Old Tracks to Backlass and Thulachan
Start location: Loch More Cottage (ND 083 461)
End location: Thulachan (ND 110 408)
Geographical area: Caithness
Path Type: Rural Path
Path distance: 6.5km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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This path and its branches served the pre-clearance farmsteads south of Loch More. For most of the route the path is in good condition, but the final section to Thulachan is over wet ground. There is a ford which might be impassable in spate conditions.
Start at the end of the unclassified road at Loch More Cottage (ND083461). Cross the bridge over the Thurso River. Where the track divides at ND085454 take the right hand branch. At ND084447 the track crosses the Allt nam Beist, which once powered a watermill. A millstone can be seen lying at the side of the track and about 200m east can be found the low mounds which are all that remain of the mill, together with the mill lade fed by a dam further upstream.
The track now passes the former township of Achscoriclate and the supposed remains of St Bridget’s Chapel. A well-preserved corn drying kiln can be seen at the end of one of the house ruins. The track ends at the former township of Backlass (ND080424) where a stone circle from a much earlier era can be found among the stone dykes of the farmstead, with a recumbent standing stone a short distance away.
Return by retracing the outward route until 200m north of Achscoriclate where a track branches south east at ND083443. Follow this track to a ford, where the remains of shieling huts can be seen. Continue to the former township of Balavreed and its later farmstead. From here a diversion (no path) can be made to the township of Buailemor, 800m to the west, where the remains of a corn drying kiln can be found.
South of Balavreed the path deteriorates, but can be easily followed over wet ground to Thulachan (ND110408) which soon comes into view at the south end of Lochan Thulachan. Here again a later farmstead stands in place of the old township. This house was later used as a shooting lodge.
Return the same way towards Balavreed. A short diversion 200m east reveals the well-preserved footings of a shieling hut at Bad a’ Chlamhain (ND109419). After Balavreed the track branches at ND094434. Take the right hand branch. This is a later estate road which leads back to Loch More Cottage.
This is an area with a long history of human occupation. There are hut circles and cairns from the Bronze/Iron Age. In medieval times Loch More Castle (Caisteal Morar na Shein) was situated where Loch More Cottage now stands. The better ground was farmed and at least five townships lay in the area south of the loch until they were cleared to make way for sheep farming. The 19th century farmsteads which replaced them were occupied until the mid-20th century. The area is now a sporting estate. The paths to the old townships are still walked by local people and visitors alike.