In 1790 Captain John Mackay of Strathy sold his land to William Honeyman, an Edinburgh lawyer who was later to become Lord Armadale of Strathy. Honeyman was the first landowner in north Sutherland to realise that his land was worth much more when leased in large blocks to Northumberland sheep farmers than when leased to large numbers of small tenant crofters.
It was just a matter of applied economics to clear these people, forcibly if necessary, from the land they had occupied for generations. Many emigrated to the colonies, often via coastal settlements that rapidly grew to accommodate the displaced crofters. One of these was Strathy. Until the clearances there had been just four crofters in Strathy, a figure which grew to 42, including 20 cleared from Strathnaver.
Today's Strathy is a sparse and scattered community, spread across the wide valley of the River Strathy as it flows into beautiful Strathy Bay. Perhaps the oddest thing about the village is the presence of no fewer than four churches, all built between 1828 and 1910, though two have since been converted to other uses. The earliest of the four churches was built to a standard Thomas Telford design in 1828 and is now a private home. The "disruption" (a schism) in the Church of Scotland in 1843 led to a second being built, and the others followed further divisions that subsequently took place. It seems that even at this time, after parts of the area had been subjected to clearance, there were enough residents to keep the various churches in business.
The striking Village Hall was built with Millennium Commission lottery funds. This now houses a replica of the Strathy Stone, probably an early Christian grave marker dating from about 600AD. The original remains on a nearby hillside, best found by seeking local guidance!
The best place to gain a sense of the layout of Strathy is at the graveyard, high on a bluff on the east side of the river. From here you can see most of the components of the village, and it is also one of the few places from which you can clearly see both the village and the beach of Strathy Bay. The road to the graveyard also provides the best access to the beach.
The west end of Strathy is marked by the Strathy Inn. Nearby is the junction with a minor road that leads two miles north past straggling crofts to a parking area near the tip of Strathy Point. From here you can walk to the Strathy Point Lighthouse. Built in 1958 this was the first in Scotland to be run on electricity, and the last to be built as a manned lighthouse. It was converted to automatic operation in 1996.
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