With our portfolio of over 450 unique cottages throughout Scotland, we often get to hear some interesting stories about the properties and their pasts. One such history rich account caught my attention this week, it was the story of The Cottage by the Shore, let me share it with you-
The Cottage by the Shore is one of only two habitable dwellings in what at one time was a flourishing wee coastal settlement at the south end of the Applecross peninsula. As its name suggests, the cottage stands close to the shore, with spectacular views across the Inner Sound and over towards the Isle of Skye. This fantastic location can truly be described as an area of outstanding natural beauty and its remote setting has resulted the magnificence of its surroundings remaining largely unspoilt.
Once this cottage was among a number of traditional, stone-built properties that made up the secluded community at Coillegillie, where its inhabitants woke each morning to these stunning surroundings, but now only ruins remain as a haunting yet intriguing reminder of the families that resided here. What made me curious about Coillegillie was the question as to why a hamlet in such a delightful location, once so full of life, was all but abandoned by its inhabitants? Finding the answer to my ponderings required a little research and thankfully, the residents of the other property in Coillegillie were only too willing to oblige.
The original inhabitants of Coillegillie were varied in their occupations, there were weavers, fishermen, quarrymen and carpenters as well as those who worked as servants at Applecross House just under 5 miles up the coast. Apparently in the late 19th century Coillegillie had as many as 28 inhabitants whose diet mainly consisted of fish and seafood (no wonder considering it proximity to the sea).
At this time apparently there were some quiet famous characters living in the community, for example, Kenneth MacLeod who was the last weaver in the district and was said to be the greatest walker in Scotland. Apparently, he once walked from Dingwall to Coillegillie (over 71 miles) in the space of a day and then walked to Lonbain, North Applecross and back again (a total trip of over 100 miles)! But it would seem you had to be a good walker to live in Coillegillie back then, the nearest vehicle access is still 1.2 miles away along a path which has its own extraordinary story. It is one of the last unimproved stretches of ‘desolation road’ in the area – desolation roads (also known as hunger roads) were built during the Highland potato famine of 1846-1852 when the rural population were forced to labour on local roadways in order to receive poor relief – their own means of surviving.
It was the tuberculosis outbreak in the 1920’s which eventually led to the majority of homes in Coillegillie being abandoned and the houses stood empty and locked, just as the residents had left them, for almost 50 years. Despite its unrivalled scenery, living in Coillegillie must have been fairly hard going all those years ago and now I know a little more about the community’s past it is understandable why the inhabitants choose to leave as they did (tuberculosis was little understood at the time).
Nowadays Coillegillie retains the same charm and allure as it did in centuries past – just without the disadvantages! Still as tranquil and breathtakingly scenic, 12 years ago they installed electricity (bought in by helicopter) as well as a pumped water supply. One of the original stone buildings, The Cottage by the Shore, has been beautifully and sympathetically restored over the last two years retaining many of its delightful, unique features. Those wishing to holiday in this really amazing location can arrange to have their luggage etc. bought in by boat, making the abundance of surrounding beauty the only thing you need to focus on when you stroll along the ancient path to the magical Coillegillie.