We came back from the Glen Coe gift shop with a bag of books which makes a nice change from tablet and nougat and my two are magic, full of old photies of two of my favourite places.
The mountains are only half the story, the roads that take us there and the communities that thrive or dwindle below their slopes are a vital part of the whole experience. Like camping high on the hills, learning a little more beyond where the local garage is brings me a little more understanding and maybe an empathy to the environment where the hills stand. Mountains are so much more than a tickable list of names and heights after all.

Old Glencoe and Ballachulish has such a dramatic cover with a horse and cart on the old road in front of Bidean Nam Bian. It’s a landscape that looks so familiar but when you look deeper there are big changes.
The road is the first one, the new road built in the 30s takes a different route and makes the glen more accessible and perhaps oddly increases its drama for me. The steepest and most dramatic of ridges and buttress rising on both sides of the A82 makes the ultimate contrast where the old road where it can still be followed feels so natural.
Next up are trees, look above, not one tree where now indigenous trees are creeping up the hillsides from the river. Some progress is good.

There’s shots taken all through the glen, of  a very different “Glen Coe Village”, which as we all know is a made up name and the new gaelic road signs up there have the real name of A’ Chàrnaich on them which is nice. There’s great shots of Ballachulish showing the railway, the slate mine and the pier, the village was really thriving at one time. What do folk see these days? A dreary hidden village that flashes past on the way to Fort Bill unless you’re trying to park for Beinn a Bheither.
There’s a wealth of information here, the photies really tell a story with Guthrie Hutton filling in the details

Old Arrochar and Loch Long has less mountain stuff in it, the loch was such a focus in the past and that’s where those old cameras were pointed a lot of the time. That’s the Paddle Steamer Jeannie Deans at Arrochar Pier below, a legend of the River Clyde with the unmistakable outline of the Cobbler watching from above. Narrator PJG Ransom seems to have an affinity with the water based subjects.
Rural life is well represented here, farming and fishing, the signs of which are now hard to spot, even the pier below is now only a stump disconnected from the shore.
The impression is that the area was really out there until the new road was built, there were still old long houses (low walls and thatched roofs) being lived in until the 50s, half an hour from my door.

As time moves forward relative distance decreases and our understanding along with it.

Both these book are fantastic and highly recommended, full of rare photies and quality narration. Published by Stenlake Publishing Limited.

14 thoughts on “Books”

  1. A recent visit to Ben Vane had me curious about the Loch Sloy hydro scheme so a little reading was in order. I was surprised that electricity only got to Arrochar in 1948 as a bi-product of the construction works. Also, the old road bridge in front of the power station is a curious relic.

    As you say, scratch the surface of these areas and many surprises are revealed.


  2. A similar story at Kinlochleven, they were one of the first places to get street lights because of the power station built for the aluminium works.
    Some good links for Loch Slopy and Arrochar stuff here too: The Power Station being opened Scrioll right for some excellent photies, it’s a great site in general this one.
    A great site this one:

    See that bridge in front of the dam, that’s actually quite recent, I though they were diverting the road over a new bridge when they were building it and didn’t. No idea what its for?!

  3. Glad to see a link to the RCAHMS. All this talk of ‘modern’ history might demonstrate to people that archaeology isn’t just about the Romans et al! Sorry to butt in and preach to the converted, but I get sick of clients tell me things can’t be important if they are on a 19th or 20th century map…

  4. I love the more recent stuff, it’s a tangible history, the marks made are by people and tools I can relate too.
    I can see a Glasgow that I knew when I was young that’s already gone, maps from even 40 years ago look so different.

  5. Indeed, me to. There’s no doubt that’s why I like urban/industrial archaeology (and you get to look at maps all day!).
    As to your second point, that, so I’m led to believe, is called progress ;-)

  6. Progress is just movement, it can be forward or back.

    I love maps, old maps especially, probably why I like the Harvey BMM’s.
    I’ll need to scan my 1920’s Loch Lomond tourist map and post some of that.

    Talking of RCAHMS, just used it to locate the lead mine shafts at Tyndrum and plan a wee exploration.

  7. Definitely why I didn’t offer a qualifier!
    Some of the best days I’ve had in the hills have been surveying lead mining sites in the Lakes and Weardale. Do enjoy – just don’t fall in any of the shafts ;-)

  8. Aye – Alluminium plant was a deliberste attempt to industrialise the highlands, which was regarded as a good thing at the time. Changed days?

    I see that the A82 is one of the winners in the Scottish budget today. I prese that you will be chuffed.

  9. Forestry, hydro schemes, a fine replacement for just shooting and sheep farming estates?
    The way the Highlands have been used/dealt with is always an interesting one.

    I hope the A82 budget is enough a tunnel from Balloch to Crianlarich for the use of locals only :o)

  10. I’m sure I’ve seen parts of that old road near the A82 before. I’ve definitely seen what looked like an old road at some point near it anyway.

  11. It weaves in and out the current road, some of the A82 is over the old road.
    A cracking bit runs from the Buachaille Etive Beag car park to near Jimmy Savilles house, it’s higher up the hill. The other obvious bit is the long bit to Kings House.

    Nice to explore these things.

  12. excellent links pete :-) cheers!

    Thats wee stockin fillers for ma n pa’s christmas sorted now!!

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