In 2015 the North Highland Initiative started a project to boost tourism in the northern counties of Scotland. The idea was to publicise a 500 mile route through Inverness-shire, Ross & Cromarty, Sutherland and my home county of Caithness, and promote it as a superb road trip. I don't know how successful they expected it to be, but it has quickly become very popular and has been called one of the top five coastal routes in the World. In fact its popularity is becoming a problem for the local residents: some of the roads are single-track, with bays at intervals to allow two vehicles to pass each other, but there is an etiquette for their use that strangers are not always aware of. The result is that local people going about their business find themselves held up by slow-moving tourist vehicles, so if you use the route please pull over and allow other vehicles to pass. The amount of traffic will probably also cause damage to the roads, which were not intended for heavy use. Desp…
Throughout the Highlands in the Nineteenth Century, tenant farmers were
evicted from their homes, or 'crofts', during the notorious Highland Clearances.
Landowners, in a drive for efficiency and more profitable land use,
wanted to replace the old system of small-holdings with large sheep
ranches. The crofters were forced out of their scattered homes, often in
a brutal manner, and re-housed in new communities. The land that they
were given was often of poor quality and they had to work hard to
maintain even a subsistence level of life. During this period many
people took up the offer of a new life overseas, emigrating to Canada,
New Zealand and Australia, where their descendants still have strong
links with Scotland.
In 1839 tenants from the estates of Broubster and Shurrery, in Caithness,
were resettled in a new village. Land was provided for them, but they
probably had to build their own houses. The dwellings were in the form
of long-houses, which consisted of a…
25 x 36 cm
There is a definite feeling of approaching autumn now, with some cooler days and more unsettled weather. It hardly seems any time at all since the spring, when there was a long spell of dry weather and the moors were tinder-dry. There were a number of serious fires at the time and several nature reserves were badly damaged. I think they were mostly caused by accident or carelessness this time, but unfortunately there are people who seem to get satisfaction from starting fires deliberately.
The fire in this painting is of a different kind. Every year between, autumn and spring, shooting estates burn off small patches of moorland to leave a patchwork of heather. This encourages the breeding of grouse, with the old growth providing cover and the new shoots providing food. The operation has to be done very carefully, because fires can easily get out of control, and once the underlying peat starts to burn it can burn for days and is very difficult to p…