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Local Inns, Housing & Food
Apart from The Blends previously mentioned under Latheronwheel, there was the Latheron Inn or Blackcroft Inn, shown on the 1871 OS map. No evidence of this inn can be seen today, but a modern house stands approximately on the site. A further inn was situated at Guidebest, known as the Gutters (Caithness dialect for mud).
The Statistical Account of 1840 mentions no fewer than 26 public houses in the Parish of Latheron, ‘when six would have been quite sufficient for every necessary purpose’.
The Statistical Account for Caithness-shire for 1840 states that then the ‘the old hovels are fast disappearing and neat substantial houses, having vents or chimney tops in both ends, are occupying their places’. This being obvious reference to the one roomed, low ceiling Cruck cottages, with thatched roof and a hole out of which the smoke from the peat fire eventually escaped.
Houses built after 1914-18 were built with slate roofs.
Food in the 18th Century
At the end of the 18th Century 3 kinds of oats were growing the area, white, black and grey, potatoes were introduced in 1754, clover and turnips by 1780.
Food in the 19th Century
Was oats, bear/bere meal, potatoes and fish of various kinds, each family stocking up with one to three barrels of salt herrings such was the abundance of the ‘Silver Darlings’ at that time (3 barrels would feed a very large family). They also drank ‘ardent spirits and many of them were addicted to these particularly in the winter’. Smuggling was practised and illegal stills existed, although the Statistical Account of 1840 does not mention the latter, plus the fishcurers were in the habit of giving from five to seven gallons of whisky to each boat’s crew in the fishing season which meant that young men were led into drinking habits very early!
In 1880 Latheronwheel was known to be one of the best areas for quality potatoes as the soil was ideal for this crop. Rhona Macgregor remembers crofters in the 1930s going from Latheronwheel to Wick with a cartload, later lorry load of potatoes to sell round the houses, not many though!
Latheron was one of the pockets of cultivation intersecting the moor from Sarclet down to Dunbeath on the coast.