Drove roads in and around Eastern Sutherland

When Scotland was a pastoral country, movement of livestock between and within pastoral communities was of fundamental importance for life to be sustained.  Cattle had to be moved for breeding, for grazing, for trading purposes and of course thieving. Trails and drove roads developed ; the latter particularly to drive cattle to trysts or markets where they could be sold.

On the road to Portree at Bernisdale 1930s

On the road to Portree at Bernisdale 1930s, source: Creativestarlearning.co.uk

Large cattle markets or trysts developed in Crieff and Falkirk during the 18th and 19th centuries. English and Scottish merchants came there to buy cattle and latterly sheep while drovers from the Highlands of Scotland drove their livestock along the drove roads to the tryrsts. There were relatively small cattle-fairs that developed in different positions on he road and some of these would be religious fairs associated with parish churches such as Dornoch Cathedral.
Streams of cattle from the far north would move down the east coast by Helmsdale and Brora and they would be joined by drves coming from Strath Naver and Strath Halladale. Cattle were also driven to the south from Sutherland Estates in Golspie.
For the cattle from Caithness and East Sutherland, the Kyle of Sutherland and Dornoch Firth were formidable obstacles on the route o the south and some of the beasts may have been taken across at the Meikle Ferry near Skibo while other droves preferred to cross the Kyle at Creiich.
Until the beginning of the 19th century very little by the way of roads existed  north of Inverness. There were tracks for pack-horses and cattle, and there were bridges over the small rivers but not the larger ones like the Conon and Beauly.
The droves after crossing the Kyle of Sutherland probably crossed the high ground between the Dornoch and Cromarty Firths along the present day Sruie Road by Altnamain Inn, thence past Alness and Beauly to Inverness.


Dangis Laurinavicius is a computer consultant and project manager. He is also an editor and administrator of highland.today You can find more information about his business on evelixcomputers.com

You may also like...