Refurbishment of Strathnaver Museum

by Fiona Mackenzie in Bettyhill, Scotland, United Kingdom

Refurbishment of Strathnaver Museum
We did it
On 13th January 2021 we successfully raised £8,324 ( + est. £878.75 Gift Aid ) with 172 supporters in 62 days

Part of the story of the Highland Clearances our 270 year old building is in dire need of some TLC. Find out why it is important below.

by Fiona Mackenzie in Bettyhill, Scotland, United Kingdom

About us


Strathnaver Museum is a community run fully accreditated local history museum telling the story of the Highland Clearances and the social history of north west Sutherland. The idea for a museum emerged over 50 years ago when a dedicated band of local volunteers, supported by historian and broadcaster Dr Ian Grimble, decided to tell their own story. Making use of a redundant building that was in danger of falling into disrepair they put out a call to the public to help build a collection to tell the story of north west Sutherland. 

Today the museum remains community run and the collection continues to grow through innovative community research projects and generous donations of objects and family histories from supporters. The collection encompasses the story of our area from pre-historic times, such as through the intact Bronze Age Chealamy Beaker pictured below, to contemporary accounts of life in Mackay Country. 


Ceramic artist Lorraine Robson with the Chealamy Beaker which inspired her artist residency in 2012

We welcome thousands of visitors every year and use our collection in engaging community projects exploring the heritage of our area.

Our project

Despite our long history we face a number of challenges as our historic building is in urgent need of repair and maintenance. If our building falls into further disrepair there is a real danger that the museum will have to close and the collection put into storage. 

Our project will do more than just carry out essential repairs though as we want to improve the visitor experience by making our building more accessible, improving our displays and interpretation, increasing access to our collection by creating a public research room and installing heating to make the museum more comfortable. At the moment our displays are cramped but we will create an additional building to house our larger agricultural and fishing exhibits. You can view our architects drawings on our website here:


Visitors in the main room of Strathnaver Museum with the pulpit in the background

Our building is perhaps the largest object in the collection as it is an important piece in the story of the Clearances. From the pulpit which still dominates the main room of the building, Rev. David Mackenzie, was obliged to read out eviction notices to his congregation during the Strathnaver Clearances. Later in 1883 it was where crofters and cottars gathered to give evidence to the Napier Commission which eventually led to security of tenure. Betty Mackay who was 16 at the time of her removal from Skail gave evidence in the church in 1883 and said:

"Our family was very reluctant to leave and stayed for some time, but the burning party came round and set fire to our house at both ends, reducing to ashes whatever remained within the walls".

Part of our new interpretation will include recordings of testimonies such as Betty's being played in the main room.


Artwork created by Melvich Primary School telling the story of the Highland Clearances

We have secured significant funding towards the refurbishment and are awaiting the outcome of a number of funding applications but we require £30,000 to take us to our target. This funding will enable us to:

  • remove the inappropriate cement render on the outside of the building revealing the original stonework and restoring the building to its original façade;
  • remove the external staircases which are later additions and are subsiding, a fire escape will be installed to the west gable to comply with fire regulations;
  • create a welcoming entrance space and reduce draughts from the east entrance;
  • repair the original plaster work which is debonding from the ceiling;
  • create a Mackay Centre in the upper west floor with new digital displays, a film, oral histories and traditional displays;
  • install a bridge link joining the east and west upper floor recreating the view that would have been available before the galleries were removed in 1882;
  • create additional gallery space in the currently unused east upper floor;
  • create a public research and reading room opening up access to more of our collection;
  • install insulation in the ceiling and a heating system which will allow us to extend opening in the winter months;
  • build an annex building to the rear of the graveyard to house our agricultural and fishing exhibits freeing up space in the main building;
  • install new family friendly accessible interpretation, digital displays and handling exhibits. 


This project offers rewards in return for your donation. Please select a reward below.

£10 or more

10% Off Voucher

Pledge £10 and you will receive 10% off in Bettyhill Tourist Information Centre, Strathnaver Museum and our online shop! You will receive a voucher which can be used online immediately or in our premises when they are open.

£20 or more

Free group entry and 10% off

Receive 10% off in Bettyhill Tourist Information Centre, Strathnaver Museum and our online shop. You will receive a voucher which can be used straight away online or in our premises when we open. You will also receive an admission voucher to admit you and 5 other people to the refurbished Strathnaver Museum from 2023.

£50 or more

37 of 300 claimed

Your name displayed in the museum

Pledge £50 and you will have your name displayed on a permanent plaque to be erected on the museum site as a thank you. You will also receive a 10% voucher to spend in our retail outlets alongside an admission voucher for yourself and 5 others.

£150 or more

Become a Life Member

Pledge £150 and receive Life Friends Membership to Strathnaver Museum! Life Membership entitles you to free entry, half price for your party, an annual e-newsletter, and free entry to museum events. Become part of Strathnaver Museum by becoming a Lifetime Friend.

£250 or more

1 of 100 claimed

Behind the scenes tour

For £250 you and your friends and family, up to a maximum of 10 persons, can get a behind the scenes tour of the newly refurbished Strathnaver Museum. This guided tour will explore the history of the building, its connections to the Clearances and allow you to get a behind the scenes peek at our store and how our museum protects and preserves your heritage.

£500 or more

1 of 25 claimed

Exclusive pre-view evening event

Be amongst the first to visit the refurbished Strathnaver Museum. To celebrate the opening of Strathnaver Museum you and a partner will be invited to an exclusive pre-view of the refurbished museum site on 17th March 2023. This will include the existing building and new annex which will house an agricultural display. This evening event will include wine and nibbles, music and a presentation about the history of the building and the museum.

£1,000 or more

0 of 10 claimed

Exclusive tickets to our pre-launch weekend events

Receive 2 tickets to the exclusive pre-launch event on 17th March 2023 as described above. Alongside this you will receive 2 tickets to a heritage tour of Mackay Country, to include transportation and lunch on 18th March 2023. Then in the evening you will take part in a ceilidh celebrating the heritage and culture of Mackay Country.

£5,000 or more

0 of 5 claimed

Become a Legacy Donor

As well as receiving tickets to our pre-view evening, heritage tour and celebratory ceilidh on the weekend of 17th to 18th March 2023 you will also become a Legacy Donor. As a Legacy Donor you will receive a Lifetime membership and your name will be entered onto a Legacy Donor plaque which will be displayed in the museum.

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