Caithness Holiday Day 5: Badbea Clearance Village

An unusual choice of place to visit on the last day of one’s holidays, but an important monument to Highland/Caithness history nonetheless, and one ideally suited to a bleak cold foggy day, too.

Forced off the land as part of the Highland Clearances, people from the surrounding areas (Ousdale, Auchencraig) sought refuge at Badbea. Not the most hospitable area to try and make home, situated right on perilous cliff-tops in a location so windy the cattle and even children had to be tied down to stop them being blown away.

The bleakness certainly suits black and white.

Around Rosal

This was a strange place of varying thoughtfulness. Having previously visited Aoineadh Mor and found its handful of ruined crofts more thought-provoking, this was rather the opposite experience: having far more settlements dating back thousands of years including cairns, a souterrain and remains of crofts, with a history of particularly brutal evictions, there’s no real viewpoint from which one can see the extent of the clearing and experience all the time or place at once, so it lacks a certain atmosphere.

One thought, however. The Highland Clearances were mostly for the purposes of replacing crofting (seen as not cost-effective) with sheep farming (supposedly profitable). In practice, it’s a story about commercial¬†failure: the sheep did not prove profitable, rendering the grassland barren; the monoculture spruce woodlands being farmed as the latest cash-crop are also barren, failing to nourish the land; the eviction of folks living a subsistence existence (which increasingly feels the innocent honest approach) was an offence against humanity – and yet the blasted sheep still remain.

The state of the Forestry Commission’s tourist information boards also being cast down on the ground, however, did provoke thought – is that sheer vandalism, an artistic statement about care and decay of property, or super-artistic irony that preservation itself should go the same way of all things?

 

The landscape did provide a few moments of beautiful contrast, illuminating the foreground trees against the shadowy dark might of Ben Loyal, however:

Ben Loyal from Rosal Clearance village

Ben Loyal from Rosal Clearance village