For a thousand years up to the late 18th century, most people in rural Scotland lived in a township; there were once more than 4,000 of these. Similar settlements once existed across much of Northern Europe. Most of a township consisted of the outrun, poor quality hill and mountain land used as rough grazing. The townships bred cattle, and once a year in the autumn those that were ready for sale would be collected by a drover and walked to market in Glasgow, Falkirk or Crieff. The women would also make butter and cheese, some of which might be sold or, along with hens, eggs and barley, used to pay the rent. Close to the buildings was the infield used to grow crops like oats, barley, peas and beans, and, from about 1780, potatoes. This land was constantly cropped like a modern vegetable garden, and was divided into narrow strips known as rigs. These were allocated between the tenants by drawing lots, with one-third of the land being “lotted” every year. This ensured everyone had the same chance of getting both the good and the bad land. This system was called runrig: in Gaelic roinn-ruithe, spoken “ryen-rooee”.
Every township housed some people who were not tenants, known as cottars. Some cottars were specialist craft workers such as weavers, others lived in the township but worked elsewhere, and some traded their labour to the tenants in return for a piece of land and the right to keep a few animals. We know that at different times the people of Auchindrain included a weaver, a tailor, several stonemasons and a fisherman.