Sunday, May 1, 2016

Desolation Road?

The postcard above, looking south east along the A832 between Dundonnell and Braemore Junction in Wester Ross, caught my eye for depicting the single track road and narrow bridge which existed before this stretch of road was widened to double track in the early 1960s.

Then I noticed the caption on the card: "Desolation Road". It seems an apt enough description for such a remote spot but in fact it's a mistake: the actual name of this stretch is "The Destitution Road".

I have a mental picture of the publisher of the postcard saying to himself: "It says here Destitution Road but surely that can't be right - it must be Desolation." But anyway, the reason why the road is so-called is that it was built around 1850 with public money to provide employment for locals who had been left destitute by the Potato Famine in the 1840s. The publishers of the postcard below got it right:-

Looking back north from a point just past where the road disappears over the horizon in the first postcard

Another stretch of the A832 - that along Loch Maree between Kinlochewe and Slattadale - was built at the same time in similar circumstances. There are probably other "destitution roads" in the north and west of Scotland but, so far as I know, the one between Dundonnell and Braemore is the only one locally so called - if anyone knows differently, do leave a comment.

The original road built along Loch Maree around 1850 was realigned in the late 60s/early 70s and these lovely old retaining walls are now abandoned and crumbling into the loch

The three red stars mark the locations of the photographs above.

As I was annotating that map, I remembered I'd written a post about five years ago about the Fain Inn which used to lie on the Destitution Road almost exactly half way between the first two photographs above. That post also explained why the road was so-called and the photo at the end of it - which is repeated below - shows the builder's plaque dated 1963 on the bridge built to replace the one in the photo at the top of this post when this stretch of the A832 was widened to double track. More about nearby Dundonnell here as well. Sorry for the repetition between posts!

EDIT 14/11/16 - I read here (page clxxiv) that the road from Lairg to Scourie (A838 to Laxford Bridge then A894) was built in 1847 half with money collected for the relief of Highland Destitution and half at the expense of the Duke of Sutherland. So that's a sort of "Half Destitution Road." 

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