One of the last villages to be cleared on the Sutherland estates
In the early 19th
century a small community of crofting families lived on low ground
beside Lochan Duinte, at the north end of Strathnaver. The
Strathnaver region was part of the vast Sutherland Estates, and like
so many crofting communities in the estate, it suffered from the
Duke and Duchess of Sutherland's decision to clear existing farmers
from the land in favour of more lucrative sheep.
Achanlochy was one of the last communities to suffer from the
Clearances. The man responsible for the earlier clearances was the
Sutherland's factor, Patrick Sellar. Sellar had been forced to
resign his post in part due to adverse publicity generated by his
harsh methods of evicting families from crofting villages. But
Sellar did not leave the region, instead he became a sheep farmer
himself. Sellar, and others like him, wanted even more land cleared
for sheep. It fell to his successor, Francis Suther, to carry out
Though it seems Suther was himself a generous man, he gave his
constables free reign to enforce evictions of families from the
glen. This including burning cottages so they could not be reused.
Though the methods of the constables drew more adverse publicity, it
did not stop the evictions.
In 1819 there were 7 families living at Achanlochy, sharing the
fields in a communal system and growing oats and potatoes. They kept
cattle, chickens, goats, and sheep, and fished from the nearby
lochan. Six of these families were resettled locally, using barren
ground at Strathy, Aultiphurst, and Armadale. One family left for a
better life in the south. As for the village, it was left to moulder
into ruin, and now bracken covers the foundation walls of the
houses, corn kilns, and barns.
Achanlochy is a lonely place, a feeling emphasized by the fact that
so little of the foundations can be seen. It takes a keen eye to
pick out the shape of buildings beneath the turf and bracken. For
that reason it is best to visit in Spring before the bracken reaches
its full height. That said, you can make out quite a bit of the
building remains. There are a pair of excellent information plaques
with a layout of the major buildings and a history of the site. To
the west of Achanlochy is a white house called Achaboorin, the home
of the first sheepmaster to farm the area after the village was
Achanlochy forms part of the Strathnaver Trail, linking historic
sites throughout the glen. Just north of the village is Coille na
Borgie Chambered Cairs, and the Iron Age broch at Achcoillenaborgie.
If you want to learn more about the Sutherland Clearances I can
recommend Timespan in Helmsdale, and the Strathnaver Museum in
Bettyhill; both are excellent local resources.
Location: On the minor road to Skelpick, off the A836 south of
Bettyhill. Well signposted on the east side of the road. Nearest
postcode is KW14 7SQ
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