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Case Studies - Rosal

Rosal is a complex pre-clearance township located in Sutherland in the north of Scotland. It is situated 14 miles up Strathnaver from Bettyhill, on the east side of the River Naver over the bridge at Syre, along the forestry road.

Rosal had a long history of human habitation. The evidence of a souterrain on the site shows people had been living there since the Iron Age. It has been suggested that the name Rosal is Viking in origin, coming from the Norse words hross-vollr meaning 'horse fields'.

The first written reference to Rosal dates from the 13th century and it appears on several early maps, including Timothy Pont's map of around 1600 and Roy's Military Map of Scotland, which was created between 1747 and 1755.

The township was situated on the Sutherland estates of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland and was cleared between 1814 and 1818 by Patrick Sellar, the Sutherland estate factor. The inhabitants were moved to crofts on the coast and their land became part of a sheep farm rented to Patrick Sellar.

After the clearances Rosal remained virtually untouched and, on account of its excellent preservation, became one of the first historic rural settlement sites to be investigated in detail. An archaeologist called Horace Fairhurst carried out excavations at the site in 1962 and published his findings in 1969. His report is a seminal work in understanding rural settlement sites. A copy of the original excavation report can be found here.

The township itself is of approximately 24 hectares enclosed by a low stone-and-turf dyke and the whole is situated above the river, on smooth green grassland. Today, the site is surrounded by a forestry plantation and managed by the Forestry Commission. An interpretive trail leads through the township describing daily life when the township was occupied.

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© Historic Environment Scotland - Scottish Charity No. SC045925.