Srath Nabhair, Strathnaver, is the wide, fertile valley through which the River Naver flows north from Loch Naver to the sea at Torrisdale Bay, Bettyhill.
Today, it is a sparsely populated landscape, but it has a long, rich and varied history. There is evidence of man’s activities from almost every period of history – so much so that a special Tourist Trail has been created to guide visitors to many of the historic sites that lie between Altnaharra in the south and Bettyhill in the north.
The remains of chambered cairns can be seen at Grumbeg:
Two hundred years ago, the valley was occupied by about forty small settlements, each comprising a group of dwellings that were home to between three and fifteen tenant families. As well as the tenant families there were inhabitants who had no rights of tenure. They were the cottars, living in hovels, and were employed as cobblers, weavers, or smiths and engaging in agricultural work.
It was a Gaelic speaking community. The people of Strathnaver probably enjoyed frequent cultural activities that included the playing of music, singing, and reciting poems. It is likely that these activities preserved a sense of the history of the community and its valued traditions.
It was in the early nineteenth century that the most infamous events in Strathnaver’s history took place – the Clearances. Strathnaver was part of the estate of the Countess of Sutherland and her husband the Marquis of Stafford. They had decided to “Improve” their lands by turning them over to profitable sheep farming and were intent on moving their tenants to new villages built on the coast. Remnants of these coastal villages may be seen today e.g. Poulouriscaig, between Bettyhill and Armadale, a four mile walk from Armadale over boggy ground, is a fine example of a deserted village.The hardships these evicted peoples had to endure, hemmed in to the coast with no anchorage for boats due to the sheer rock faces, can easily be imagined.
From 1814, the evictions were undertaken by the Sutherland Estate factor, Patrick Sellar ( whose cottage was behind the Syre Church) He was ruthless in his actions, destroying homes and burning crops to force people from their land.
The Gaelic Society of Inverness annual outing is to Strathnaver on Sat. 16th May
Departing from the Highland Council car park, Glenurquhart Road, around 8.15am
A stop will be made at Lairg, if required, but the main stop for tea and coffee will be at the Altnaharra Hotel.
At Altnaharra we follow the road east by Loch Naver. At some point Jim Johnstone, retired Headmaster, Farr High School, Bettyhill will join us to show us some clearance sites.
Lunch will be at Strathy Hall, Strathy (caterer preparing the lunch) Please notify me of any special dietary requirements. Jim will probably deliver his power point presentation here.
Thereafter, we travel east to Thurso and down the A9 home. Depending on time, a stop at Dornoch may well be undertaken.
Please get in touch with me if you wish to go on this trip:
Cost, £30 including lunch
Tel.: 01463 231891