The shieling grounds of An Riol lie southwest of Ben Lawers, west of Lochan na Lairige and north and northwest of the Tarmachan Ridge. The site is a huge amphitheatre which measures over 2kms north-south and around 1.50kms east-west. Archives found within the Breadalbane Muniments record that An Riol has been leased for shieling since the early 15th Century and it may have existed before this. Fortunately the archives give a useful insight into how the shieling grounds were leased and used.
The survey, which involved almost 30 ACFA volunteers, was carried out over 3 weekends in 2008 and 2009. The report was published as ACFA Occasional Paper No 103 in 2010. During the survey just under 300 features were recorded, comprising enclosures (including a well-preserved poindfold), dairy stores, byres and shieling huts. Some of the remains are seen now as faint circular banks under the grass but some are clearly much later and are rectangular stone structures standing in some cases to 5 or 6 courses.
The record tells us that by the second half of the 18th Century the shielings were being used for grazing beef cattle and sheep and by 1821 the lease was taken away from the surrounding townships and given to 1 sheep farmer from the north of England who ran it as an enormous sheep run.
Nowadays there continue to be a few sheep grazed here in the summer and some shooting and stalking takes place in the autumn. This beautiful and evocative site is well worth a visit and is easily accessible from the un-numbered road which goes between North Loch Tayside and Bridge of Balgie which runs right through the shieling grounds – easy for most of the year but not for the faint-hearted in winter.
Survey Director – Anne Macdonald