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Archaeological Landscape (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Badentarbat

Classification Archaeological Landscape (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 116393

Site Number NC01SW 24

NGR NC 0100 1000

NGR Description centred on NC 0100 1000

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Lochbroom
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty


Field Visit (May 1994 - August 1995)

NC01SW 24.00 centrred 0100 1000

24.01 NC 0100 1000 Township (ACHIL94 400-413,415, 420-2, 424)

24.02 NC 0094 1035 Hut-circles; Small cairns; Banks; Lynchets (ACHIL94 414, 416, 418)

24.03 NC 0105 1053 Building: round-ended (ACHIL94 417)

24.04 NC 0139 0999 Building: round-ended; Buildings; Outhouse (ACHIL94 425-6, 434, 486)

24.05 NC 0124 1043 Farmstead; Corn-drying kiln (ACHIL94 428-433)

24.06 NC 0133 1009 Horse-engine platform (ACHIL94 427)

24.07 NC 0119 0969 Sheepfold

24.08 NC 0103 0972 Fishing Station; Sluice; Pond; House

The core of the township of Badentarbat lay between the modern crofting settlements of Achiltibuie and Polbain, in a broad valley opening at its S end onto the shore of Badentarbat Bay. The remains extend N from the shore for about 1km, and are mostly contained within head-dykes which define a rough triangle about 600m broad at its S end, the ground thus enclosed amounting to about 35ha. Within this area there are three hut-circles, about thirty buildings and ancillary structures, several enclosures, and extensive areas of lazy-bed cultivation. The remains are in general well-preserved, except on the E, where the ground close the present Badentarbat House has been improved.

Several periods of occupation can be identified from surface remains, and these are described separately. The bulk of the township, its buildings, dykes, enclosures and cultivation remains, are described together (NC01SW 24.01). Towards the N end of the site, extending beyond the head-dyke, there is a group of hut-circles and associated small cairns (NC01SW 24.02), and close to these, just beyond the head-dyke on the NW, there is a round-ended building, clearly different from and probably earlier than most of the rest of the township. It may be of medieval date (NC01SW 24.03). To the SE of the present house there is a small group of buildings which may also be relatively early (NC01SW 24.04), and to the NNW of the house there are the remains of a farmstead of courtyard plan overlying the line of the head-dyke, and therefore presumably of relatively late date (NC01SW 24.05). One of the outbuildings of the present house, now in use as a garage, has a horse-engine platform against its SE side wall (NC01SW 24.06), and finally, close to the shore there is a sheepfold (NC01SW 24.07) and various features associated with the salmon fishing industry, some of which remain in use (NC01SW 24.08).

Documented in a charter of 1572 as a farm (SRO, GD305/1/5/1), Badentarbet is associated with Tanera in the Coigach rentals (e.g. the 1725 rental; SRO, GD305/1/163/126) until 1763 when Tanera was turned over to a sheep-farm, at which time there were four sub-tenants in Badentarbet under the tacksman Angus MacAulay (SRO, E787/23/3). Peter May's survey of 1758 (SRO, RHP 85395) records eleven acres of arable land and four acres of meadow at Badentarbat, although he shows a great deal more than eleven acres of rigged ground. May's depiction of the limits of the cultivated ground follows quite closely the line of the extant head-dyke, at least around the N end of the arable ground; however it appears that the cultivated ground may not have been wholly enclosed at this time, for in 1758 the sub-tenants refused to countenance a division of the tacksman's lands and their own until the tacksman completed the dyke around the town (SRO, E746/113/14). This seems to have been completed by 1775, when Morrison's plan depicted 'a stone and feal dyke inclosing the arable and made by the present industrious tenants' (SRO, E746/189). He calculated the length of the head-dyke at 536 roods (2.7km), which is approximately the length of the boundary surveyed in 1994, although there have been changes to the precise line of the dyke since Morrison's survey, most notably on the NE, where Morrison's dyke appears to exclude the lazy-beds on the E side of the Allt an Fhealing, some of which are depicted by May. Vouchers granted in lieu of rent for dyke-building in fail (in 1776-80) and stone (in 1782) (SRO, E746/196) may refer to work on this dyke. Morrison gives the same figures for the extent of the arable and meadow (listed as 'good pasture') as May, but he shows considerably less arable, most of it concentrated in the N half of the enclosed ground, with a smaller area at the S end by the shore and a considerable amount of meadow in between. Slightly earlier than May's work is Roy's survey, which appears to show an additional area of cultivated ground farther to the W, where lazy-beds survive to the S of Blair (NC00NW 40.00). Roy's map is at a much smaller scale, and he is frequently unreliable on detail, but it is possible that there was some contraction of the arable ground shortly before May, perhaps a consequence of the aftermath of the 1745 rebellion, and there are references to the removal of tenants in arrears in 1747-8 (SRO, E746/65).

Some idea of the size of the township population is indicated by the eight families which were recorded by the Forfeited Estates Commission in 1755 (SRO, E746/113/2), whilst in 1798 13 male adults were recorded (SRO, GD46/6/45(18)). Both May and Morrison show the main settlement on the site now occupied by Badentarbat House and to the N of it, where a ruined farmstead now stands (24.05). May also depicts a building to the S of the main group, perhaps one of the turf buildings described under NC01SW 24.04. Neither surveyor, however, shows the buildings on the W side of the Allt an Fhealing (NC01SW 24.01), although again it may be worth observing that that is where Roy appears to position a settlement. In 1827 the militia list lists the tacksman, William Mackenzie, five tenants, five other residents and a schoolmaster (SRO, GD305/2/557).

Shortly after 1827 there is some indication of an attempt to divide the town into crofts. First, in 1829 the settlement of Blair makes its appearance (SRO, SC25/22/115) and in 1833 William Mackenzie is described as a sheepfarmer (SRO, SC25/22/134), with the implication that a division between farmers' and the tenants' lands had been achieved. Then in the 1841 Census twelve householders are described as crofters, besides the farmer, a salmon-fisher and a boiler. The tacksman and the tenants were removed in 1842 by the factor (SRO, GD305/2/1848), since the tacksman was in arrears of rent, as he seems to have been from the very first year of his tenancy in 1825-6 (SRO, SC/22/164). The new tenant, from 1845 was Walter Mundell, a sheep-farmer from Dumfries, and from then on it appears Badentarbat was wholly given over to sheep.

The documentation of this period indicates a division of land between the tacksman and the sub-tenants in the 1820s, a common occurrence elsewhere in the Coigach (Baldwin 1994), leading to the creation of allotments and allowing the establishment of sheepfarms which at this stage might often be held by the tacksman. The settlement at Blair may have been created as a result of this division, removing the sub-tenants from the arable of Badentarbet, but without any apparent physical separation of the lands into discrete lots. The site is thus most interesting as an example of a farm in the process of conversion to crofts, but which never progressed to the point of having a permanent delineation of the plots. Unlike most of the farms in the Achiltibuie area, the process of conversion to crofts failed.

Visited by RCAHMS (SDB, PJD) May and August 1994, August 1995

J R Baldwin 1994

Aerial Photography (2 September 1994)


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