Tag Archives: world war two archaeology

Surveying Isle Ewe, Wester Ross

by Anne MacInnes (NOSAS)

Aerial of Isle Ewe from Canmore

Isle Ewe is centred on NG 85046 88444 and lies within Loch Ewe just off the coast at Aultbea.

It was surveyed as part of an ongoing project to survey islands in the Gairloch parish area that have been inhabited. It is the largest of these islands comprising 764 acres and stretching roughly two miles from NW to SE. It is an island of two halves due to the geology. The NW consisting of Torridonian sandstone is higher, rockier with rough uncultivated grazing, whereas the SE consisting of deposited New Red sandstone has gentler contours with  improved arable pasture. The SE is also sheltered from the prevailing NW winds.

The earliest reference that I could find about the island was from 1583 when Nicolay refers to Loch Ew and the island. There are various references after this with differing spellings and Roy’s map of 1747 shows two settlements on the island. The island has been settled since the bronze/iron age as I found 5 roundhouses on the island and there could be more as the N end of the island is covered with rank heather overlying deep moss. At times it felt like I was swimming across the landscape, about to disappear never to be found.

Roy Map Isle Ewe

The island is still inhabited by the Grant family without whose help the survey would not have happened.

The full report on the survey can be found on the NOSAS website under ‘past surveys and reports’ so rather than repeat everything I will highlight some of my favourite moments.

The logistics of getting to the island involved constant communication with the Grants about the weather and once on the island a watchful eye was kept on the conditions. They picked me up from Aultbea and ferried me across to various landing points depending on where I was surveying which eventually took about ten trips. I find myself still going back as various queries crop up about more sites as they notice the island through different eyes.

Footings of building at N. settlement marked on Roy’s map

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Elusive Wartime Remains in Loch Ewe

Jonie and Richard Guest search for underwater remains from the last war – by Richard Guest (NOSAS).

Capture (1)We had it on good authority – a record of an eye witness – that at the end of the last war the 6” artillery which had been positioned at Rubha nan Sasan on the west side of the entrance to Loch Ewe was dumped over the cliffs.  We had also variously heard that it had been seen previously by divers but also that it may have been salvaged.  We decided to look for ourselves.

We launched our Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) from the community slip at Inverasdale and headed out to the mouth of the Loch in good weather and calm sea.  The gun emplacements are easy to see on shore and were visible from the boat so there was no problem in deciding where to dive.

The first dive was made from a point just North of the northern gun emplacement, with the intention of working south past it.  Immediately on descending it was obvious that there was a serious obstacle to the search – dense kelp!  The seabed was not visible from above the kelp and could only be seen by putting your head into the seaweed, which allowed you to see about one square metre at a time.  Even vertical surfaces were kelp-covered so even if the guns stood proud of the seabed they would themselves be covered in kelp.  You could only see whether the kelp was attached to archaeology or bedrock from within touching distance.

IMG_3338 (2)

The orange floating blob marks where Richard is underwater.

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