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.

9 comments

  1. thanks for this posting, my Gt Gran (Jane McDonald, daughter of John & Amelia McDonald) was married at Tirriemoor, her son Robert Fraser along with his wife May continued to farm their for many years. I used to stay with them when holidaying in the area, wonderful, hard working, kind people, they had to be airlifted out one year due to a dreadful winter, the helicopter landed on a frozen Lochindorb.

      1. Sorry, i have literally just seen this; My Great Grandma Jane McDonald Fraser has a son James who died, they are buried at Inverallan, she also had a daughter Jane who sadly perished at a young age.
        Uncle Bob (Gt Grandma son) died in approx 1984/5, such a hard working chap, kindness was his middle name.

      2. It’s amazing when you start to drill down into the history. It’s a truly stunning spot, and from my point of view it must have been a great place to live. But like you say, it’s the tough times that are easy to forget and the differences in how you would deal with those situations now. Turning up the central heating wouldn’t be an option! Thanks for telling me more. So very kind of you. Kevin.

  2. I knew Donald Smith of Easter Dreggie who had sheep on Rychorrach in the 1960s and used to live in it during the summer. A son of the Macdonalds I think was killed in WW1.

    1. Donald and Agnes Smith were my Grandparents and i lived at Dreggie for a while.
      I love to visit and walk the moors.

  3. I believe james mcdonald lost his son in the 1st world war, also James i think,
    I know this area well as my family lived there and thats where we sheared the sheep every year.
    Peter Frazer still keeps sheep on the moors at Dava.
    I like to walk from the “jesus saves” sign on the main road over the moors ending up back at the farm i lived on all those years ago as a child. EASTER DREGGIE.
    Dreggie had been in my family for many many years and the head stones can be found in both cemetries in Grantown.
    Donald Smith was my grandfather.

  4. We must know each other John,
    I used to play with the kids at Achosnich when i was young.

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