Altnaharra lies in remote country approximately mid way between Lairg and Tongue and on the main road between them. Just to the north of the hamlet is a crossroads from which a B-road heads north east then north to Bettyhill, while a very minor road curves past the foot of Ben Hope to reach the north coast near Loch Eriboll. All the roads in the area are single track.
Altnaharra lies close to the west end of Loch Naver and the road to Bettyhill passes alongside it (and past one of the more remote caravan sites you are likely to find in Scotland) before heading through Strathnaver to the coast.
There are signs of ancient settlement in the area, but the clue to Altnaharra's more recent origins probably lay in its name, which is a variant of that of the stream that is bridged by the main road here, the Allt-na-h-Aire, or Stream of Watching.
It seems likely that the large population who lived in Strathnaver (until cleared to make room for sheep in the early 1800s) used the higher ground to the west as summer pasture for their cattle, and based themselves here.
The clearances changed everything. The resident population was ruthlessly and sometimes violently evicted from land they had worked for generations, ending up in settlements on the coast or simply emigrating. What was left was a deserted landscape. But the new lairds recognised the wider potential of the area and by 1820 had built an inn on the site of what is now the Altnaharra Hotel.
Altnaharra rapidly gained a reputation as a fisherman's paradise. Loch Naver was nearby, but many other areas of water were also within easy reach. The Altnaharra Hotel continued to expand steadily during the century that followed, though much of it had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1956.
In more recent times, the area's visitors have expanded to include those drawn by the mountains in the area. To the north the skyline is dominated by Ben Hope, while the 961m or 3,154ft bulk of Ben Klibreck rises immediately to the south east of Altnaharra.
As well as the hotel, Altnaharra has a church, the Altnaharra & Farr Parish Church, a primary school, a few cottages. It also used to have petrol pumps, but these are no longer in use.
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