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.