by John Wombell
A few notes on Kinellan Crannog for crannog enthusiasts. We are fortunate to live at Kinellan, about 400m away from the crannog as the crow flies. In February this year Kinellan Loch froze over to a depth of 10” and we had days of glorious sunshine when local families were taking their lockdown exercise out on the ice, and we spent an afternoon on the crannog taking photos and chatting to neighbours and their children. About 15 years ago I remember leading a NOSAS visit out to the island during another big freeze.
Some years ago 4 NOSAS members obtained permission from Historic Scotland and the owner to remove some fallen willow that had tumbled into the loch on the south side, in order that locals and visitors could see from the shore track the Medieval stone work surrounding most of the artificial island. That was two days of very hard work, hand winching fallen trees back out of the loch then cutting them up. Seeing young children exploring the island this February made me wonder whether the crannog was ever a family home with children playing or had it always been a male dominated stronghold.
Fraser’s 1916/17 report of the 1914/15 and 16 excavations was published in the PSAS and is available online. It is compulsive reading and I shall not spoil it for you by delving too far into the report. Mr Fraser was a teacher in Dingwall and was only able to supervise the excavations part time and during school holidays. With WW1 raging he had difficulty finding workmen but he eventually found two local men and all work appears to have been done with spades. There is no mention of trowels. He did however engage a Dingwall architect to make measured drawings and another teacher to make sketches. A third person undertook the photography. Fraser was as thorough as he could be at that time and he records a lot of detail. I do not know whether there is an official archive stored away somewhere but a century on I think an updated expert re-interpretation of Fraser’s work would be a good starting point for new research.
The last known use of the crannog was as a kitchen garden and orchard by the tenant of Kinellan Home Farm in the late 19th and early 20th C. A thicket of old fruit tree rootstock scrub still survives and few tangled gooseberry bushes. Today though the crannog is dominated by dense mature ash and willow trees, an occasional gnarled Hawthorn and two very fine birch trees. Many of the willows have fallen down, most are dead and rotting away but a good number, especially those that have tumbled into the loch remain alive and have produced masses of new stem growth called Phoenix growth – raised from the dead!Continue reading