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History of the rock “Rubha Phoil”

Rubha Phoil has an incredibly rich history. There is nothing like it.

The visual time line is at the top of the page.

At the present time, Rubha Phoil is home to a regenerative culture community. In permaculture design we stress the importance of learning from history, with deep respect for the people that lived on the Rock before us. It is important to learn from them as much as we can, before we make any permanent changes.

The first part of a good permaculture design is the observation phase. We gather all the facts and information that will have an influence on the design and the process. There is little benefit in doing anything else until this phase is completed.

An important part of that observation process is researching and documenting the history. History can have a big impact on a design. The geology of the underlying bed rock, how the land was used by the people that came before us, the names to give to places, all can teach us a lot. In ancient as well as in recent times. The existing historical and recent connections -or lack thereof- with the local community, the existing reputation, existing agreements and such are all factors that have a big influence on the design.

Not only recent history, also older history has a rich contribution to make to a design. How did people long ago survive? What did they eat? What were their challenges? Where did they seek shelter? Where did they hunt? Sometimes the stories reveal hidden resources – trees planted by a boat builder many hundreds of years ago may not just be a tree, they are a boat waiting to be build.

Sometimes the story is to be found in the local Gaelic language. The village next door is called Ardvasar or Àird a’ Bhàsair which in Gaelic means “promontory of the executioner.” Which in itself raises a lot of questions. Which executioner? Of which authority? Where were the executions happening? Who decided who was guilty?

It is quite a task to fact check and add all what we already have to the database. The old rock has so many stories waiting to be told! We will keep adding as we uncover more. Join the Village to hear the details or subscribe to our email list.

We’re documenting the history with the help of experts and scientists and historians and we do it like real permaculture people do: factually, relevantly, sensitively and objectively. And chronologically of course.

We have uncovered 5 phases in our history:

1: We are grateful for the help of the most well known Peter Harrison who is an expert Geologist on the Geology of the West Coast of Scotland and especially the very fault line under our feet that has made Rubha Phoil into the special Rock it is. Peter works for the North West Highlands GeoPark  which lies on the same fault line as Rubha Phoil, but a few hundred miles further north. Peter has co-written this fantastic book about the geology of Scotland and it’s history of discovery: Hutton’s Arse. Peter kindly came for a visit to Rubha Phoil. He took us for a tour and revealed to us the secrets of the incredible geological history of Rubha Phoil. Thank you so much Peter! Our understanding of the Rock and it’s relation to human history has made quantum leaps.
Peter also created the first ten slides in our presentation below. Enjoy 🙂

2: Phase 2 is the beginning of the human history: starting right after the last ice age was ending, around 14-12.000 years ago, until the Vikings arrived on the Isle of Skye.
As the glaciers that were covering Scotland were melting, life was thriving in the freshly melted, mineral rich waters.  There is a lot of evidence available in our local area that, as one would expect, humans followed too and thrived. The evidence of older human habitation we found on the Rock itself is undated as yet. But you won’t believe what we found! Much of it is covered by Rhododendron so we can’t show pictures yet. (please come and help us remove them) We feel safe to assume that these people loved the rock as much as we do for the same reasons: the beauty, the abundance of resources and the opportunities for life to thrive. Not to mention the safety the Rock provides with clear view across the sea and the cliffs on all sides. There is no doubt that the ecosystem around Rubha Phoil was teaming with life in those early days. Diversity on the Rock and in the shallow waters around the Rock and in the sea must have been unimaginably lush. Such an abundance of edges on so much coast line, is an invitation for life to flourish. Humans would take advantage of that too!
We’ll include some information about local history into our time line below to paint a context. If you know of any interesting local facts, please do get in touch.

3: The Vikings are coming!
When the Viking war lords started raiding, raping and pillaging the West Coast of Scotland around 800AC, life was scary for the local people. We believe that Rubha Phoil was a safe place for people to run to, to protect themselves, their life stock and their boats. Raids continued for many years until is assumed that the Vikings started to recognise features in the local people. DNA was being mixed and Vikings started settling and trading instead.
It is said that one such lineage of Vikings had settled (perhaps concurred) on Rubha Phoil. Páll Bálkason (Páll, son of Bálki, or Paal Baalkeson) is likely the origin of the name of Rubha Phoil. (Promontory of Páll) When he settled on Rubha Phoil, a horrible time seems to have started for the local population. More about that in the time line.
We have no idea what Rubha Phoil was called before that time.

4: We know very little details about the time between the evacuation of the Rock after 1227 and until it was sold in 1984. We would love to go and dig into the local archives and find out more.
It looks as if the fortifications on Rubha Phoil were deliberately destroyed. Perhaps to prevent it from being occupied and used to terrorise the local population again. Perhaps to use the stones to build what is now the car park or the pier. Or both.
It looks like the difficult times 700-800 years ago left a reputation behind that turned into a local curse.

5: The last part will be about the more recent human habitation of the rock, after the land was sold by Lord MacDonald in 1984. If you have been on the Rock as a visitor, volunteer, resident or supporter, we’d love to document your experience or have a copy of your pictures or video. Please click here. We have a few questions for you on the time line too. Please contact us if you can help us find the answers!

We hope that you will enjoy discovering what Rubha Phoil was for people in the very far and also in the recent past, and help us dream of a future for the rock too.

If you have anything to add to the timeline below, please do get in touch on the contact tab on the top. If think we made a mistake, we definitely want to hear from you!

If you want to help even more and join us in our discovery journey, if you like doing research, interview people, dig in dusty archives, sort through thousands of pictures and hundreds of hours of video footage, gather stories, write, make video’s and such like, please do join the virtual village.

We’ll be adding things to the time line below on a regular basis. Please visit again soon, or subscribe to our email list to hear about important updates.

If you want to help out or follow progress behind the scenes, feel free to join the Virtual Village.