Strath Fleet is a broad attractive valley that runs slightly south of east from Lairg to meet the coast at Loch Fleet, north of Dornoch and south of Golspie. The valley is followed by the A839, and by the main line railway as it makes its extremely circuitous way towards its eventual destination at Wick and Thurso.
Roughly half way along Strath Fleet is the only station on the line between Lairg and Golspie, Rogart Station. A small settlement has built up on the main road here, but it would be easy to overlook what is also known as Pittentrail as you drive by: an inn, a shop, a mix of traditional and modern houses, and a large collection of sheep pens.
Yet Rogart Station actually marks the southern extent of a broad swathe of unusually well populated landscape in post-clearance Scotland. This area measures some two miles from east to west and extends north for four miles to Strath Brora, and is home to some 450 people.
The focus of what has long been known as Rogart Parish is its church. This lies a mile or so north of the crossroads near Rogart Station along single track roads. Today's white harled church dates back to 1777 and was probably designed by James Boag, a self taught architect based in Golspie who is remembered as much for the violence of his temper as for his buildings.
Rogart Parish was created as early as the first half of the 1200s when Alexander II created the 1st Earl of Sutherland. It is thought that the 1770 church is only the latest in a series built on the same site. And quite a site it is, with broad views west over Little Rogart.
Over the centuries the main families living in the area have been the Murrays, the Sutherlands, the Mackays and the Mathesons. They have not always coexisted peacefully. In Strath Fleet a mile north east of Rogart Station is the site of the Battle of Torran Dubh. Here, in 1517, the Murray, Ross and Gunn clans fought with the Mackays, Mathesons and Polsons. The story goes that the Murray and Ross clans were being beaten until the Gunn clan arrived, whereupon the Mackays and Mathesons departed at speed, leaving the Polsons to be slaughtered.
There's a surprise in store at Rogart Station. The station itself has become something of an informal outdoor museum of railway memorabilia. And close by is the home of the Rogart Railway Carriage Company which offers rather unusual budget accommodation in (static) railway carriages.
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