September 8

36 comments

When Lochs Dry, Hidden Worlds Emerge


Hello my wonderful readers,

Scotland is known for having some of the biggest and deepest lochs in the whole wide world. Apart from their size, their beauty draws you in and captivates you. 

But they also hold mysteries that can be hidden away for centuries. And what happens when the lochs dry up? The mysteries are unveiled, and we get a glimpse of how the world used to be, decades, or even eons ago!

Loch Monar drowned landscape. Image source.


Loch Monar

Loch Monar is a freshwater loch situated at the head of Glen Strathfarrar, in the West Highlands of Scotland. Since the 1960s, it has been dammed as part of the Affric-Beauly hydro-electric power scheme. 

Due to exceptionally dry weather during the summer of 2015, the water levels dropped so low that a drowned landscape emerged, something that was not visible for over two decades at least. 

You could see tree stumps, a whole forest of them, that had been cut down and preserved by the water of the loch, all the way from 1960. Loch Monar had been lengthened and raised, due to the building of the Monar Dam. Many protested the building of that dam, since loch Monar was one of the last glenns untouched by civilization. 

Here is what it looked like before:

Loch Monar. Image source: Wikipedia

And after the lowest levels that revealed the forest: 

Drowned forest after the drying of the loch. Image source.

Fascinating, isn't it?

A road and bridges were revealed when water levels fell at Loch Glascarnoch. Image source.


Loch Glascarnoch

The depths of this loch have given up their secrets once again - unveiling roads and bridges used only 60 years ago.

Loch Glascarnoch is a man-made reservoir which was flooded in Ross-shire back in the 1950s. After a particularly dry spring, the water levels fell so low, that the old road between Dingwall and Ullapool emerge from the depths – with sections totalling more than two kilometres now exposed, complete with old passing places still clearly visible.

Pottery shards and old glass bottle remains were visible in many parts of the 'house'. A previous passer-by had placed some of them on the remains of the old wall, as well as a horseshoe (could it have once been nailed above the entrance door?). Image source.

Even two bridges found themselves in daylight again along with old stone boundary walls, and even the outline of what appears to be a former croft house swamped by the reservoir.

Imagine walking along this road again, after decades of it being unused...It’s a little chilling, isn’t it?

Loch Vaa at its usual water level. Image source.


Loch Vaa

This loch’s water levels dropped to their lowest in 750 years, back in 2019 (feels so long ago, now, hahah!). It had been mysteriously losing water for more than two months. One of the people living there and renting their famous, usually water-lapped, boathouse, had actually described it as “someone pulling the plug of the loch”. While a morbid thought in general, I must admit, it was quite hilarious! 

Archaeologists were asked to check for any impact on a crannog, an ancient fortified settlement, in the loch. Just below the water's surface they found pieces of wood that had survived since the 13th Century. The birch, a species of tree "not known for being particularly robust" according to the archaeologists, was dated back to the 13th Century.

The boathouse at Loch Vaa in an image taken by Neil McDade, top, at normal water level and below an image taken at its lowest level. Image source.

However, this could easily be destroyed by the weather elements, as long as exposure to the sun.

Thankfully, the water levels have since returned to normal in all these lochs!

How fascinating that whole worlds could be hidden underwater, and we would be none the wiser, until something dried the place up? It is awful, however, to think that these are the results of climate change and human activity...

What do you think was at fault here? Did you like the article, my dear?
Let me know in the comments!


Until next time…
Written by
Eloise Madigan


Tags

Articles, Scottish Romance


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  • Thank you for very interesting I formation on the Scottish Lochs. This information was new to me even although I am a Scot.

  • The article was quite interesting. I live In Idaho, USA, and there is a reservoir here known as Anderson Ranch Reservoir. Looking at the reservoir over the past 40 years you would never guess that it was an actual cattle ranch back in the early 1900’s. I have a picture, hanging in my kitchen, that shows the ranch before the area was dammed and turned into a reservoir, or lock as the Scottish inhabitants would call it.

  • Here in Australia, actually New South Wales, we have the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme, a fantastic scheme which helped to supply water & power to much of the southern portion of that state & two other states, Victoria & South Australia. It encompassed the Eucumbene Dam & the huge amount of water from the Snowy River. This lake water died up in the upper reaches during the last great drought in the early 90s & exposed the drowned town of Adaminaby plus the roads leading into it & the houses as well. Quite a shock to most of the townsfolk who’d been shifted to higher ground in the new township of Adaminaby, & many photos had been taken & reported on in the Snowy River Times newspaper because this dam & the lake was supposed to last for centuries!! However, it has since filled up again & the old town now lies beneath the blue waters. Lake Eucumbene is a place for fishing & camping & is really a lovely place to visit.

    • Oh wow! This sounds so cool, that you know that this old city lies beneath. So many memories hidden underneath those waters!

  • Very interesting! I would have never known this and how amazing to see what was at the ‘bottom’ of the loch. Recently I have seen old pictures of how an area in Middle TN looked before and while they were building a dam; houses that were covered up and people having to relocate. It’s both sad and amazing at the same time!

  • Would be interesting to know what could be under some of the lakes here in America! I know one here in Tennessee was caused by an earthquake and the Mississippi River backed up and fill the sunken land!

  • Thank you for the article and the pictures. We have a man-made lake in Georgia in the US that they flooded. When the levels are low you can look down from the bridges and see homes, gas stations, roads, and trees. Its rather sad that they simply flooded it.

  • I did enjoy reading this. Thank you! It is on my bucket list to visit Scotland. It looks like I won’t be able to. I turned 73 yesterday and still have family obligations. So I read, join most Scotland sites on Facebook that I see and try to absorb all that I can. I wish I could connect with another McDonough in Scotland and correspond with them. Yes, I am a dreamer and romantic. Have a great day!

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