Skerray Mains, Torrisdale, Sutherland

Souterrain (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NC 6601 6315

Archaeology & History

In the middle of the 19th century the opening to a prehistoric souterrain used to be in evidence on the north-side of the single track road running past old Skerray Mains house.  It was mentioned in Hew Morrison’s (1883) historical guide, albeit briefly and without ambiguity:

“Below the house of Skerra Mains is an artificial cave that enters from below the road and extends 40 or 50 yards in length.  Two urns were found it when it was discovered but they soon crumbled away on being exposed to the air.”

More than thirty years later, the Royal Commission (1911) lads ventured to check it out, only to find that it had just recently been covered up:

“At the farm of Skerray Mains is an earth-house, the mouth or entrance to which was recently exposed by the farmer.  It is situated about 15 feet distant from the northeast window of the dwelling-house, and is now entirely covered over again.”

Of the old locals I met here, only one of them remembers hearing of it, but the precise location of its entrance had been forgotten.  Surely it aint gonna be toooo difficult to find it again?


  1. Morrison, Alex, “Souterrains in Sutherland,” in J.R. Baldwin’s Province of Strathnaver, SSNS: Edinburgh 2000.
  2. Morrison, Hew, A Tourist’s Guide to Sutherland and Caithness, D.H. Edwards: Brechin 1883.
  3. Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Second report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Sutherland. HMSO: Edinburgh 1911.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Arnabost, Coll, Argyll

Souterrain (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NM 2096 6003

Archaeology & History

In Betty MacDougall’s (1966) short work on this history of the island she describes the finding and subsequent destruction of these fascinating underground prehistoric ‘houses’ (as some have called them), telling:

“The vestigial remains of an ‘earth house’, a subterranean dwelling, were uncovered here about 1856 when the road was being made.  The entrance was to the north of the road, under a now empty schoolhouse, and the passage stretched south-eastwards under the road, emerging into a roughly circular chamber, now laid bare in a gravel pit.”


  1. MacDougall, Betty, Isle of Coll, John Miller: Glasgow 1966.
  2. Ritchie, Graham, “Early Settlement in Argyll,” in The Archaeology of Argyll, Edinburgh University Press 1997.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Argyll – volume 3: Mull, Tiree, Coll and Northern Argyll, HMSO: Edinburgh 1980.
  4. Wainwright, F.T., The Souterrains of Southern Pictland, RKP: London 1963.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian