These notes are an edited version of notes
on Salen village prepared
The name ‘Salen’ does not appear on Bruce's map
of 1733, the position of the village is merely noted as the
site of a 'Woodkeeper's House', close to another house symbol
labelled 'Tarbert'. Tarbert means an isthmus; in north-west
Scotland it is usually applied to an overland connection between
two sea, or loch routes. It is probable that the village we
now call Salen was originally only known by the name Tarbert.
In 1854 Salen village apparently consisted of the Pirn (or
Bobbin) Mill, the jetty, the inn, a shop and one house.
The residents’ lounge of Salen House was the village
store and used to be called 'Matheson's'. A shop is first
mentioned in the estate records in the 1850s when it was in
the hands of Mrs Owain MacNaughton, a widow of 38 with nine
During the 1960s and 70s the assistant in the store was Archie
'Skiffie' Cameron. There used to be a tin on the counter with
string coming out of hole in the lid and Skiffie would wrap
up your purchases in brown paper, tie them in a parcel and
snip off the string with a huge pair of tailor's scissors
- I wonder what became of them: he guarded them with his life.
On the opposite side of the road were petrol pumps, a paraffin
tank and a coal store where they would measure out the coal
The store is connected to an older house and there are some
sheds at the back and a feed store along the road, later converted
into a house and post office. I was always sorry that I was
not involved in clearing the sheds when the store finally
closed - they sold everything from cheese to wellie boots
and from aspirins to gas mantles and it must have been a treasure
Immediately to the west of the shop is a building which was
formerly a feed store and stables. This building has recently
been converted once again and several names were found written
in pencil on the plaster, presumably by customers at the feed
store. We know from court records that the Hotel was in the
hands of Donald Cameron in the late 1890s and he used to hire
out a carriage (called a ‘machine’), which I presume
occupied the ‘feed store’ building.
After some detective work, John Dye believes that Salen House
was also the village hotel. Several old books were discovered
in an outhouse at Loch Shiel Hotel about ten years ago. Some
have writing indicating they were once in the Salen Inn -
one of them is a reference book printed in 1763, there are
some pencilled dates from the early nineteenth century. None
of the present buildings in Salen appear to date from this
The Salen Pirn, or Bobbin, Mill
The Pirn Mill at Salen was sited behind the Old Post Office.
It was constructed to produce bobbins or pirns for the Clark
Company in Paisley. It operated from the early 1840s until
1854, when it was destroyed by fire, and was said to have
been largely manned by lads from Glasgow. It was powered by
water, the dam being on the hill above. In a Clan Cameron
Archive on the Internet is the following unsigned comment:
"An extensive manufactory of bobbins for thread is carried
on at Salen, on Loch Sunart; the machinery is very ingenious,
and moved by immense power, the water-wheel being forty feet
World War Two
All around this area there are the concrete foundations of
many huts erected during WWII when the area was occupied by
troops in training. Salen itself was occupied by U.S. Army
Rangers who suffered heavy casualties in the D-Day landings.
Just north of the hall is the foundation of the cookhouse.
I was told that the troops ate in the Hall. One can find spent
US ammunition on the hill above Salen, a cartridge from Tarbert
has been identified as having been fired from an American
Close to the sports field are said to be the possible remains
of an ancient cairn. The cairn is noted in the Ancient Monuments
record for North Argyll: "What may possibly be the
remains of a burial-cairn can be seen in marshy ground some
30m S of the old Schoolhouse of Salen. Heavily overgrown with
trees and shrubs, it is an irregularly shaped pile of stones
about 6.5m in diameter and 0.9m in height." The
date of the record is given as 1972, which is surprising since
the Hall was certainly not in use as a school at that time.
After some searching I eventually located the cairn, about
30m south of the Hall in the trees at the back of the field.
However, among the stones of the cairn were several pieces
of concrete! I conclude that the cairn represents the bases
of army huts which were cleared after the war to restore the
sports field to its original condition.