We start our visit to this interesting area right out on the western peninsula, in the Assynt area at a place called Clachtoll. This is a beautiful place that allows oneself to be immersed in the history of the clearances. The districts of Assynt were to be a model of clearance for the Staffords as they geared up their agrarian revolution and focussed their energies upon the North Western straths of the area, upon the recommendations and direction of William Young. He proposed in a report written in 1812, that the large tracts of the parish be converted to Cheviot sheep walks.
Whilst Young saw the benefits of introducing sheep to these areas, he also understood the benefits of retaining and developing new settlements, on the coast, for other trades and skills that could be developed and also provided resettlement opportunities for those displaced. One such area was that of Lochinver, just down the coast from Clachtoll, an area he identified as the 'metropolis of Assynt'
By 1812, Assynt had been converted by the factors, Sellar and Young, without mishap or protest an event often attributed to inevitability brought about by a poor harvest that year. Most of the new sheep farmers were not from the South but Tacksmen who controlled influence over the inhabitants of the area. (1)
|The Clachtoll road. C: Author|
As rosy as this account is, it is far from it and throughout this series on Assynt, I will discover more of the area and the stories surrounding this rugged and yet beautiful coastline that became both cleared from and cleared to. One such area is that of Clachtoll.
Clachtoll is a beautiful part of the area. Accessed by one road in, the scenery is both dramatic and barren. We were lucky enough to stay in Clachtoll for a week at a beautiful cottage, miles from anywhere and with only the rutting stags and starry skies for company.
Clachtoll is one such area that would have seen crofters cleared to, to take up new professions as kelpmakers, fishermen, lime burners and other new trades. The area is a collection of houses and dwellings that today provides both regular and holiday cottages.
|Clachtoll Salmon Station. C: Author|
One feature that is worth a visit, is the Salmon bothy close to the beachy head. The Bothy dates back to 1846 and was built by Hector MacKenzie. This slamon station was one of many dotted along the coast which netted migrating salmon returning to the rivers Inver and Kirkaig. They were caught in nets which were set out along the coast by the fishermen. The nets were attached to these long posts, as can be seen in the photographs here. In it's heyday more than 100 salmon per day were netted, the season was from February 5th - August 20th
|Salmon net poles. C: Author|
The Bothy was closed down in 1994, the last of the Salmon stations in the area.
(1) The Highland Clearances (2008) Richards, E. pg 167-8.