Unravel history at Rosal
Over seventy ruined buildings sit quietly on the hillside overlooking Ben Loyal and the empty, open lands of central Sutherland. Once this deserted village would have been full of people, animals and children, but today the subdued remains of their homes and byres are testament to a communal way of life which was swept away by the Sutherland Clearances. Read the interpretive panels and imagine the daily life of this Strathnaver township in the centuries before the sheep came.
Our map guide to the forests of the Far North will help you explore Rosal and other forest trails in Sutherland.
Please note many trails have been affected by recent bad weather. We are working to check and clear the trails but in the meantime some may be impassable and may be unsafe. For further information please contact the district office.
Find a refreshment
Bettyhill, Tongue and Altnaharra have places to eat and public toilets. In winter these may not be open every day, so check before you go.
Rosal Clearance Village Trail
Step back in time at Rosal, one of the larger deserted townships in Strathnaver with over 70 ruined buildings standing quietly on the hillside overlooking Ben Loyal.
Rough, narrow grassy paths. Includes steep slopes and one gate. Some areas may be muddy or wet.
½ miles / 0.8 km Allow ½ hour
Follow the illustrated panels through the chores, toils and joys of daily life in this once thriving Highland village. Before too long you'll think you can hear children's laughter and the soft lowing of cattle on the hill.
Mountain biking trails
A cruel clearance
In 1814 Patrick Sellar, an employee of Sutherland estate, began to evict people from their homes in Strathnaver to make way for profitable large-scale sheep farming. His pitiless approach was notorious: in 1816 he was tried, but cleared, of culpable homicide.
Rosal deserted township is just one of many villages which once dotted the landscape here, and a poignant reminder of a way of life which Patrick Sellar, and many others like him, helped bring to an end.
'These proceedings were carried on with the greatest rapidity as well as with most reckless cruelty' Donald MacLeod
Donald Macleod was born at Rosal and lived there until the evictions in 1814. He wrote his accounts many years later, and published them in 1856 under the title ‘Gloomy Memories’.
Donald wrote in English, but would have spoken Gaelic when he lived at Rosal. You can listen to some extracts from Gloomy Memories below. The English version is narrated by Matthew Zajac. The Gaelic version is narrated by Willie Morrison.
How to get here
Rosal is near Syre in Strathnaver, between Bettyhill and Altnaharra. Follow the B871 south from Bettyhill, turning east towards Kinbrace at Syre. Just over the bridge you'll see a forest road on your right running alongside the River Naver. The car park is ¾ mile (1.2 km) along this road at grid reference NC 690 426.
KW11 6UG is the nearest postcode.
Sorry, there is no public transport to this forest.
North Sutherland has many fantastic beaches and hills to explore. Go and see the unknown in nearby Borgie Glen, or follow the river at Borgie Breco. Over in Caithness there are two new forests - Newton Hill Croft just outside Wick and Sibster near Thurso.
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