NS2587 : The ruins of Letrualt

taken 7 years ago, near to Shandon, Argyll And Bute, Great Britain

This is 1 of 5 images, with title The ruins of Letrualt in this square
The ruins of Letrualt
The ruins of Letrualt
The ruins of several buildings can be found in this area; the one shown in this photograph is the most substantially intact of them. The first-edition 25-inch OS map, surveyed in 1860, labels this site "Letrualt", and shows several buildings here. Even by then, all of those buildings, except for the one shown in the present photograph, were unroofed. The second-edition map, revised in about 1898, simply shows a cluster of unroofed buildings here, and the site is no longer named on the map.

Though now reduced to mere ruins, the lands of Letrualt had a long history. Letrualt was the later form of the name, but earlier maps and documents refer to it as Letterowald (or similarly-spelled names); as will be described below, there was long-standing division into two parts, a great and a small Letrualt.

Charter evidence:

Early occurrences of the name can be found in the Lennox Cartulary: a 1351 charter (in Medieval Latin) by Donald, Earl of Lennox, mentions Letdovald, along with other recognisable names from nearby (see below, under "History"). In an undated charter by Donald (earl from 1333-c.1364), the lands are called Leterwwald/Laterwwald/Latterdwwald (although the last of those forms is given only in the index).

By 1545, charters indicate a division into a great and small Letterowald: respectively, Mekle Letterowald (or, occasionally, Letterowaldmoir) and Letterowaldbeg [for those names, see the "Register of the Great Seal of Scotland" (RMS): Vol 3, charter #3140 (1545 AD); Vol 4, charter #1623 (1565 AD); Vol 5, charter #76 (1580 AD); and Vol 6, charter #1413 (1603 AD)].

Early maps:

The early manuscript map known as Pont 16 (c.1583-c.1601) shows "Letyrowan Beg" and "Letyrowan m." [Gaelic "beag" for small, and "mr" for big], these appearing north and south, respectively, of a burn flowing down to the Gare Loch. On the published (1654) Blaeu map of the Lennox, based on Pont's surveying, both sites are marked by circles; for some reason, however, only the more northerly one is named (as Letyr Owan Beg).

Roy's Military Survey of Scotland (1740s-50s) shows Letoalt near Kirk of Row; it is placed near the shore, and may correspond to the more southerly Letrualt-Mor (even today, another, more southerly, Letrualt appears on the map: NS26588493). However, it is also possible that the positions of Kirk of Row and Letrualt were accidentally interchanged on the map.

Subsequent maps (Charles Ross, 1777; John Ainslie, 1821; John Thomson, 1823) consistently show, though with a wide variety of spelling differences, the following line of farmsteads: Stuckenduff, Letrualt, Shandon, Balernock.


A good source of information on the history of Letrualt is William Fraser's two-volume work "The Chiefs of Colquhoun and Their Country" (1869). From that work:

"In the year 1351, Walter de Fasselane received from Donald Earl of Lennox the donation which Malcolm Earl of Lennox granted to Avileth Lord of Fosselane of the lands of Keppach, Culgrayane, Camceskanys, Kyrkmychell, Airddengappil, Arddenaconvell, Letdovald, Bullernok, Fosselane, Glenfrone, and Muleig, ...". The place-names are, in modern spelling: Faslane, Keppoch, Colgrain, Camis Eskan, Kirkmichael, Ardencaple, Ardenconnel, Letrualt, Balernock, and Glen Fruin; all of those names can be found on the map today. "Muleig" (see NS2982 : Remains of Malig Mill) and Kirkmichael are less familiar names now, but they were both located in the area where the town of Helensburgh later developed.

In one of the charters in the Lennox Cartulary, Donald, Earl (or Mormaer) of Lennox, grants to Walter of Foslen (Faslane) "that half carucate of land that is called Letrualt" ("illam dimidiam carucatam terre que dicitur Laterwwald"). Donald was earl from 1333-c.1364, and the charter, which is undated, is from that period.

After the original line became extinct, the title Earl of Lennox was recreated, passing to the Stewarts of Darnley. In 1500, Sir John Colquhoun obtained from Matthew, second of these new Earls of Lennox, a charter of Letterwald-mor and Stuckinduff.

It is noted on page 140 of the first volume of Fraser's work that "on 16th August 1575 Humphrey Colquhoun was served heir to his father, Sir John, by a special service. The lands enumerated in the retour are Ballernick-mor, Lettrowald-mor [Letrualt-mor], and Stuckinduff, with the mill of Altdonalt in Letrualt, ..." (the place-name in square brackets is not my insertion, but is Fraser's own explanatory comment).

Note the mention of the "mill of Altdonalt in Letrualt". Nearby is a glen, which now called Aldownick, but its old name was Aldonault: see NS2785 : Waterfall at reservoir outflow. Aldonault is surely connected to the name Altdonalt, and it is likely that the first element of both names represents the Gaelic "allt" (stream, burn). The second element is something like "donalt". The name of the surrounding lands appears to incorporate the same second element, presumably preceded by the Gaelic "leitir" (slope, hillside): the very early forms "Letdovalt" and "Latterdwwald" (see above) suggest that the same second element (something like "donalt") was originally present.

[A "leitir" usually, as in this case, slopes down towards a body of water or a watercourse: see John Murray's book "Reading the Gaelic Landscape" (2014) for more on this.]

Incidentally, Letteruelbeg, one of the divisions of these lands, was also known as Letteruel-mouline, the latter part probably representing the Gaelic "muileann", mill; this may be another reference to the "mill of Altdonalt". See the last-cited link for more on this.

The lands remained in the hands of the Colquhouns for many years. However, by 1639, Letrualt belonged to Macaulay of Ardencaple (see NS2883 : Ardencaple Tower).

The present-day setting:

The ruins are set amongst rank vegetation tall rushes and bracken (a good breeding ground for ticks) and the area therefore does not make for pleasant walking. A route past the ruins is on the Scottish Paths Record, but, as one of Argyll and Bute Council's documents (a Draft Core Path Plan) comments, "anyone intending to use a path shown on the Scottish Paths Record (SPR) should note that many of the paths may not exist on the ground or be impassable. Extreme caution should also be exercised in using some of these paths where they are located close to a residential house, pass through a farmyard or another area where the public do not have access rights."

(I did not linger here, so as not to disturb animals that were grazing nearby.)

The most prominent hill in the left-hand side of the image is Creachan Mr (NS1891). To its right, behind the top of the tall green tree, are two peaks very close together, Creag Sgoilte (NS1597) and Beinn Bheula (NS1598). A little to the right again, above a small copper-coloured tree, is Cruach nam Miseag (NS1898). Finally, near the left-hand edge of the ruined building is Clach Bheinn (NS2195).
Ruins of Letrualt
The lands of Letrualt, known centuries ago as Letterowald, have a long history, but the farmstead of Letrualt, near Shandon, had fallen into ruin by the start of the twentieth century: see LinkExternal link (at Canmore).
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Grid Square
NS2587, 38 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Monday, 15 October, 2012   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 13 November, 2012
Geographical Context
Farm, Fishery, Market Gardening  Derelict, Disused 
Ruin (from Tags)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 2574 8719 [10m precision]
WGS84: 56:2.7461N 4:47.9576W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 2574 8718
View Direction
North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
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