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A person walking over a Wade bridge on the Corrieyairack Pass.  Taken by Peter Sanders. Heritage Paths Project
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Path of the Month
The Fish Road
The Fish Road

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The Fish Road

Start location: Little Garve, east of Gorstan (NH 396 629)
End location: A835 1km west of the Aultguish Inn (NH 342 706)

Geographical area: Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey
Path Type: Trade Route, Drove Road
Path distance: 10.5km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians

Route Description

From Little Garve follow the road west round to its junction with the realigned A835. Cross it and go up the verge to the concrete planks over the ditch and climb steeply to rejoin the original path at a stile. Go north-west through the forest along a good track for 2km and continue north out of the forest on the west side of Creagan an Eich Ghlais and past Lochan nam Breac.
The route continues north-north-west across a col, drops to cross the Allt Bad an t-Seabhaig and then goes north-west along a path through recently planted mixed trees. After crossing the next burn, the Allt Glac an t-Sidhean, make a gradual descent across very boggy ground in which only traces of the path are visible, and reach the Allt Giubhais Beag just above Aultguish Inn.

This excellent Active Outdoors piece by John Davidson from February 2014 gives an idea of what to expect on the way.

OS Landranger 20 (Beinn Dearg)

Heritage Information

The British Fisheries Society built houses at Ullapool in summer 1788 establishing a successful base for a herring fishery. The Old Statistical Account (1791-1799) reported that in Ullapool there was "a red-herring house, where they cured last year 500 barrels fine red-herring"; this was not the only fishing house, others are mentoned at Isle Martin and Isle Tanera. The cured herring was usually sent to markets in Leith and Greenock, and sold at a high price.

Parliament and the British Fisheries Society subsequently supported the building of a road to carry fish from Ullapool to Dingwall; it was completed in 1797 and is shown on Arrowsmith’s map of 1807. The OSA refers to the route as excellent - "where lately nothing could be carried but in creels on horseback, carts and carriages can now travel with the greatest ease and expedition. This road consists of 38 miles and has cost government about £4500 including bridges, of which there must be a good many in its course". However, this praise was premature, as the road fell quickly into disrepair as only twelve years later there were demands for its renewal, it appears that the road had been of poor quality and inadequately maintained. By 1835, the New Statistical Account refers to the road as having been for many years "not only useless, but dangerous, to foot passengers and riders on horseback; and to wheel carriages almost impassable"

The old road was replaced by a new road in 1840. The OS 6" edition maps (first and second) clearly show the old road's alignment running in relatively close proximity to the new line; the most notable exception to this is the section we describe here, from Aultguish to Garve. 

At one point about 400 metres uphill from Aultguish Inn the remains of an old bridge across the Allt Giubhais Beag are still evident.

In Haldane's The Drove Roads of Scotland, it is reported that the cattle from Lewis which were landed at Gruinard and Aultbea were then driven to market largely along the route of the main road to Muir of Ord via Dundonnell, Braemore and Garve. However a deviation from the main road - still in occasional use at the time of writing (1952) - was the turning south of the drove near Altguish to cross the forest of Corriemoillie to Garve in order to shorten the distance travelled and to keep the drove on soft ground where grazing was available. It seems that the old road was of use after all.

On 10th and 12th July 2018, BBC Alba are repeating two programmes of their 6-part series Na Drobhairean. The first episode follows in the footsteps of drovers travelling from Gruinard to the markets of Easter Ross, but be quick as it will likely only be available on the iplayer for a month after broadcast.



Copyright: Jim Barton | Credits: NH361692 looking north-west. The old road is still visible, but obviously very boggy and overgrown by heather (2009).

Copyright: Jim Barton | Credits: NH351703: the signpost indicates the route of a drove road over the hillside southwards to Garve, 12km distant.

Copyright: Jim Barton | Credits: NH367687 looking east: burn and forestry edge. Here the drove road crosses Allt Glac an t-Sithein. Gates and stiles have been provided at the deer fence enclosing the plantation.

Copyright: Jim Barton | Credits: NH368686 looking WNW where the drove road passes through a deer fence (2009). Drainage on this route leaves something to be desired in places.

Copyright: Jim Barton | Credits: NH373678 looking ESE. After crossing the Allt Bad an t-Seabhaig the old road swings southwards, keeping clear of the mature plantation on the hillside.

Copyright: Alpin Stewart | Credits: NH379655 looking north along the old drove road as it passes through the plantation.

Copyright: Dorothy Carse | Credits: NH380653 looking WNW. The old drove road from Garve to Aultguish has become very boggy in places.





Copyright: Dorothy Carse | Credits: NH381640 looking SSE along a forestry track on the line of an old drove road from Garve to Aultguish. Copyright: Jim Barton | Credits: NH359694 looking north-west. Drove Road above Aultguish, on the slope of Sidhean nan Cearc, with the Glascarnoch Dam in the background. Copyright: Alpin Stewart | Credits: NH374672 looking NW along the Drove Road. On my visit (February 2014), the drove road between Aultguish and Strathgarve was giving a fair impression of a stream.
Copyright: Alpin Stewart | Credits: NH380641 gate in deer fence (Feb 2014). This gate was locked despite being on a signposted right of way. The fence is reportedly climbable. Copyright: Dorothy Carse | Credits: NH379648 looking north along the old drove road from Garve to Aultguish as it passes through a plantation. Copyright: Alpin Stewart | Credits: NH379643 looking NW through another forestry gate. As can be seen, this gate proved no obstacle to progress along the old drove road.
Copyright: Alpin Stewart | Credits: NH388635: looking NW along the drove road to Aultguish.


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