What is crofting?

Crofting is a legal system of agriculture land tenure in the North and West of Scotland. A croft is actually a piece of land (not a house!).

Crofts vary a lot and the only real distinction between a croft and a farm or smallholding is that the croft will be legally registered as a croft. In general (and what we have here, in Elphin), crofts are reasonably small (1 to 5 hectares) and are grouped together in townships.

Crofts are usually on the best areas of land in the township and there is usually a large area of “rough grazing” that is shared by all the crofters – this is called the Common Grazing. Most crofters have livestock – mainly sheep and, less often, cows.

Crofting law was created towards the end of the Highland Clearances as a way to give crofters secure rights to their land, to stop them being forced off the land and away from their homes. While the current system of crofts is based on an imperfect, already very oppressed and exploited system of land tenure, the culture of crofting – of working together within a township to manage agricultural ground, livestock and resources – has its roots in much older gaelic and clan culture.