New signs tell tale of barking houses

The new sign at the Lochranza barking house.

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Two historic buildings on Arran have been recognised by the Arran Civic Trust as significant places of interest.

The barking houses at Lochranza and Catacol are now little more than ruins but new signs alert visitors to their role in history.

The 19th century barking house in Lochranza served the area’s fishing fleet, where sails, rope and nets were treated for preservation in a bark solution called ‘cutch’. The Catacol barking house was a later 20th century addition.

The Lochranza fishing fleet at the turn of the century was huge and in a later guidebook, written in the 1940s by George Eyre-Todd, describes the scene: ‘Here from the pleasant angler’s inn, of an autumn night, one may watch the brown sails of the fishing boats set forth one after another, till a line of two or three hundred of them trends away up the sound towards the herring shoals of Loch Fyne.’

These semi-industrial buildings, one of which was still inhabited until the 1950s, were used when fishing boats required their sails to be in pristine condition.

The technique was to impregnate the sails with vapour from the bark of trees only found in the north of the island.

At Catacol two of the steaming vats can still be see in the small ruined enclosure adjacent to the road.

At Lochranza a canal ran from the top of the bay to the houses, the ruins of which can be seen on the north side of the road, enabling boats to be moored and their sails brought inside to be hung up and impregnated with the burning vapour.

The signs have been erected by Arran Civic Trust with a warning that the ruins are dangerous. The partial roof of the Lochranza barking house collapsed after 2012.



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