Destitution Road again: return to Fain House


The Destitution Road crosses the Fain — high boggy moorland in Dundonnell, Wester Ross-shire, under An Teallach mountain in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland. My brain keeps wanting to autocorrect it to the Desolation Road, for its remote and isolated situation on empty, open moorland — empty except for the Fainmore House.

But the road’s origins explain both its name and the desolate scene it sits in, because these Highlands weren’t always as uninhabited as they are. In the 1840s, the Highlands were hit by successive plagues of potato blight, wiping out the crops that were the foundation of most people’s diet. Government relief was eventually offered, in the form of oatmeal rations, but, in keeping with the era of the workhouse, this was strictly a workfare scheme.

Meanwhile, a third of Scotland’s population emigrated, and those who remained gravitated towards the lowland cities of the central belt, leaving the depopulated landscape that today we easily mistake for the Highlands’ normal condition.

Nobody seems to be sure what the Fain House was, according to this blog, other than that it’s not the inn which would originally have accompanied the road and now is no more.

Both pictures were quick snaps taken while passing and with deadlines to be elsewhere. The first is from 2011, on a bleak day of relentless rain and headwinds, in the middle of a big early-spring tour scouting locations and getting a better idea of the lie of Britain’s land.

I finally got to return this past autumn, but with a lot of kms still to cover, could only shoot the warm evening scene with the Sony RX100 V. Having a compact camera in my pocket again, 12 years after first getting a SLR, has been brilliant. I fear that 12 years of using the SLR not just for the serious photography, but also just to fire off snaps to document the journey along the way (or to post something frivolous on twitter later), has often made me lazy when it comes to using it for the serious stuff. Now that it sits in a pannier, I’m forced to stop and think about how I use it — while the Sony takes very serviceable travelogue snaps, I hope you agree.

The A832 Destitution Road and Fannich Forest mountains – photocatalyst

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