High Mingarry Settlement Path
Start location: A861, Mingarrypark, north of Acharacle (NM 688 693)
End location: Township on Mingarry Burn (NM 689 705)
Geographical area: Lochaber
Path Type: Leisure Path, Rural Path
Path distance: 1.1km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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High Mingarry (Mingarry on the OS maps) is reached by a north/south track from the parliamentary road (A861) starting from the bridge at Mingarry (Mingarrypark). The track crosses the main Mingarry burn within the forestry plantation and one of the main tributaries of the burn at the northern exit from the plantation by two fine late 19th century bridges.
OS Landranger 40 (Loch Shiel) or OS Explorer 390
This track post-dates the phase of the township's occupation. It was built around 1890 by the then landowner, Lord Howard of Glossop, for picnics by his family and visitors. Hence the fine late nineteenth century bridges. On the first series OS map, as well as this track, another is marked which runs past the church and connects to the High Mingarry track at a ford. It seems likely that this was the original route, abandoned after the new track was built.
The present track climbs through the wood, with some fine grand fir and silver fir planted along it, to a bridge constructed by the estate. Halfway to the bridge is a forestry gate on the west side and it is believed that this is the point at which the original track crossed the burn at a ford. The estate bridge apparently replaces an earlier bridge shown on the first series OS map (1871) with a different alignment but in the same position. The situation is complicated by the presence of abutments of a third bridge about forty metres to the east. The 1871 map then shows the original track from the estate bridge to High Mingarry taking a course fairly close to the stream, but the route of that track is now covered by dense Sitka spruce plantation and is ploughed and difficult to detect. There are faint traces of a third track to the west which runs north of and parallel to the course of another stream eventually reaching a line of houses at the top of the wood. The present track takes a drier route and was constructed by the estate. To the left of the track, one passes a Bank dyke which is part of a dyke system protecting a substantial cultivated area west of the road, now planted with small larch but with many scattered hawthorn which might once have been part of a hedge system. One of these dykes crosses the line of the present road and continues to the west for about a kilometre. To the east of the road this dyke is interrupted by an old gateway and the remains of a footpath above an attractive glade of two lines of oak trees, some of which might have been pollarded. At the bottom of the slope is the route of the old track. A new drainage ditch has recently been dug here, exposing several old drainage tiles indicating the cultivation ridges nearby could have been in operation after the 1850s exodus. At the top of the wood is a second stone bridge and the track continues beyond it into the village of High Mingarry, but the 1871 map shows that the old track crossed the stream further to the east, close to the confluence of two streams, probably at a ford, and continued over the hill northwards. Beyond the top of the hill there are the remains of another bridge abutment above the ravine.
This was once a well-populated area with many houses extending northwards and eastwards. An enclosed cultivated area continues eastwards beyond the forestry fence and there is another similar area a few hundred metres further east. The west of High Mingarry is enclosed within a substantial head dyke which meets the burn at the site of a rough stone bridge. At the north end of the dyke is some high ground with several houses and indications of cultivation. The old stone bridge was said to have been constructed in a single day by the unaided efforts of a local strong man, Domhnuill Dubh Laidir Mingarry (Strong Black Donald of Mingarry, a MacVarish). A Donald MacVarish later emigrated from the area to Prince Edward Island with his family (believed to be in the 1830s) and this could have been the same man. Interestingly, he gave his address as High Mingarry, the first recorded use of the name, indicating that the village must have extended to the lower ground by that time.
There is a story that the crossing at this point was used by coffin bearers taking bodies from Scardoish and Briaig to St Finan's Isle and on a particularly bad day when the stream was in spate the bearers stumbled and the coffin was swept away downstream and smashed.
With thanks to Comann Eachdraidh Muideart / Moidart Local History Group. For further information: http://www.moidart.org.uk/datasets/highmingarry.htm