While the rural and spacious feeling of the landscape is what attracts many visitors to the Isle of Skye, it should be remembered that a primary reason for this spaciousness is because of the Clearance of former inhabitants.

Beginning in the mid-18th century and continuing intermittently into the mid-19th century, people were forcibly evicted throughout the Highlands and western islands of Scotland. This was primarily to allow for the introduction of sheep pastoralism. There are many sites around Skye where you can find evidence of their abandoned crofts, such as in the cleared townships of Achaguie.

Other sites, such as Valtos, tell the story of these people after they were violently ripped from their homeland. Here, one finds enclosures, rigg and furrows show where farming took place, and a landing place hints at a fishing legacy. This is most likely a Clearance re-settlement, dating from when tenants were moved from inland settlements onto the fringes where lazy bed cultivation was the only way to create soil fertile enough to support families. This method of farming requires workers to lift up sods of peat in order to apply desalinated seaweed fertiliser to improve the ground.

This site speaks to the harsh conditions into which tenants were forced when removed from their traditional smallholdings, but also to the resilience and resourcefulness of Staffin’s cottars and crofters, who continued to create comfortable homes and livelihoods despite their persecution.

Cultivation remains at Valtos. Photo credit: Dan Lee 2019

If you’d like to learn more about Staffin’s archaeological sites, please check out our new archaeological assessment of the area at this link.

As always, when exploring Staffin, practice good stewardship of the land for present and future generations. Take out everything you bring in, stick to the paths, and keep all dogs on leads.