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River Naver
Strathnaver near Achargary.jpg
River Naver near Achargary
Country Scotland
Basin features
Main source Loch Naver
River mouth Bettyhill
Physical characteristics
Length 29 km (18 mi)
The Grummore Broch
Map showing the territory of the Clan Mackay that was known as Strathnaver in relation to Sutherland and Caithness. The boundary is marked with a dashed line. (click to enlarge)

Strathnaver or Strath Naver (Scottish Gaelic: Srath Nabhair) is the fertile strath of the River Naver, a famous salmon river that flows from Loch Naver to the north coast of Scotland. The term has a broader use as the name of an ancient province also known as the Reay Country (Scottish Gaelic: Dùthaich MhicAoidh), once controlled by the Clan Mackay and extending over most of northwest Sutherland.


Loch Naver lies at the head of the strath, in the shadow of Ben Klibreck. The loch is 10 km (6 mi) long and 33 m (108 ft) deep. The Altnaharra Hotel at the western end of the loch has been used by anglers since the early 19th century. The loch is fed by two rivers (Mudale and Vagastie) and several burns. Just below the loch, the Naver is joined by the River Mallart coming down from Loch Choire. It then flows through the Naver Forest and under the road bridge at Syre. The Langdale Burn and Carnachy Burn are other major tributaries as the strath widens out and flows into the sea at Bettyhill.

Most of Strathnaver lies in the ecclesiastical and former civil parish of Farr named after a village on the coast northeast of Bettyhill, where the former parish church now houses the Strathnaver Museum. Today it is administered as part of the Highland Council area.


The Nabaros is mentioned by the Egyptian writer Ptolemy in the 2nd century and is shown on his map.[1] The name may derive from nabh, an Indo-European root meaning "cloud".[1] There is evidence of Neolithic settlements in the strath, including a "village" on the raised beach opposite Bettyhill.

There are several brochs in the strath and on the hills on either side, including one by Loch Naver at Grummore dating to between 100BC and 100AD.[2]

The Vikings were finally defeated at the Battle of Dalharrold, at the east end of Loch Naver in the late 12th century.

The area is traditionally associated with Clan Mackay but was coveted by the Earls of Sutherland for many centuries before they finally bought it from the Mackay clan chief Lord Reay early in 1829. In 1230 the title Lord Strathnaver was created as a courtesy title for the heir to the earldom.

Angus Dow Mackay, the ancestor of all the Mackay chiefs, attained power in around 1408. By 1427 he was important enough to be one of the chiefs summoned to a parliament in Inverness, where they were arrested by James I.[3] At that time he had 4000 men under his command[3] according to the Scotichronicon; such power led to his nickname of Enneas-en-Imprissi, "Angus the Absolute".

In 1578, John Robson and Alexander Gordon, 12th Earl of Sutherland fought the men of Strathnaver in the battle of Creag-Drumi-Doun, up on Druim Chuibhe opposite Bettyhill.[4]

Strathnaver saw some of the most notorious forced evictions of the Highland clearances carried out by Patrick Sellar on behalf of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland. [5] The first was at Grummore in 1814.

The result was the transformation of the strath from traditional subsistence agriculture to sheep farming. Subsequently, in the early 20th century the lower part of the strath between Syre and Invernaver was laid out as crofts to create the landscape seen today.

Natural history[edit]

The River Naver is designated a Special Area of Conservation due to its importance for Atlantic salmon ( Salmo salar), and Freshwater pearl mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera).[6] At one time there was a significant pearl fishery on both the Naver and Mallart.[6]


The river has long enjoyed a reputation as a productive salmon river. The area is now being marketed to non-fishermen as "Mackay Country".

The B873 road runs along the west side of the strath from Altnaharra, alongside Loch Naver, to Syre, from whence the B871 continues to a junction with the A836 a few miles south of Bettyhill. These roads together with an unclassified road running south from the east end of the Invernaver bridge through Skelpick, connect the Strathnaver Trail of historic sites.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Strathnaver Trail (PDF), Highland Council, 2003  - good general history of the area.
  2. ^ Mackenzie, A.F.D.A. F. D. (July 2004), "Re-imagining the land, North Sutherland, Scotland", Journal of Rural Studies, 20 (3): 273–287, doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2003.11.001 
  3. ^ a b Mackenzie, Alexander, History of the Mackenzies, p. 67 
  4. ^ Site Record for Creag-Drumi-Doun; Strathnaver, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland . Places Creag-Drumi-Doun at grid reference NC695610
  5. ^ Prebble, John. The Highland Clearances, Secker & Warburg, 1963. Chapter 2 - The Year of the Burnings
  6. ^ a b River Naver SAC, Joint Nature Conservation Committee 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 58°22′N 4°14′W / 58.367°N 4.233°W / 58.367; -4.233