ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered a snapshot of how rural Scots lived in the 18th century after completing the first ever excavation of a drovers' inn from the period.

A team of experts was joined by members of the public at the dig on the Cowal Peninsula near Strachur as they worked their way down through layers of earth to expose more of the ruined structure at Tigh Caol.

And they found that the inn, which sat on a popular footpath drovers' route through the area, would have been used by both high and low born members of society.

Loading article content

Shards of 200-year-old glass and pottery uncovered by the archaeologists included a base and rim of a fine goblet as well as pieces of various earthenware such as Delft, Staffordshire slipware and other hand painted white glazed materials.

A coin was also discovered that has been tentatively dated to the start of the 1800s, which probably corresponds with the period when the property was abandoned.

The single-storey stone building, which would have been roofed with turf, would have offered shelter to both men driving cattle down the road to pasture or market and other travellers making their way through the area on foot or on horseback.

However, it is a world away from the comforts offered by modern hotels and guesthouses. Split into two rooms, one was dominated by stone benches and a large hearth and would have been the common room, while the other earth-floored chamber contained wood partitions housing individual bunks.

Project manager Warren Bailie said: "The shards of pottery and glass we found indicate that the inn would have been used by people who expected to drink out of glass goblets, so it wasn't just rustic drovers who used it but all levels of society.

"It would have offered shelter to anyone coming down the road at a time when travel was much slower than it is today.

"Eventually it was replaced by the Telford Road, which runs parallel to the drovers' track and bypassed the inn, leading to it being abandoned."

The Tigh Caol dig began on May 26 and came to a close last Friday. It was carried out by GUARD Archaeology and funded by its Chairman Donald Adamson, who has completed a PhD at Glasgow University on the archaeology of cattle droving and grain export from the Highlands in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Volunteers from the Strachur and District Local History Society also gave up their time to help at the site.

Near the drovers' track, which approaches from the south, on the edge of a nearby burn, the team's metal detectorist, Jim Conquer, also recovered part of a copper alloy horse harness, with a double thistle design.

This may have slipped off when a drover's horse was taken for water or perhaps when it was traversing the burn.

Pupils from the local Strachur, Kilmodan, Toward, Tighnabruaich and Sandbank Gaelic Medium primary schools helped uncover the building's walls and turned up some 18th century bottle glass.

Teacher Catriona MacPhail said: 'My class had a fantastic time at the dig and would happily have stayed all week digging, sieving, drawing plans and metal detecting. It was tremendously helpful to us with our own mini-project at Allt na Blathaich, which was probably abandoned around the same time and for the same reasons as Tigh Caol.

"It was also useful to show the children how the map skills and maths that they learn in class is actually used by archaeologists in their every day work. Hearing people refer to the "south wall" and feeling the sun at their backs at lunchtime helps with our orienteering skills too.

"They were all delighted to know that they were finding pieces of glass that no-one had handled since they got broken over 200 years ago."