Glen Strathfarrar

Glen Strathfarrar, Photo Richard WoodGlen Strathfarrar, spacious and majestic, was once Fraser country. Birch and Caledonian pine border the lower reaches of the River Farrar, a name from the Pictish 'var', (to wind), and known to the Romans as 'Varrar'. At Braulen, a sandstone lodge, built in 1840 by the shooting tenant, Lord Derby, stands above wide river flats which abound with red deer. Further west a deep gorge leads to the horseshoe shaped Monar hydro dam. Beyond lies Loch Monar, ringed by Munro peaks and the lonely deer forests of Pait and Strathmore.

The name Glen Strathfarrar is unusual in that very rarely are the terms 'glen' and 'strath' found in a single placename. Perhaps it reflects the combination of low level arable land and steep mountains. Glen Strathfarrar extends eastwards from the Monar Dam towards the A831 road just north of the village of Struy. The River Farrar, created from the Garbh Uisge - the outflow from Loch Monar, together with the Uisge Misgeach flows for some 12 miles to converge with the River Glass and form the River Beauly. The Farrar, renowned for its fine trout and salmon fishing flows through two lochs, Loch a' Mhuillidh and Loch Benneacharan. On a small island in Loch a' Mhuillidh stand the remains of fireplace and gable of a bothy which sheltered Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat of the '45, after Culloden.

The lower part of Glen Strathfarrar, from Leishmore to Coille an Ath, was designated a National Nature Reserve in 1977. Like Glen Affric, the Strathfarrar pinewood is a remnant of the ancient 'Forest of Caledon.' Increasing human settlement and commercial timber extraction, starting in the late 18th century and carrying on through two World Wars, had contributed to the serious deterioration of the woodland. The introduction of sheep farming in Glen Strathfarrar met with limited success due to unfavourable conditions and the sheep had largely gone by the mid 19th century. However, with the establishment of a deer forest, deer numbers that had fallen with deforestation and a rising population in the glen, made a rapid recovery. This had a devastating effect on natural regeneration leading to the spiralling decline of the native pinewoods.

Road Along Glen Strathfarrar, Photo Chris MortonAlthough the hydro electric schemes met with varying levels of opposition, resistance was particularly strong in the case of Glen Strathfarrar - 'the last of the great unspoiled Glens.' Strathfarrar's fate was finally sealed following a Public Inquiry and led to the building of the Monar Dam, the largest arch dam in Britain.

Fierce objections to this clearing of the Glen were ignored and only the keeper's house at Monar and Pait Lodge survived. In his book 'Isolation Shepherd', author Iain Thomson, the last resident of Strathmore Lodge gives an account of life in this remote and wild place prior to the flooding. Loch Monar is now eight miles long, twice its original length.

Glen Strathfarrar, like the neighbouring glens, is a haven for the outdoor enthusiast. The road into the Glen is private and access to motor vehicles is restricted which can prove tedious, especially for those tackling the longer hill routes against the clock. On the other hand cyclists, and those on foot, will find the road relatively traffic free.