History in Assynt

History in Assynt can be split largely into three phases. The first, which can be described as prehistory, covers the cave dwellers whose traces have been found in the Bone Caves by the geologists Peach and Horne. Evidence of the use of fire and bones of animals now extinct. The bones included species of bear, lynx, reindeer, lemmings and others.

Later, during the Iron Age, the local broch was constructed. Sadly now little remains above the doorway. A lot of the rocks from the broch must now form part of some of the older croft cottages.

The middle period, covering what most of us think of as history began with a Viking raid on the cattle belonging to the Thane of Sutherland in the twelfth century. These were recovered, so the story goes by the clan MacNichols. The Thane granted the clan the lands of Assynt.

In the fourteenth century, the last of the MacNichols line, a daughter, married a son of the MacLeods of Lewis. In 1597 Ardvrek castle was built by the MacLeods, but in 1691 the castle was besieged by the Mackenzies chasing a debt and the Macleods were replaced. The Mackenzies built Calda house. In 1737 Calda house was burned down at a time that the Earl of Sutherland was trying to collect a debt from the Mackenzies. Subsequently, the land passed from the Sutherlands to more modern landlords.

Into this more modern period of our history, falls the notorious Highland Clearances. During this period there was a notable exodus when the followers of the Rev. Norman MacLeod made a mass departure, first to Nova Scotia, and from there a few years later to New Zealand. This story is told in more detail on some of our "page of the day"s

Eventually, to foil the proposal to split up the north part of Assynt, the estate of 21,000 acres was bought by the Assynt Crofters Trust. See Crofting.

As for the people of Assynt, the census records from the time they started up to a hundred years ago are available. The remaining gap is filled by peoples recollections of what they heard in their childhood.