Historically, salt production in Scotland has centred on coastal areas blessed with an easily acquired supply of wood or coal to provide sufficient heat to evaporate sea water. As early as 600BC the east coast was dotted with salt pans. The shoreline of the Firth of Forth was particularly productive in the 16th and 17th centuries, resulting in names such as Prestonpans and Grangepans. Salt was so vital for the preservation of food that ancient salt pans have been identified at Eday, off mainland Orkney where peat was used to provide heat, and at Brora in Sutherland. Saltcoats on the Clyde coast of Ayrshire is perhaps the most well known of the west coast salt production sites, with easily mined coal discovered in the 1200’s providing the energy.
Skye too had its salt pans over 300 years ago. In 1703, a small salt pan industry was set up by Magnus Prince with an advance of £1400 Scots from Sir Donald Macdonald of Sleat, the 11th Chief of Clan Donald. No archaeological evidence seems to have survived and very little was recorded of this venture, but peat was probably used to heat the water in large flat metal pans housed in a covered shed.
Times have changed however. You might not have thought Skye enjoyed enough sunshine to make solar evaporation possible, but in recent years Skye has coped with periods of drought while the rest of the country was unseasonably wet; a surprising fact not frequently highlighted in the National Forecast.
With modern poly tunnels and humidity control, we have succeeded in resuming what was an historically important industry in coastal Scotland, once the major supplier of salt in Britain.