Three Islands Project

and The Destitution Road

The Road Between Them

• Destitution Road
• Isle Maree
• Isle of Ewe
• Gruinard Island
islands.jpg

Gruinard Island

Isle of Ewe

Isle Maree

The three islands of Maree, Ewe and Gruinard are today linked by the A832 – one of the most scenic drives of the North Coast 500 – with Gairloch and its museum between Isle Maree and Isle of Ewe.

However, that was not always the case and the story of how these remote parts came to be connected is somewhat darker than drivers enjoying the sea and mountain views may realise.

In the middle of the 19th century, potato famine came to the highlands of Scotland. While the effects of this famine were not as extensive or devastaing as those wreaked across the water in Ireland, they were enough to cause many people to drop from a subsistence living into a more abject form of poverty. The government and local landlords stepped in to ensure people didn’t starve during the intital years of the famine, but their generosity only extended so far. By 1848 labour was to be exchanged from those requiring assistance and one of the main projects these destitute Highlanders were put to work on was the construction of roads to link up remote spots across the north of the country.

Gairloch-to-Poolewe.png

These roads came to be known as Destitution Roads and both the stretch of road from Kinlochewe to Slattadale, which runs alongside the shore of Loch Maree, and the road from Poolewe to Gruinard were originally constructed in this fashion.

For Gaelic speakers, Tobar an Dualchais has a recording of Peter Stewart describing his grandfather’s work on the road between Ullapool and Gairloch. The recording can be found here.