so he scattered or deposited them here beside the two houses, and set up the stone as a marker.