Notes on the Geography of The United Kingdom: The North West Highlands
These pictures were taken in the late 1980s, during a quick loop from Inverness through Skye, Ullapool, Altnaharra, John O'Groats, Wick, and back.
The population of northern Scotland hugs the coast, not merely because the best arable land is there but because the interior was forcibly cleared centuries ago by landowners forcing their clansmen to coastal homesteads, or crofts.
The coastal roads today are still lined with crofter homes.
The brutality of the Highland Clearances has produced a landscape that is now a study in the picturesque.
Typically, crofts are laid out as strips perpendicular to the coast.
Many of the homes are now in very good shape, chiefly because the residents no longer rely on income from the croft itself.
Unretouched or gentrified.
For lack of wood, stone is the primary construction material.
It's used for fences, too.
Up by Wick, large pastures with round bales and barbed wire co-exist with stone-slab fencing.
It runs on at lengths reminiscent of tombstones in military cemeteries.
Old photographs show peat stacked outside crofters' houses. The stuff is still being cut.
Extraordinary roads--one lane, with periodic pullouts--wind across lonely landscapes. This just might be Glen Carron, northeast of the Kyle of Lochalsh.
The forests have been gone so long that it's easy to see the denudation as natural.
Replanting began early in the 20th century. The results have become a favorite target for environmentalists appalled by both the monoculture and periodic clearcuts. Driving through such a forest is like driving through a tunnel.
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