Monday, December 27, 2010

Fain Inn

A good five miles from the nearest habitation, a derelict house stands beside the A832 between Dundonnell and Braemore Junction in Wester Ross.

Photo Credit Wilde Tucker. The mountain in the background is An Teallach (pronounced "TCHALL-ach" - gaelic for "The Anvil"
This remote spot - which I drove past this afternoon - is called Fain. (It's from the gaelic word feithean meaning "boggy channels" which is apt because this is on the watershed where streamlets gather amongst the peat bogs to form the Dundonnell River.)

The empty house has something of a reputation as having once been a droving inn called the Fain Inn but I've always had my doubts about this. For a start, it doesn't look old enough to have been a droving inn (even allowing its present corrugated iron roof to have been a later addition). Also, it just doesn't look very "inn shaped", somehow. There's more pictures of the house here.

Photo credit Ben Allison
 Anyway, the amazing wealth of information you can derive from the internet allows me confirm that there was an inn at Fain but this building isn't it. Here's the proof:-

First, Ordnance Survey 6 inch map surveyed in 1875

Note how the inn is marked to the north of the burn running in from the north east.

Next, the present day aerial view from Bing Maps:-

Note how the present day building is south of the burn.

The road from Dundonnell to Braemore is known as the Destitution Road because it was built in the 1840s to provide work for the local tenantry suffering from the potato famine. Before this, the main route east from Dundonnell was directly to Altnaharrie (still a hotel until recently) on the west shore of Loch Broom from where there was a ferry across the loch to Ullapool.

The original Fain Inn, of which no trace now survives, would have been established with the opening of the Destitution Road to Braemore in the 1840s. This was years after droving (taking herds of cattle south to market) had ceased but a Widow Mackinnon was noted as living at Fain in the 1861 census.

Photo credit Photospool

Although I didn't stop at the Fain Inn this afternoon, I did stop a couple of miles south and noted this brass plaque recording the upgrading of the Destitution Road from a single track to double track in the 1960s

Lots of history going on in the remotest of places!