By Euan MacKie

North Rugarve: the oldest cottage in Appin?

rugarveIn 1750 the only way from Appin to reach the road to Glasgow or Oban was by the ferry over Loch Creran; General Roy’s military map of the area shows that the present road through Strath of Appin and round Loch Creran had not yet been built. The most familiar ferry is the now disused one at North and South Shian but the Roy map shows that in the middle of the 18th century it ran further to the east – between NorDistant view of the roofless Old Ferryhouse of North and South Rugarve. The ferry seems to have been transferred to Shian at some time in the 1770s, and it was apparently still functioning in the 1930s, though a road connection to Connel (not to mention the railway branch line) had long been available.

rugarveIn the early 1990s I was writing a guide book to the Appin area and wanted to see if anything remained of the Rugarve ferry. At South Rugarve, next to the main road, there is a substantial single-storeyed cottage of traditional type which is probably the old ferryhouse, though it was doubtless modernised after the ferry stopped running at about 1770. However a search above the shore at North Rugarve revealed several traces of the old ferry, at that time Gable end wallabandoned, overgrown and hardly visible.I found the remains of a very primitive, dry stone cottage – partly overgrown – which once had a thatched roof. The accompanying plan and three black and white photographs shows that it measured internally about 3.5m by 6.1m and had no chimneys in its gable end walls. This means that there was probably a hearth in the middle of the floor, or against one of the gable walls. In either case there was probably a wooden hatch in he thatched roof to let out the smoke. That the roof was thatched isCruck slot clear from the long cruck slots in the internal wall-face, two of which were visible twenty years ago above the rubble. These once held upright timbers supporting two wooden arches which held up the thatched roof (their positions are marked by the dotted lines on the plan). The doorway had been blocked when the cottage was abandoned (presumably when the ferry stopped) and the roof was probably taken off then. The wall was almost certainly of dry stone masonry which had been given a coat of lime mortar at one stage.

This cottage is by far the most primitive, and therefore the oldest, I have seen in the Appin area and at a guess it dates to perhaps as far back as the 17th century. Tragically it was recently destroyed to make way for a new house.

There are other traces of the ferry terminal on the shore not far away. The two coloured photographs show the remains of the jetty (most of which was presumably taken away to build the new one at North Shian) and part of the revetment of the road running down to it.

Euan MacKie


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