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Historic isles road re-emerges from loch after drought

FOR the first time in a generation, a chunk of the original Road to the Isles has reappeared.

NOW AND THEN: Youngsters examine the newly revealed bridge. Corrielair Lodge in its heyday; and the bridge in 1993. Main picture: Gordon Jack
NOW AND THEN: Youngsters examine the newly revealed bridge. Corrielair Lodge in its heyday; and the bridge in 1993. Main picture: Gordon Jack

After two decades hidden in the depths of a loch, a crumbling stone-arched bridge – plus the chimney stacks of an old shooting lodge – are now visible reminders of the past.

The revival of the architectural history was made possible by unusually fine weather conditions in the western Highlands during a summer than proved to be a wash-out for the majority of Scots.

The area has seen little rainfall since June. Water levels have dropped so significantly in Loch Cluanie that the Corrielair shooting lodge, normally submerged, is visible for the first time since 1993.

It first disappeared from view 60 years ago when the area was flooded for a hydro-electric dam.

Also making a reappearance is the nearby drovers' bridge which formed part of the original Road To The Isles, the vital passageway linking mainland Scotland to the tiny boats which sailed to Skye in years gone by, and distinct from the A830 Fort William to Mallaig road which is now regarded as the Road to the Isles.

Michael McDiarmid, 24, bar manager at the nearby Cluanie Inn, said: "We've been very lucky up here because the weather elsewhere in Scotland has been so bad – we've had a brilliant summer. The ground has just been so dry that any rainfall we've had has just washed away into the loch.

"But the water there is used by Scottish and Southern Energy to produce power at the dam, so levels have dropped all summer.

"We just haven't had the usual rainfall to maintain levels which is why you can now see the chimneys and the old bridge.

"It caused quite a stir locally when they first appeared because it's been such a long time since they were last seen – nobody even knew if they were still standing.

"Occasionally you will see the top of the bridge breaking the surface but never the chimneys as well – everybody was talking about it locally."

Loch Cluanie sits next to the A87 which takes traffic to Kyle of Lochalsh, a half hour's drive away, and over the Skye bridge.

The drought and unseasonably good weather in the western Highlands contrast vividly with rainfall elsewhere.

On October 13, the Met Office said three weeks' worth of rain had fallen across parts of Scotland in the space of 24 hours, with the east coming off worst.

Fife suffered more than half of its average rainfall for October in just 12 hours, and some local residents had to flee their homes.

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