Assynt Text



Principal Sources


OSA Vol 16 No 8 1793


RMS I App 2 Index A No 864 (p 570)

RMS I App 2 Index B No 6 (p 570)

RMS II (238) 1440, (1404) 1478 on original of 1455, (3202) 1507-8, (3578) 1511

RMS IV (2019) 1571-2

RMS V (1729) 1590


RSS II (2514) 1538, (4371) 1541


RRS VI (487) 1343 & APS XII Supplement No 14


RS36/2/24r 1606, RS36/2/25r 1606


GD84/1/11/15 1636

GD84/1/12/1 1634

GD84/2/2 1504

GD305/1/85/84 1640

GD305/1/87/107 1642

GD305/1/98/226 1640


Retours (Ross) (35) 1614, (42) 1616, (79) 1633


NLS MS 19308 f 4 – Genealogy of the Family of Assint 1739


RHP 1672/1-16


The following are available online via the National Library of Scotland’s Digital Map Library:

NLS Dep.313/3585 John Home’s Survey of Assynt in 1774:

1 – Plan of the Farm of Oldernay

2 – Plan of the Farms of Clashnessie, Auchnagarnan, Culken, Clashmore and Bellachlatach

3 – Plan of the Farms of Storie, Clachtoll and Auchmelvich

4 – Plan of the Farms of Brackloch, Inver, Torbreck, Baddedaroch and Batachrianan

5 – Plan of the Farms of Loch Beanoch, Nedd, Drumbeg and Culkein

6 – Plan of the Farms of Glenlirag and Ardvare

7 – Plan of the Farms of Unapool and Reintraid

8 – Plan of the Farms of Auchamore and Little Assynt

9 – Plan of the Farms of Ederahalda and Kirktown

10 – Plan of the Farms of Inch-na-daff and Tubeg

11 – Plan of the Farms of Stroncruby and Layn

12 – Plan of the Farms of Duchlash, Polgarvier, Drumsurdland and Philin

13 – Plan of the Farms of Knockneach, Culach and Inverchirkag

14 – Plan of the Farm of Ledbeg

15 – Plan of the Farms of Ledmore and Ailfin

16 – Plan of the Farms of Knockon, Aultnachie and Cromald


NLS Acc.10225/251 Plan of Clashmore Farm in Assynt, 1879

NLS Acc.10225/252 Plan of Clashmore Farm in 1888

NLS Acc.10225/257 Feuing plan of Lochinver, 1880

NLS Acc.10225/260a  Map showing the River Inver from Culag to Tomore, n.d.

NLS Dep.313/3588 Plan of intended road from Loch Inver by the Portenleick Ferry. Surveyed by George Brown, 1793.


Macfarlane’s Geographical Collections II p 545

A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland, from its origin to the year 1630; written by Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun, Baronet, with a continuation to the year 1651. Edinburgh, 1813. (Hereafter: Earldom (Gordon)).

Sutherland Estate Management (SHS) Vol I p 45 ff

Adam, R.J., (ed.), John Home’s Survey of Assynt, Scottish History Society, Edinburgh, 1960


Caithness & Sutherland Records Vol I, Part VII, London, 1913 pp 173-4 gives the islands granted by Robert II to Farquhar ‘leche’ (doctor) in 1386. These lay round the NW & N coast of Sutherland between Rhu Stoer in Assynt and Rhu Armadale. (See Durness text file for further references).



Our earliest evidence for land-assessment in Assynt is found in RRS VI (487) of 1343 which tells us there were 4 davachs in Assynt which were held for service with a boat of 20 oars.


RMS II (238) 1440 shows the Kynnarde family then owned Assent (Assynt). It seems that it had come down to Alan of Kynnarde through his mother Egidia de Moravia de Colbine. (See also Illustrations of the Topography and Antiquities of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff, Vol III, p 267).


We know that Assynt was regarded as part of the bishopric of Caithness – and therefore not part of Ross. See Sibbald’s Topographical Notices of Scotland (Adv.MS.34.2.8 ff 122v-123r) transcribed by Dr Jean Munro on the National Library of Scotland maps website. (This is the source for material in Macfarlane’s Geographical Collections Vol II p 545):


‘The lenght of Ross is 50 myle from Kintaill to Tervatnesss the breadth therof from the Stok foord [the Stockford of Ross] or nordeastsyd of the River Farrar parting it from the Bishoprik of Murray is 30 myl to Assin whilk is in the Bishoprik of Cathnes’.


RMS II (1404) 1478, on original of 1455, tells us that ‘Sorleti rectoris de Assend’ [Sorley, rector of Assynt], signed along with the cathedral chapter of Caithness. This is the basis for the statement in OPS II, II p 622, that the rectory of Assynt was one of three (Sutherland) prebends ‘subsequently instituted’. We may not have a supporting documentary trail but this appears a safe assumption. RMS V (1729) 1590 refers to the houses of the rector and the vicar of Assynt in the ‘channonrie’ of Dornoch (the episcopal seat).


Sir Robert Gordon in Earldom (Gordon) is also an important source:


Southerland is seperat from Assint [Assynt] by the Gorm-Logh, [Gorm Loch Mòr, NC 3124/3224] Fin-Logh, [Fionn Loch Mòr, NC 3323, Fionn Loch Beag, NC 3322/3422] and  Loghmarkell; [Loch an Eircill NC 3027] toward Toin-Ne-Toyne [Na Tuadhan, NC 3021] by the Glasiom [?], lying northeast from the Bin-More [Ben More, NC 3120] in Assint; by the Eynagh of Bin-More in Assint, [Meall an Aonaich, NC 3316] inclyning to Glen-Muck; [Gleann na Muic, NC 3613/3713] and by Strathnordell [?] falling into Kean Logh Eilsh, [Kin Loch Ailsh, NC 3110/3111] the mother of the river Oikell. [River Oykel]


Essentially the boundary he gives is a line that runs SE from Loch Glencoul via Loch an Eircill, Gorm Loch Mor and Fionn Loch Mor. These lochs straddle Druim Alban – the ridge or spine of Scotland. Loch an Eircill and its feeder burns drain west into Glen Coul (and thence the Atlantic). Gorm Loch Mor and Fionn Loch Mor drain east into the R. Cassley (and thence into the North Sea). On p 5 Gordon writes:

There are fyve laiks lying together in the hight of the parish of Lairg, called the Fin-loches. …

These lochs were the western boundary of Lairg and the eastern border of Assynt.


Sir Robert Gordon was always keen to point out that the earldom of Sutherland included Assynt, Edderachylis and Strathnaver:

p 2

Assint wes, in former tymes, a pairt of Sutherland, and of the barony of Skelbo, as appeirs by ane infeftment given of the same to the lairds of Kinnaird, who had somtymes the lands of Skelbo.

p 18

for the cuntrey of Assint apperteyned, in former tymes, to the erledome of Southerland.

and then referring to the bishopric of Caithness:

this diocie [diocese] doth not onlie contayne the cuntrey of Catteynes, bot also Sutherland, Strathnaver, Assint, Durines, and Edderachilis


The OSA lays out the farms and boundaries of Assynt in 1793 in remarkable detail. It catalogues the boundary dispute between Assynt and Criech in the area of Beinn Uidhe. (In fact the various boundary issues are described at length between pages 166-171). Despite the disputes it is plain that the oldest territorial divisions here lay along watersheds – with Clach na Caillich probably serving as an ancient boundary stone. The OSA (p 200) also gives interesting souming data for each oxgate.


According to the OSA, Assynt consisted of 4 davachs:

1) Ard-assynt (Upper-Assynt) between the River Skiak and Knockan (i.e from the North side of Loch Assynt to the East end of Loch Veyatie).

2) Edraisk (between the Kirkaig and Inver rivers – literally ‘between two waters’).

3) From the Inver river to Row-Store-Point (Point of Stoer)

4) Slish-a-chilish (‘the slope above the narrows’) between Oldney & Unapool.


In fact we can take these divisions back another 200 years to notes made by Timothy Pont, probably in the period 1583-1595. These found their way into Sibbald’s Topographical Notices of Scotland (Adv.MS.34.2.8 ff 145v-146r) which are transcribed by Dr Jean Munro on the National Library of Scotland maps website. (This is the source for material in Macfarlane’s Geographical Collections Vol II p 600). They read:


The cowntrey of Assyn is devyded in 4 parts. the first Sliss-cheules [i.e. 4 above], it lyeth upon Chewles-gung [i.e. Caolas Cumhann or Kylesku]. the secund is Etera Viisk [i.e. 2 above], reaching from the river Trallighyr [Traligill] to the river Chireag [Kirkaig] devyding Assyn from Coygach. the third is Row-stoir [i.e 3 above – Rhu Stoer] wher a great headland shooteth into the sea fornent the yle of Lewis. the fourt is Brae Assyn [i.e. 1 above], being the inland cowntrey.


There is another version of this at ff 121v-122r of the same notes or Macfarlane II p 545.


Robert Gordon of Straloch, writing before 1654, (Macfarlane II p 445) states that Assynt extended between the River ‘Chireaig’ [Kirkaig] and the Bay of ‘Chewliscung’ [Caolas Cumhann or Kylesku].


I doubt there was any significant change affecting Assynt’s 4 davachs between 1343 and 1793. In fact, their bounds may have been drawn many centuries before 1343. I am always wary of boundaries which utilise rivers (or lochs) since the most ancient boundaries were, I believe, founded upon watersheds and drainage-basins. However it is possible that in the foregoing descriptions the actual boundaries were the ridges above the rivers (or lochs).


Each davach was divided into 8 oxgates making a total of 32 oxgates for Assynt. In 1793 the half-oxgate of Camore made up the minister’s glebe.


Quite apart from the comprehensive report in the Old Statistical Account we also have John Home’s Survey and Plans for the farms of Assynt dating from 1774 and the documents assembled in the Scottish History Society’s two volumes of ‘Sutherland Estate Management’ (e.g. Vol I pp 45-55, 216-217). Together these give us a complete and reliable overview of the agricultural structure of the district. There are few parts of the Highlands where we can be so sure of our ground. There is no reason to doubt that the land-assessment situation in Assynt was stable between 1343 and 1793 (a period of 450 years) and probably long before 1343 also.


John Home’s Survey of Assynt pp 64-66 prints a rental from 1775. There is a column showing the ‘Old Rent’ in Scots merks. The values shown here may provide our best clues as to the ‘extent’ of the individual farms.


Assynt (and Eddrachilis to the north) seem to have been part of the barony of Skelbo before 1525.


NLS MS 19308 ff 4 & 11 – Genealogy of the Family of Assint 1739 – give the ‘4 Davoch of Assint’.


Retours (Ross) (35) 1614 & (42) 1616 give ‘Assent’ with an Old Extent of 8m and a New Extent of 32m. (New Extent at ‘4 x Old Extent’ is a common multiplier in the Retours). This would make a davach worth 2m (OE) but the evidence is late and needs support.


Retours (Ross) (79) 1633 gives the lands and barony of Assint with an Old Extent of 8m and a New Extent of 22m. (22m is a simple mistake for 32m).


There is a Cnoc Dabhaich at NC 0723/0823. The Gordon/Blaeu map Extima Scotiae marks Dachamailler to NW of this (as does Gordon(3)). I have no other evidence for this place-name.


It may be that the boundary between Assynt and Edderachylis was subject to change. GD84/1/11/15 of 1636 is a renunciation by Donald McCleod of Assint to Donald, Lord of Reay of:


Glencowle                                           [Glencoul]

Island Diura or Island Oldinie                        [Oldany Island]

Mellalands                                           [Meall Mor & Meall Beag?]

Crona etc                                             [Eilean Chrona]

in the parish of Creiche.


Glencoul Farm (NC 2730) is by the boundary between Assynt and Edderachylis. Oldany Island and Eilean Chrona lie off the coast of Assynt. Meall Mor & Beag are islands roughly midway between Assynt and Edderachylis. According to a 1634 disposition printed in the Book of Mackay pp 288-9, ‘Mell-Alands’ was then associated with Edderachylis. It may be that in the 17th century the boundary between Assynt and Edderachylis was fluid. It is also noticeable that Assynt was regarded as within the parish of Creich. (See J Gray, SHR 20 p 286). I doubt this was the case in early mediaeval times. I suspect the earliest parishes began or ended with Druimalban. Probably Creich did not stretch across the watershed but there is insufficient data to work out the early parish structure.


OPS II, II 693 notes that Assynt is the only church in the diocese of Caithness not included in Bishop Gilbert’s charter (1223-1245) establishing the chapter of Caithness. OPS concludes that Assynt may have been part of Criech parish. I doubt this but the early parochial status of Assynt remains problematic.


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