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Clearances - Badbea

Badbea is on the East coast of Caithness, about five miles North of Helmsdale. When the Straths of Langwell, Ousdale and Berriedale were cleared for the establishment of sheep farms, evicted tenants settled in Badbea and hacked out plots of land on the steep hillside.

Badbea is a secluded desolate spot situated on the slopes leading down to the precipitous Berriedale cliffs.

In 1814 the Estate was sold to James Horne and the population numbered around 80 people comprising of 12 families.

The families were industrious and frugal. Every house had its spinning wheel; spinning and carding were learnt by all the young women.

Video Clip:

This video shows the monument which stands amid the ruins of Badbea.


Each family possessed a few head of cattle, a fat pig and an abundance of fish and plenty of good potatoes and milk. Fresh water was obtained from a spring flowing out of the hillside.

Life was hard and very primitive, especially with only one horse in the whole village. There was not even a plough and the chaib (a kind of spade) was used in its place. The harrow was dragged behind a man, and the manure carried on women’s backs in creels.

Fishing was the main employment. Tons of fish could be landed in a day with fish put aside for the widows with young children.

At one time there were 13 fishing boats at Berriedale, which would go out and fish for herring. Women would tether their children and chickens to the rocks while they spent their days gutting the fish, unfortunately, Donald Horne decided to do away with herring fishing for salmon fishing and so another form of employment was gone.

There was some trifling work to be got occasionally on the estate, but the rate of wages was very low. If any young man had the courage to go and work beyond the estate his parents would suffer by being turned out of their house.

Illicit whisky stills were operated in Badbea and a signal system operated to warn when excise men were approaching. Read more about illicit stills .

The monument was erected in 1911 by Donald Sutherland in memory of the people of Badbea including his father, Alexander Sutherland, who was born in Badbea in 1806 and emigrated to New Zealand in 1839. Also listed are the names of some of the other inhabitants of the village. Many emigrated to New Zealand and North America, the last inhabitant leaving in 1911.