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
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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)
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.
In BBC Alba's series Na Drobhairean, the first episode follows in the footsteps of drovers travelling from Gruinard to the markets of Easter Ross. It is occasionally repeated, so keep an eye on the iplayer for broadcasts.