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History

The island was a busy place up until more recent times serving as a bit of a ‘hub’ and almost a bridge between Ardnamurchan and Morvern when virtually everything went by sea due to the lack of roads. Carna being a relatively large area of flatter more cultivable land in the vicinity had a fair population with up to 17 households recorded in the 1850’s growing crops, keeping livestock and fishing to survive. You can still see the remains of a tidal fish trap on the east side of the island.

The island was originally part of the Kingdom of Dalriada which in the late 6th to early 7th century covered roughly the west coast of Scotland and Ulster in Ireland. Then came the invasion of the Vikings beginning in 795 AD who went on to control from Shetland to the Isle of Man to the east coast of Ireland. This rule by waxed and waned until it was decisively seized by Somerled in 1156 and evolved into the hybrid Norse-Gaelic dynasty of the ‘Lordship of the Isles’. This realm was under the nominal overlord of the King of Scots but in reality functioning with complete autonomy. The Clan Donald emerged as the ruling family of this lordship and the clan gathered on Carna prior to the battle of Inverlochy in 1431 where they were victorious against the royal army. After the discovery of a plot with the English against the Scottish crown, the title and estates were forfeited to the Scottish king (the title now being held by Prince Charles). However, not everyone accepted this, including Domnhall Dubh a grandson of a previous lord, who with the backing of England began to lead an insurrection from Carna in 1543 to regain the Lordship. Alas he died two years later so was not successful.

The island then belonged to the Duke of Argyll until the 18th century, changing hands several times until it was purchased by the Canon Newton in 1881, whose descendants the Milward-Towers family still own it today. 

A map of such part of his Grace the Duke of Argyle’s heritable dukedom, and justiciary territories, islands, superiorities & jurisdictions as lye contiguous upon the western Coast of North Britain, within the now united shyres of Inverary and Tarbat, 1734.
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
“A Plan of Loch Sunart … become famous by the greatest national improvement this age has produc’d survey’d &c. by Alexr. Bruce ; R. Cooper sculpt.”  
1733
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Population Density

1931
“Sparse Rural” – 1 to 50 per square mile

OS 10 mile, Population Density, 1931
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Percentage Population Change

1921-1931
A decrease of between 9.75% and 19.5%

OS 10 mile, Population Change, 1921
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

1951
“Virtually Uninhabited” – 0 to 1 per square mile

OS 10 mile, Population Density, 1951
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

1931-1938
A decrease of between 0% and 7.25%

OS 10 mile, Population Change, 1931
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

1938-1947
A decrease of between 0% and 9%

OS 10 mile, Population Change, 1939
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland