The Moine Peninsula
The Moine is a vast area, almost 6,000 hectares, of heather moor and peat moss. It is situated in Sutherland between Loch Eriboll to the west and Kyle of Tongue to the east. From ancient times, it has been a deterrent to transport and trade. Traveling from Loch Eriboll, one had to cross 14 miles of this morass, then make the choice of risking life on the ferry across the Kyle, or struggling another 9 miles overland via Kinloch to reach Tongue Village.
The first good road across The Moine was built in 1830, and Moine House was erected as a half-way stop. Almost two centuries later, in 2020, I have had the chance to drive across The Moine many times during my stay in Tongue. The new road from the 90’s winds around lochans and peat puddles. It is actually a section of the famous North Coast 500. While crossing The Moine, the immensity is striking with unobstructed views in all directions. One can see the silhouette of Moine House from several miles away despite its modest size, as it is the only elevation in the area. Far in the distance towards the south is Ben Hope and further east stands Ben Loyal.
I drove to Moine House several times, usually towards the end of day, trying to capture this vastness under various light conditions. Most of the time, the place was deserted and the atmosphere so special!
It is a traditional, good-sized cottage, which had two rooms downstairs, plus a loft and a box-like porch at the front. The east gable carries an enormous carved plaque extolling the new road and the people who created it. In 1881 the house was occupied by Georges MacKay, a forester aged 80, an unmarried daughter, a married son and his wife, and five grandchildren! Crowded by our standards – but no doubt they would make weary travelers welcome.
The house has lain empty for many years although it still had a roof in 1987. Nowadays the roof is gone but the house itself is interesting. Remaining walls reveal a series of murals. Have a look!
Danger in sight ...
The Moine Peninsula is part of the Flow Country which is the largest peatland in Europe and stores around 400 million tonnes of carbon, more than double that of all trees in the UK. The area could become a UNESCO listed site.
Unfortunately, this fragile and climate-beneficial ecosystem is threatened by a satellite launch base project, the Space Hub Sutherland. The Moine Peninsula was indeed chosen as a site a few years ago because of its position far north and the absence of inhabitants. As always with this type of project, one focuses on job creation (minimal, a hundred at most). Opposition has grown, with an activist group called Protect the Mhoine joined by Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, Scotland’s largest landowner, who owns land in the area.
In June 2020, The Highland Council provided planning permission for the £17m project, allowing 12 launches a year. As of October 2020, the Scottish Land Court has yet to adjudicate on the change in land use. So let’s keep our fingers crossed that we can still take great photos around Moine House!
Thanks to Mary Young of Scullomie for her research on Moine House.