Kelp ridge at the foot of Kennavara.
Photograph of an old kelp ridge at the foot of Kennavara.
Kelp is a general name for long-stemmed brown seaweeds, of which, it is estimated, there are over 300,000 tonnes around the shores of Tiree. Its ashes were a rich source of the soda and potash needed to make soap and glass, and to bleach linen.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain was unable to import alkalis from Spain and the price for kelp ash soared from £2 to £12 a ton. The estate encouraged people to come to Tiree to work in the booming industry and the population reached 4,450 in 1831.
Kelp was cut with a sickle from the rocks at spring low tides, dried on stone ridges by the shore and then burnt in the summer in long U-shaped pits. These ridges and pits can still be seen around the shore, particularly at Craiginnis, and between Kennavara and Traigh Bhì.
Colour photograph of kelp-drying ridge at Kennavara.
Old ridge at the foot of Kennavara once used to dry kelp.