It was a beautiful afternoon for a walk at Clachtoll and 18 of us gathered to stroll out to the split rock and along to the broch. David and Avril Haines were our well-researched guides.
This heritage trail explores the coastal fringe of Assynt – starting from some of the oldest rocks in the world and some of the oldest fossil lifeforms, right through bronze age and iron age habitation and on to the tourism businesses and crofters of the present day.
We made our way across the beach and out to the split rock, noticing old dykes and cultivation ditches, and visiting the ‘gloup’, from which Clachtoll (stone with a hole) may have got its name, if it wasn’t from the somewhat more obvious feature pictured above. On top of said split rock is one of Assynt’s many archeaological mysteries – vitrified walling, but burnt when and why and by whom?
After looping back round to the beach we walked north, nodding to the old salmon bothy and the plaque commemorating the congregation of Rev Norman Macleod, who sailed away during the mass migrations of the 19th century. The trail then took us further back in time, to a bronze age burial cist, and a dragon toothed wall where alongside the human debris, we found an intriguing pellet of shells and bone, left by some bird, now long flown.
Our final stop was at the broch, where we spent three fascinating weeks digging last year – for more of which see here. As if in tribute, an otter has made its own small tower just in front of the iron age building – a spraint post with a view if ever there was one.
The nice thing about these heritage trails is the way they weave together features of the land that are made with and without human intervention, and David and Avril were particularly adept at pointing out the wildlife sharing this place with people. It’s always humbling to be with someone who can recognise that smudge on the horizon as a greenshank, on its way south after a summer in Iceland, or the indistinct bobbing thing out at sea as not just an eider duck, but (through some difference discernable at that distance only to an expert), female. The walk today showed perfectly how people and wildlife cohabit this coastal strip, as they have done for thousands of years, and hopefully will continue to do so for many more to come.