A small family farm in the Scottish Highlands, raising heritage breed livestock, and using regenerative and sustainable practices – old and new – to bring the family farm back from 30 years of neglect. Share our journey with us!

1. Scottish a flock of sheep
2. Scottish the land grazed by a flock of sheep
– http://www.merriam-webster.com

The Hirsel:
A small family farm in the Scottish Highlands

There are many ways to farm the land. And many ways to be shepherds. Our animals aren’t pets, but neither are they purely ‘produce’. Even those meant for the abattoir are given the best care and the most love we can, while they’re with us. We do our best to respect our animals’ natural behaviors, while nudging those behaviors in a direction which creates easily handled animals – whether they will be staying with our home flock, or being sold on. They’re important and valued members of the Hirsel team, working with us to regenerate the farm and increase the health of our soils and all that live here on the land.

Our ‘softly softly’ approach to reclaiming the farm from 30 years of neglect means that we balance the need to cultivate enough land to tend to ourselves and our domestic animals, but leave as much ‘wild’ as we can to encourage many species of birds and small mammals to take up residence with us. Field margins, birch copses, ancient woodland and the far reaches of our small bog host passing dear, a fox family, buzzards and woodpeckers, red squirrels, rebel pheasants, and shy hedgehogs. We’re doing all we can to help our land, livestock, and wildlife flourish on The Hirsel, including participating in a 5-year Scottish government Agri-Environmental scheme, which covers one of our largest fields, part of our ancient woodland, and our wetlands. In 2022, the RBST recognized our efforts, when they ‘highly commended’ us as a sustainable food producer.

We raise pure bred Hebridean sheep for their wool, meat, and conservation grazing benefits. A native Scottish breed, these sheep have survived near extinction, and are gaining in popularity again. We breed both the modern HSS registered (small black, usually 2-horned) lines, as well as the old more varied lines: reddish (‘raddie’), greys (‘silverback’), and whites (very rare, due to historical culling practices). In the autumn of 2021 we added a 4-horned ram to our flock. The multi-horned characteristic of this breed was one of the reasons rare breed keepers first collected them, saving them from extinction. Though most keepers breed for 2-horns now, in 2022 we are very pleased to welcome our first batch of 4-horned lambs to the Hirsel.

They’re here!

The Bees arrived in July 2022, and we have a lot to learn, but love having them on the farm. We’re looking forward to enjoying some Hirsel Honey next year!

Our Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs – Basil, Ginger and Saffron – joined us in the autumn of 2019. This docile and hardy breed is perfect for our mixed terrain farm, and for our style of animal husbandry. They settled in nicely, free ranging through one of our rougher bits of wet/woodland, turning it up and opening up the overgrowth – making room for more critters to set up housekeeping with us.

In February 2022, we brought 3 hens and a cockerel onto the farm. Scots Dumpys are another native species that nearly went extinct. Saved by dedicated fans, this dual-use breed is still on the RBST watchlist – though we don’t see why, given their great characters, striking plumage…and a propensity to multiply – by September our little flock had grown to 14!

Located in an area of outstanding natural beauty, the Hirsel enjoys stunning views across the farm to the Dornoch Firth.