The views from Annette George’s Highlands cottage are of an unspoiled, peaceful rural idyll, spanning lands held by one of Scotland’s ancient clans since the 13th century.

Badgers roam freely around her garden on the Lovat Estate, a pine marten has started to visit, pheasants and Guinea fowl pop by and in a corner of her yard, a brand-new holly tree has sprouted.

The new tree, she says, brings particular sadness. For years she hoped to grow a holly tree at her home at Fanellan, close to Kiltarlity, on land linked for centuries to Clan Fraser – the clan and the Lovat name known around the world thanks to Outlander.

That it has chosen to emerge as she contemplates the possible loss of the cosy home she has loved for 14 years, is particularly bitter.

“I noticed the start of a holly tree a couple of days ago,” she says. “It is the smallest little tree. But if our house is demolished, it will be lost too. That, and the thought of all around us being lost, sets me off.

“I would not wish what we are going through on my worst enemy,” she adds.

The cottage she shares with husband Matt, where they raised their daughter and thought they’d see out their days, is at the heart of SSEN Transmission’s £20 billion 'Pathway to 2030’ upgrade of energy infrastructure intended to boost network capacity across the north of Scotland.

It includes proposals for a 400 kilovolt (kV) overhead power line connecting Spittal in Caithness to Beauly, via Loch Buidhe in Sutherland. Another high voltage line planned from Peterhead to Beauly will link with the existing super pylon line to Denny.

If approved, communities around Kiltarlity, Cabrich, Aigas and Breakachy will find themselves at a junction point of three power lines carried on 57m high pylons, with a new 400kV substation in their midst.

The proposals have already caused upset at various points along the route. There have been furious  protests in Aberdeenshire, and in  Sutherland plans to install the super pylons along the coast  enraged locals in Brora, sparking claims the energy giant used “misleading language” in its communications and played down the scale of the project.

Now similar suggestions are emerging at the beauty spot of Fanellan, 30 minutes’ drive from Inverness and the preferred site for the 400kV substation and Converter Station.

The spot is on land held by Clan Fraser chiefs since the 13th century. The current chief Simon Fraser, the 18th Lord Lovat, is now the 25th head of the clan given global prominence with Diane Gabaldon’s Outlander series and her fictional branch of the family.

The Estate has previously indicated its concerns that Compulsory Purchase Orders may be imposed to take over land.

The Herald: Annette and Matt George fear their home is at riskAnnette and Matt George fear their home is at risk (Image: Annette George)

All of which has left some locals, including the Georges, feeling like key players in a very modern horror story.

They learned last year of SSEN Transmission’s Fanellan substation proposal, when they say they were left with the impression it would cover a 60-acres site.

SSEN Transmission’s recent proposal of application notice (PAN) lodged with Highland Council took many by surprise, however, when it showed a development area of more than 860 acres - 14 times larger.

The power firm insists there have been no significant changes to the design and footprint of the permanent substation which it says it outlined to residents and the public last year.

The 860 acres, it adds, represents the “potential full development area” and not the permanent footprint of the substation itself.

“We remain focused on minimising temporary construction and permanent operational impacts on residents and remain committed to ongoing consultation with the local community as we continue to develop this project,” it says.

But the realisation of what is proposed led to anger at one recent meeting with its representatives at Kilmorack Hall, with claims from furious locals they had not been given the full picture.

They raised concerns over the number and location of pylons, fears over noise and light pollution, the loss of views, destruction of woodland and impact on wildlife. Some are said to have struggled to find their properties on the energy firm's maps, with others leaving the meeting in tears.

While amid it all sits the couple's cottage, at the centre of swirling suggestions it and other properties may have been destroyed to make way for the plans.

The Herald: Plans for the Fanellan substation show it towering over the couple's cottagePlans for the Fanellan substation show it towering over the couple's cottage (Image: Contributed)

The couple point to a mock-up illustration that shows the proposed substation towering over their tiny home.

Whatever happens, they say, their lives surely can’t be the same again.

“It has been a pleasure and an honour to live here with so much nature around us,” says Annette, 54.

“It’s very rural - just a handful of houses are classed as Fanellan. It’s quiet, surrounded by crofting land. There’s a wood behind us and it’s peaceful and beautiful.

“The wildlife around us is amazing. We didn’t for a second think we’d have to move and pack up 14 years of our lives.”

They claim to have been blindsided by the true scale of the proposed development. And they have likened the prospect of giant pylons arriving in the area to a scene from War of the Worlds, with giant alien war machines towering over the rural landscape.

It's all come out of the blue, they say. And despite their pleas, no-one seems able to tell them if their rented cottage will survive.

“All of a sudden one day last year a neighbour stopped by and said ‘do you know what they are planning here? SSEN are going to build a substation behind you’," recalls Annette.

“We were completely in the dark about it. Until then, no one had said anything.”

At first, says Matt, 57, they thought the substation would be quite small. “When they said a substation, we were not even thinking of it being a 60 acres site. 

“Now that’s grown to 860 acres.

“Think of Inverness Airport – that’s 250 acres. This is going to be bigger than Disney.”

Information, they add, seems to arrive in “dribs and drabs”.

“It feels like no-one can tell us anything," says Annette.  “This huge building is within spitting distance of us - our house looks like a Monopoly house next to it. 

"When we heard rumours our house might be demolished, I rang Lovat Estates, our landlords. They said there’s a possibility.

The Herald: Communities fear the impact of super pylons on the landscapeCommunities fear the impact of super pylons on the landscape (Image: Annette George)

“It’s bad enough waiting a whole year for them to get a planning application together, now we’re expected to wait for who knows how long to find out what will happen.

"We know it's not just us. It's happening in lots of places and it’s ruining people’s crofts and farming land.

"There are people who have just bought houses and they are discovering this is happening.

“It’s ok for these people who work in offices behind a desk all day. They can go home and forget about it. But we live it every minute of  the day.

"We look across at the beautiful woodland that will be carved up so pylons can get to the site behind us. How can it be green to take away woodland and crofting land and cover it with concrete and steel?"

But even those whose homes are not directly under threat face paying the price of the upgrade scheme.

It’s been claimed homeowners on the pylons' route could see the value of their properties fall by up to 30%.

Ian Thornton-Kemsley, of the property consultants Galbraith - who lives on the route and  owns two cottages that will be less than 650ft from the proposed pylons – examined a one-mile section of the line. He found 21 properties collectively worth an estimated £10 million were affected.

He estimated the cost to property owners collectively worked out at £1million a mile.

SSEN Transmission, however, has said it has not seen any “clear, objective evidence” of a direct impact on the value of properties.

A spokesperson adds: “Our proposed new substation site at Fanellan remains subject to ongoing design and refinement and we are committed to do what we can to minimise and mitigate impacts on local properties, including two cottages which are part of the Lovat Estate.

“As we continue to refine our plans, we will continue to work closely with the landowner and their tenants. 

“In the event our final designs will have a significant impact on those properties, we will explore all options to reach an acceptable outcome for all parties.”

The firm's Pathway to 2030 documents make clear that while voluntary agreements are preferred, "we might need to acquire land for substations or rights for overhead lines" and that it would use statutory powers if necessary.

Lyndsey Ward of campaign group Communities B4 Power Companies, says there is growing rage in communities set to be affected. "People need to know the impact these plans are having on people’s lives," she says.

“There will be people who want to sell their properties, downsize or move closer to amenities and they will not be able to because the value of their homes will fall because of this.

The Herald: The cottage on Lovat Estates is at riskThe cottage on Lovat Estates is at risk (Image: Annette George)

“No-one will go to the estate agent and ask for a house next to a wind turbine or pylon or a sub-station.

“That will create a knock-on effect for young families who won’t be able to move into larger homes. There will be huge social upheaval."

She adds: "Annette and Matt are just one example of what is playing out everywhere across Scotland.

“It is devastating for people. They don’t even get empathy or sympathy or offers of help.

“I have never known such rage among so many people, and it’s growing every day.”