Well we made it, the ‘Old Girl’, Thompson Glenelg and I are now being buffeted by a rising wind from the east just a few hundred yards from the North Sea. I might as well be on a different planet, my forty year old home looking grossly out of place amongst the chick statics, gleaming white tourers and massive motorhomes. Sure http://www.northumbrianleisure.co.uk/sandhaven_index.php is immaculate, clean, centrally situated and secure.
To me however it feels more like ‘The village’
and I feel like ‘Number 6’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prisoner in the surreal 1960s TV series that got its first airing some 45 years ago this week. Though my pitch here is number 3 and not 6
I may have only been eleven but I can still remember the registration number of Patrick Mcgoohan’s Lotus 7, KAR 120C
This morning I left the calm of rural Perthshire around 10:00am
the rolling hills, mixed woodland and burbling Braan
replaced by a hectic and at times misty A9, then A1 southwards.
The contrast from yesterdays journey could not have been more stark, long gone the leisurely pace of stopping every few miles to admire something, have a rest and let traffic by. This leg of the journey was short on beauty, or at least my vision of it, seldom on stopping places and much busier. In truth it was probably far quieter than normal but to me it was hectic, and whilst I pulled over as often as possible to let folk by it was not until Dunbar that I found a large and empty stopping place where I could relax for a while.
The flooded glens
When I awoke on Saturday morning prior to leaving Arnish I imagined, or should I say thought I’d imagined the distant roaring of a stag. I dismissed it as ‘wishful thinking’ and after doing all my final ‘pre flight checks’ headed south for the ferry. I had all day to get to the highly recommended Invermill caravan park http://www.invermillfarm.com/Invermill/Welcome_to_Invermill.html so was going to make the most of it. The weather was perfect and for once in my life I had no deadline or ferry to catch.
My first stop was a lay by on the A87 on the shores of a much depleted Loch Cluanie, this fresh water loch having been greatly enlarged in the 1950s by the construction of the Cluanie dam a few miles to the east. As part of the electrification of Scotland in the post war years both the lochs of Cluanie and Loyne to the south had been dammed.
Leaving the Land Rover I ventured down to the waters edge across the remains of several clumps of what must once have been substantial trees. The short bursts of traffic along the road being interspersed by spells of silence punctuated by a solitary roaring stag somewhere up one of the glens to the north.
So long had the loch been dry that green growth had started to appear on the fertile peaty soil.
And here it is, the original A87 from sixty years ago looking much better than some of the roads on Raasay in places.
This is one of the old bridges now visible
but I couldn’t stop so used a picture taken by http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/37389 just a few weeks ago.
This is how the area looked in 1939
Here’s a map from 1939 and you can see the A87s original route from Tomdoun to the Cluanie hotel.
If you zoom in on the map you can clearly see the old road where it crosses Loch Loyne where the island is.
This is one of the two bridges that once used the wooded island as a ‘stepping stone’, usually well under the water this picture was taken when the loch was exceptionally low a few years ago.
Here’s the smaller Loch Loyne bridge from Trevor Wright’s picture here http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/969186
The public road network in the West of Scotland was not developed to its current standard until relatively recent times. Many roads used to be improvements on former drovers tracks, and narrow, twisting and steep as they crossed mountain passes.
One famous old road was the "Road to the Isles", a segment of which ran from the current-day Tomdoun Sporting Lodge Hotel north-west past Cluanie Lodge to Cluanie Inn. This passed over two rivers which were dammed and flooded to form Lochs Cluanie and Loyne in around 1957. A new road, the current A87, was constructed around the edge. The old tracks to Loch Loyne are now gated and in private ownership but accessible by walkers and mountain bikers.
Where the "Road to the Isles" crossed what is now Loch Loyne, there were two bridges and a small wooded island. The road, and the small (shown here) and large bridges still exist but are usually wholly or almost wholly submerged below the waterline for much of the year and unreachable and unpassable. However, in September each year, Scottish Hydro Power reduce the level of the water in the Lochs and in early September 2008 it was at exceptionally low levels. The old road and bridges were reachable and indeed passable by walkers or mountain bikers. It should be noted the larger bridge is, from a formal Health and Safety viewpoint, far too dangerous to walk across but many do at their own risk.
The story of the "Road to the Isles" or "The Roof of the Highlands" was covered by Nicholas Crane ("Mapman") in one of his 2007 BBC 2 TV series "Great British Journeys" about the writings of early travellers, in this case H.V. Morton’s tours of Scotland in 1929-33 in a Bullnose Morris car.
Taken from the same source
Anyway it’s 7:25 on Monday now so I’d better get ready for the first day at college