The blog of Alan Calder, novelist and poet. Author of 'The Stuart Agenda.'
Friday, 26 August 2011
Badryrie- A lost crofting village in Caithness, Scotland
Are you drawn to remote places where people used to live in what appeared to be idyllic settings. At Badryrie you can still smell the peat smoke from the fire that burned in the hearth all the time and imagine the wind carrying the voices of children playing with the sheepdog round the end of the barn. Badryrie will delight your sense of place. The photographs here show the upper and lower parts of the abandoned settlement that sits in about four hundred hectares of mainly hill ground, of which sixteen acres were in crop rotation and twenty in grass for winter hay. The settlement lies several miles from the nearest road, along a track that has been largely reclaimed by the bog, protecting it from the vandalism that might otherwise accelerate the natural decay of the strucures. The local place names are evocative-we pass Achavanich, The field of the Monks and turn at the ruined farmstead of Achkinlochbeg, The small field at the head of the Loch. The land was divided into three tenancies, although the 1831 census records that eleven families lived there, some probably squatter refugees from the highland clearances. The lower complex of ruins is the more interesting as it was effectively a small distillery. The water mill race for the threshing mill and the grain drying kiln can still be seen. A still hole between two gables, seen below, was an effective hiding place for the means of distillation, although it is rumoured that the main still was concealed in an underground chamber and never found. It is thought that the inns in the rapidly growing herring fishing village of Lybster, on the coast provided a ready market for the liquid product.The economics were simple. Living was mainly off the land augmented by sales of a few cattle and sheep. The diet would have consisted of oatmeal, potatoes, mutton,pork,milk, cheese, eggs and hares. Children walked to school every day and got a good education, including Latin and Greek and folk worshiped every Sunday at Halsary Church. Decline accelerated after the First World War and crofting ended there in the nineteen thirties, succumbing to the relentless forces of progress.
You can read more about Badryrie at caithness.org/atoz/badryrie
The Stuart Agenda by Alan Calder at willowmoonpublishing.com and amazon.co.uk and .com