Sron na Larig
(The Nose of the Pass)
Sronlarig Lodge must be the shortest lived shooting lodge in Stratherrick, but it made up in historical interest what it may have lacked in longevity.
Under the directions of the Lady Lovat, it was built during the Boer war as a surprise and a welcome home to her husband, who, in 1900, had put out a call to local Highlanders (the last Clan leader to do so), to form a specialist regiment of mounted scouts and sharpshooters, which he believed was the only way to match the Boers in fieldcraft – stalking and shooting. These skills were common in the Highland deerstalkers and hillmen, but were outwith conventional drilled tactics of the British army at the time. The War Office approved, and the result was the formation of that famous body of men, the Lovat Scouts.
The building of the Lodge was a massive undertaking. All materials, except for local stone, had to come by boat to Inverfarigaig pier, and was then transported by relays of horse and cart the 15-odd miles to Strone. One such carter was Donald MacDonald of Knock, the closest to Strone, six miles further on. With his son, he operated two horses and carts. Leaving early in the morning, they would load up at the pier, reach home for lunch and a two hour break for the horses, then proceed to the Lodge site, to be back home again in the evening. Apart from the distance, the climb from Loch Ness to Strone was nearly 400 metres. The carts were traditional cope carts, which could be fitted with frames to carry wide or lengthy loads. For instance, loads of pine lining boards could extend from beyond the back of the cart to above the horse’s head.
Stone-breakers were imported to cut stone from the nearby Creag, above the road. Altogether a scene of ceaseless coordinated activity, quite apart from the everyday shepherding and other estate work. One shepherd became a bit of a nuisance to Wattie, a stone cutter who was in the habit of laying his clay pipe on a nearby boulder rather than in his pocket when wielding his hammer – clay pipes being rather fragile. The first day of meeting, the shepherd stopped for a chat, and then asked if he might have a draw of Wattie’s handy pipe, to which the mason, reluctantly or not, gave permission. However, all too often on following days the shepherd made a habit of stopping, ostensibly for a blether, but obviously to help himself to the pipe, should it be conveniently in reach. Enough was enough, Wattie decided – the situation was getting out of hand and in need of correction. So the next time the shepherd was seen approaching Wattie half filled his pipe with black powder, which he had in abundance for quarrying, and topped this off with tobacco. Wattie appeared to be engrossed with a particularly difficult piece of granite, and the visitor casually reached for the pipe, a ready match in his hand. Three enjoyable puffs he managed, before there was a sudden “whoosh” and a column of fire and smoke shot upwards from the pipe. Wattie still appeared struggling with his piece of stone, not noticing anything amiss, so the bemused and singed shepherd, with diminished eyebrows, and cap askew, continued on his way.
The original old Strone Lodge was a much smaller building, which became the dwelling of the keeper/deerstalker. There was bothy accommodation for any single under-keeper.
Apparently, at one time, Killen was the main shooting lodge – a much more ornate two-storied building. This was badly damaged by fire in the 1920’s, and only the ground floor was restored, by which time it was separate to Stronlarig. As a matter of interest, a short distance above Killin bridge, between the river and the road, a pile of stones can still be seen, marking the site of a much earlier Killin Lodge.
History again laid its stamp upon Sron na Larig during World War II, when it became a training area for the American Rangers, no doubt at the instigation of Lord MacShimidh Lovat (son and heir of the Lovat Scout founder) who, in his turn, did much to institute the Marine Commandos, serving with and leading them with great valour and distinction during that War.
Stronlarig was sold in 1946/47, still a prominent grouse moor, and the Lodge remained in use until the late 1960’s, by which time red deer stalking was the more consistent sport, with sporadic grouse years.
The Lodge was finally vacated and abandoned in 1968, and the Estate is now owned by Garrogie, which has its own lodge at the outflowing end of Loch Killin..
Sron na Larig Lodge, stripped of its fittings and now falling in ruins, is a sad monument to a past era, but its history need not be forgotten, nor the many strong and courageous men and women who lingered there a while, and contributed to its rich past.
Copyright © 2014 SLNHG all rights reserved
Footnote June 2016 Sronlarig Lodge in presently being demolished, on health and safety grounds .