The remains of the township of Inverlael stand on the edge of Lael Forest. Here, and within the forest, you can discover evidence of daily life over two hundred years ago.
The 1st edition Ordnance Survey 6-inch map (1881) shows that by this point Inverlael township was abandoned, indicated by the outline of buildings not being filled in with black, meaning they are unroofed or ruins.
Historical records date Inverlael to the 13th century, but it may well be older, though the remains you can see today are probably 18th century.
Until the establishment of the fishing town of Ullapool, Inverlael was said to be the largest settlement north of Dingwall. It remained inhabited until 1888.
Today, at least twelve ruined buildings survive, along with associated structures including a corn drying kiln. Aerial photographs show us the outlines of fields where the inhabitants grew their crops. Within the forest, you can also discover traces of livestock enclosures and shieling huts.
Aerial image of the remains of Inverlael township.
In the 18th and early 19th century, the land where Lael Forest now stands, was part of the estates belonging to George MacKenzie of Coul.
Mackenzie, like many other landlords, believed in the need for farming improvements in the Highlands, and he wrote many papers about the subject. You can find out more about George Mackenzie and his ideas about farming at Rogie.
In 1820, Mackenzie began evicting families from Inverlael to make way for sheep farming. Many of the evicted tenants emigrated to America; others moved to Ullapool to find work.
Storyteller Alec Williamson shares a local tale.
- Hughie Kilpatrick and the Pregnant Woman (mp3)
- Hughie Kilpatrick and the Pregnant Woman transcript (pdf 342k)
Visiting Inverlael Shielings
The exact location of Inverlael Shielings is grid reference NH 203 845.
This is a remote location, with difficult access. The remains within the forest are not easily seen so keep an eye out for any evidence you can find.
The best access to the forest is from car park at Lael Forest Gardens.
All sites managed by Forestry Commission 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.