Cottaging on Dava Moor

I have a dream. To live in an old cottage far away from civilisation. And every now and then I travel over Dava Moor (between Nairn and Grantown on Spey) and I can see the remains of what must have been a well populated area in days gone by. Old and derelict cottages, tracks and bridges can be seen in amongst the heather and peat of the moor.

A holiday in Carrbridge presented itself as a great opportunity to take a closer look. An early start meant I caught the sun rising over the moor and some of the abandoned buildings.

My route around the cottages at Easter Crannich, Wester Crannich, Anaboard and Rychorrach totalled about 7km and the warm air and lack of breeze were really noticeable, even at 5am. A breakfast of wild raspberries was pretty tasty and more refreshing than the nutrigrain bars I’d packed.

Anaboard Cottage – The fireplace gives an idea of when the lintel was put in.

Wester Crannich Cottage – The most ruined of the four buildings with no roof or internal fittings but lovely stonework.

The last two cottages were the most interesting. Quite snazzy if you like your history.

Easter Crannich Cottage – Very steep steps and horrendous contemporary wallpaper downstairs. But upstairs I found a wall plastered in old newspaper, the newspaper in question being The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. Not one you’ll see in the stands today as the last day of publication was in 1970. And it reported on just what the title suggests, sports and theatre.

I’m assuming the newspaper was used as an insulator, as I imagine winters in Dava would be pretty chilly. The date on the paper was pretty interesting, Saturday 25th March 1905. 1905!!!!….

Rychorrach Cottage – A beautiful setting higher up with views for miles, including the Cairngorms. The occupants of this house had followed the lead of the Easter Crannich residents and put extra insulation on the wall, but had taken the idea a step further, thicker cardboard boxes this time instead of newsprint.

They were tacked to the walls incredibly neatly and looked almost artistic as the collage of brands wouldn’t look out of place in a gallery. Corn Flakes, Vim and Scott’s Oats, which are still going strong today. Others I’d never heard of such as Smedley’s carrots and Oxydol washing powder.

The most interesting box was one labelled dried eggs and “For European Recovery” and was part of the post-WW2 Marshall Plan to revitalise Western Europe. A fascinating discovery and quite something to see the item in real life and how it was used after.

I found a calendar at the house from the year 1950. And after a bit of research I think the last occupier was a man called James McDonald. Maybe he was the decorator but I can’t be certain, there isn’t much online about Rychorrach to be sure.

On the one hand what a lucky man to have lived in such a beautiful place, especially in summertime. But what a harsh existence it must have been for James, his family and the previous generations of McDonald’s who farmed there and at other cottages on the moor in winter conditions

Would I live there? Probably. 21st century heating is a wonderful thing.

Ben Nevis and the CMD Arete

IMG_1192This trip took place on 30th June, so exactly half way through my atempt to walk 1000 miles in a full year.  At the end of the day, I was sitting on 473.7 miles, a little under where I need to be, but not much.

I considered myself very lucky on this trip.  I’d wanted to do this walk for a number of years, a definite “wishlist” walk and the continuation of the recent clear and warm weather conditions made me feel my chance was here.  The first day of the summer holidays looked like hill heaven so I made my plans.  I was also lucky as a mile into the walk I realised I’d left my sunglasses in the car.  This wasn’t the lucky bit of course.  The lucky bit was I hadn’t realised I’d left the glasses until I came across another pair, hung up on a tree just next to the path.  Thanks to whoever left them there.  I intend on leaving them elsewhere, in a kind of pay it forward donation.

On a less happy note, the body of Marcin Bialas was also found on the 30th June (the same day as my trip) in Observatory Gully, which you can see on the picture above.  He had been missing since January after falling through a snow cornice and although I didn’t find this out until I got home, it’s a sobering reminder of how mountain dwellers need to take care and hope luck stays on our side when we are out.

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The sun was strong and the heat was high, even on the highest top on The Ben.  My route also involved a detour via the CIC Hut, before climbing the steep slopes of Carn Mor Dearg, which was pretty tough.  The views at the top were worth it though.

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The Arete isn’t as exposed as you might think but the rock hopping and views over to Ben Nevis and the rest of the Mamores were more than I could have dreamed of.  The outlook even helped me forget about that steep climb.

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Better than a toblerone?

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The last push up to Ben Nevis reminded me of the CMD climb, just more bouldery.

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The top and the old observatory.  I think I saw about six people all the way round to the peak.  On the peak were an entire village.

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I wanted to take the quiet route home to the North Face car park so headed off by the rougher, north shoulder, rather than the tourist path.

An awesome walk.  And with a last lucky touch to the day, I got the last box of ice lollies from Tesco on the High Street (since a single lolly just wasn’t enough) and had finished them by the time I got to my bed for the night.  I also made a wee film of the trip.  Take a look below.