An unfrequented hidden gem

The cottage at Creanich.
The cottage at Creanich.

The journey north to Sutherland is long and winding but well worth the effort to get to this beautiful wild landscape. The area around Loch Shin and Lairg can be stunning and is a wonderful hidden gem and relatively unfrequented.

It was raining when we arrived in the evening, as we watched siskin, chaffinch and coal tit in the trees by the loch and then it poured all night with no chance of it clearing up for a couple of days. So we planned a low level walk in the rain and perhaps the forecast could be wrong. But no, the rain soon became torrential as we set off to find an old ruined cottage we had spotted on the south west bank of Loch Shin side.

Along the power station track with wonderfully scented mountain thyme, lousewort, butterwort and spotted orchid being the only cheerfulness of the morning so far and past lonely Corrykinloch tucked away to our right before the trackless trudge through long heather to find the ruined cottage at Creanich.

We slipped and slithered our way along the stoney shoreline spotting a few sandpipers noisily protecting their nests, then into a boggy moor, found a gate through the deer fence, crossed the Allt na Crionaiche burn and there it was in its dilapidated state. I always find it quite sad to come upon these abandoned ruins and wonder how folks managed with no electricity or modern conveniences and living at the far side of a loch! Quite near to the cottage was a deep gorge with a waterfall which must have been a continual concern for the parents of children living here.

There had been five cottages here at one time, with only one still having a roof today. A shepherd, his wife and family were the last to live here up until the late 1940s.

They rowed across the loch when food and fuel were required and in hard winters when the loch was frozen the shepherd would walk over, carrying a large ladder just in case the ice gave way!

They had a teacher for the children at a ‘side school’ as there were other settlements on this side of the loch where a track, now submerged, ran the whole length of the seventeen mile loch before the level rose by about 11 metres when the dam was built at Lairg in the 1950s.

The equerry to Prince Edward, known as Alastair Bruce of Crionaich whose parents owned the Sallachy Estate near Lairg, apparently took his title from this remote location.

We watched pied wagtails and meadow pipits while having a brew-up at Crianich, then wearing midgie nets, we made our weary wet way back along the boggy lochside avoiding the new plantation of mixed woodland further up the hillside, well planted on inverted tufts about eight years ago. We were very happy to return once again to warmth, food and all modern conveniences. Not a lot of wildlife to be seen today on our walk with heads down against the rain.