Location: Mull and Iona
farming and crofting, archaeology, gaelic language and placenames, hiding places

The hidden hen-houses of Rudha Liath

For many years, local historians sought to unlock the puzzle of a series of caves with blocked entrances on the shore between Laggan and Rudha Liath.

The secret behind the rough built stone walls might have vanished altogether if they had not heard the tale of why these were buit from a lady whose family had lived and worked in the area for over a hundred years. It so happened that in the 1800s new owners took over the estate and forbade the local women to keep hens as they were used to, as in all remote areas. Small holdings in the area raised hens as part of their domestic economy and women depended on their poultry for food and income.

They kept eggs over the winter months by preserving them in isinglass, selling or trading any surplus. They used their feathers for pillows if ducks were in short supply and when a hen was past its useful laying life, it was turned in a meal for a special celebration. Unlike the gentry, rural folks did not have meat as a daily item on the dinner table!

Such a useful activity could not be easily given up and the wily local women found that the shore caves made perfectly acceptable henhouses once their entrance were partially walled in. They were situated conveniently out of the way of the Big House and its occupants and the noise of the sea muffled any give-away cackling! This was the secret behind the walled-in caves!

More information on visiting the area can be found here.