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In a forestry clearing in upper Strathnaver lie the remains of Rosal Township. Strathnaver was the scene of some of the most notorious events of the Highland Clearances.

In the early 19th century the Countess of Sutherland and her husband the Marquis of Stafford began a programme of improvements to the Sutherland estates. This involved converting the great glens of the county into large sheep farms.

To achieve this they cleared out hundreds of small tenant farmers and resettled them in new villages on the coast. The Marquis expected the farmers to learn new occupations such as fishing, cloth manufacture and brick-making. The tenants were rightly suspicious of their promised rosy new future, and were reluctant to move, but were given no choice.

Excavations at Rosal

The excavation at Rosal is one of the few undertaken to investigate the remains of a rural township for this period of Scottish history.

In 1962, Horace Fairhurst of Glasgow University surveyed the remains of the township and identified over 70 buildings including houses, barns, outhouses and corn-drying kilns.

Fairhurst then excavated a sample of these buildings, including a house of a type known today as a byre-dwelling.

Byre dwellings

The byre dwelling was a long rectangular building, 26 metres long in total, built on a slope.

There were two rooms for the family living there to use; the main room had a central fire where the family would gather. At the lower end of the building there was the byre where the animals would stay. Their closeness to the family would have provided extra heat for the house.

Historical records mention Rosal as early as 1269. The excavations, however, only found remains for houses dating to around the 18th century. It did not discover evidence of any medieval houses. This could be because they built the later houses on the site of the old houses and re-used the same building materials.

Visiting Rosal

The exact location of Rosal is grid reference NC 689 416.

Full details of visiting the site are on the Rosal web page. The walk is rated moderate. It is 2 miles long and takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

All sites managed by Forestry and Land Scotland are open for you to explore. However, not all sites have paths or signage and some are a considerable distance from car parking. We recommend that visitors consult a detailed map and wear appropriate clothing.

Please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and remember that historic sites should be treated with care and respect.

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