Until the 18th century the traditional practice of managing the land was by collective cultivation but by the end of the century this had ceased. The prominent markings left by lazybeds shows how intensively the land was used and populated, divided into crofts with shared rights to grazing. Numerous deserted townships scattered across the Ross of Mull are reminders of the basic living conditions of these times. The Duke of Argyll introduced potatoes to the Ross at the beginning of the 18th century which provided a plentiful diet until 1846 when disease caused the failure of the crop. The Potato famine lasted for 10 years, causing immense hardship, while at the same time villages were being “cleared” of crofters and their families to make room for sheep farms. Villagers were removed, often forcibly, from their homes and encouraged to emigrate to Canada, America and Australia. The Highland Clearances was a dark period in the history of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and the many abandoned townships of the Ross of Mull are an evocative reminder of a harsh time in the social history of the area. The Ross has welcomed many of the descendants of those who emigrated from its shores and who often come to research their ancestors in the archive of the Centre.
The Ross of Mull is an extraordinary microcosm of all that draws visitors to the Hebridean Islands. The scenery, as you travel along the single-track road from the ferry at Craignure is breath-taking. You experience in the many walks in the area a true sense of wilderness; the secret bays with their beaches of silvery sand, the abundance of wildlife and the innumerable marks on the landscape of the lives of past generations and communities long gone. The Ross of Mull is a compelling place for anyone fascinated by history and the ancient way of life of the Gaelic people.
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