The home setting for the novels is Peanmeanach, the middle of three settlements on the Ardnish peninsula in the West Highlands of Scotland. This peninsula juts out from Moidart and points to the small isles of Eigg, Muck and Rum. It cliffs along both sides until the westerly end where the communities of Peanmeanach, Laggan and Sloch used to house a population of two hundred MacDonalds, Gillies, MacVarish, MacEachan and MacQueens.
At one time, Ardnish was a close knit community and good neighbours to the Lochailort and Roshven communities. The last family left Peanmeanach in 1943 and were rehoused near Arisaig as life had become unfeasible in such a remote area, cut off from the main road, new railway and basic amenities. A steady decline in the peninsula’s population had occurred over the past century in some part due to extensive loss of life from the wars and the promise of a better life in the ‘new’ countries.
The area is steeped in history and folklore, a common feature among the Gaelic speaking communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Visiting today, you will find signs of the past amongst stunning views and abundant wildlife. Golden and sea eagles soar over the ruins and otters peak from amongst the kelp as you sit and mull over the hard life the Gaelic speaking inhabitants had here before they moved to nearby Arisaig or emigrated to Antigonish or Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. The wind softly breathes over the tall rushes which have replaced crops in the once-toiled fields and the stone remains of Peanmeanach’s houses follow the curve of the bay. The Mountain Bothy Association have restored one of the centre houses to be enjoyed by walkers on this most dramatic and rewarding of journeys.
Truly enigmatic and forever memorable, for the fictional Gillies family, Ardnish really was ‘home’.