The Real Wild West

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We know it as the most westerly spot on our mainland.  Rugged yet beautiful, blessed with a range of scenery that can quite simply take the breath away.  That’s the essence of the wild and stunning Ardnamurchan peninsula.

Such stunning landscapes often go hand in hand with being that bit harder to visit than most. However, thanks to an ambitious new project the area is about to become a deal more accessible, both on-site and from afar.

The Real Wild West: Adopt-a-Monument on Ardnamurchan is an exciting programme on several levels and is set to bring a cultural and tourism boost to an area with a compelling historical imprint.

The driving forces behind the project are well-versed in what makes the area special.  Archaeology Scotland, are Scotland’s leading archaeology charity and their partnership with the West Ardnamurchan Community will drive a bold, multi-layered initiative celebrating this striking region. 

Archaeology Scotland’s ambitious, community-led and nation-wide, ‘Adopt-a-Monument’ scheme is good news from Ardnamurchan.

The aim is for this to be a two-year programme, as wide in range as it is impressive in depth. The programme will support the local community to research, conserve and promote their archaeology and heritage in order to help develop long term community benefit. To do this the programme will improve the condition, interpretation and access to ten archaeological sites, develop heritage trails, create three visitor heritage hubs, deliver archaeological excavations and experimental archaeology and provide heritage and archaeology skills and development training for local people and groups. In addition, there will be a major digital and physical interpretive programme in order to create places of interest and pride for the local community and to attract visitors to the area.

Ardnamurchan is an area steeped in a rich history.

It’s home to almost two-dozen scheduled monuments which feature Neolithic chambered cairns, Bronze Age standing stones and several duns. In the 1850s over 5,000 people lived here, a figure which had dropped to less than 1,000 by 1950. With evidence of Vikings and Clearances there is a liberal smattering of key Scottish historic themes to contemplate.

Drawing in support from the local Ardnamurchan History and Heritage Association (who have an excellent website presence), and a range of land owners and crofters, things are gearing up to deliver this unique heritage project throughout 2021 and 2022.

The Real Wild West: Adopt-a-Monument and the Ardnamurchan Peninsula project is part of a £9 million Scottish programme of projects to invest in the Highlands and Islands in order to provide more, and better-quality, opportunities for visitors to enjoy valuable natural and cultural heritage assets. It has gained considerable support from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund, which is funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and led by NatureScot.

The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund will encourage people to visit some of Scotland’s more remote and rural areas and create and sustain jobs, businesses and services in local communities. And crucially the fund will allow communities to promote the outstanding natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands and Islands in a way that conserves and protects them.

The Real Wild West project will encourage people in Ardnamurchan to get involved through a range of opportunities. In 2021 there will be (pandemic permitting) two, 2-week-long, archaeological excavations taking place around Camas Nan Gaell. While in 2022 there will be experimental archaeology activity when a blackhouse will be refurbished.

And there’s more.  Exploration of many of the designated archaeological features on the peninsula, and making records of them, will help enhance ten archaeology sites by installing new access and signage.

Work of this kind is nothing new for Archaeology Scotland who have caring for, and encouraging enjoyment of, Scotland’s rich heritage sites since 1944.

Their events will be advertised locally and the ardent hope that as many people as possible can get involved. Each participant will learn new skills, from archaeological excavation to drystone walling, and from report writing to photography, while another element of the project will be to provide training in heritage focused business and tourism opportunities.

Inevitably a project of this ambitious scope often has hurdles to cross. For example, issues surrounding COVID-19 and getting to know the processes and procedures of ERDF funding inevitably absorbed a deal of time in the early stages.  Hopefully with these issues receding over the passage of time the work will now gather momentum.

There are a number of ways to stay in touch with The Real Wild West project:

If you have any questions about the project or would like to take part, please contact Paul Murtagh at Archaeology Scotland [email protected]

As the work progresses keep an eye on our website too for updates. Last year was a quiet one given all that was happening, but the story of the Ardnamurchan peninsula is about to be told afresh in a pioneering ‘Real Wild West’ fashion.


The Natural & Cultural Heritage Fund is part of the Scottish Government’s current European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programme, which runs through to 2023.  This is one of two ERDF Strategic Interventions led by NatureScot – the other is the Green Infrastructure Fund.

You can follow the European Structural Funds blog for ESF activities, news and updates. For twitter updates go to @scotgovESIF or use the hashtags #ERDF and #europeanstructuralfunds

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