The old Crofts of the Dava Moor

Nestled in the heart of Moray, Scotland a few miles south of where I spent my teens growing up, lies a vast expanse of untamed wilderness that captures the essence of both beauty and harshness called the Dava Moor. 

As winter fast approaches and blankets the moor in a serene white, my recent journey through this autumnal landscape unveiled a story of resilience etched in the remnants of old derelict crofts, standing as silent witnesses to the unforgiving winters and the barren landscape that defines this region.

The old crofts scattered across Dava Moor tell tales of a bygone era when families braved the elements to carve out a living from the land.

Now derelict and weather-beaten, these stone structures stand as poignant reminders of the challenges faced by those who once called this harsh environment home. The stark contrast between the ruins and the surrounding landscape evokes a sense of nostalgia, prompting reflection on the lives lived in the face of adversity.

For years, en route to visit family up north, I’d traverse the winding Dava Moor road, yearning to stop. Memories of hiking, camping, and swimming in the Loch flooded in. While I marvelled at its beauty, my wife saw bleakness. As we drove, we navigated sheep-filled roads, each of us perceiving a different landscape.

Dava Moor is no stranger to the harsh Scottish weather, where biting winds and relentless snowfall create an environment that challenges both man and nature, some of what I have experienced while hiking in the area in my teens and having to take refuge in the local bothy. Memories of skeletal remains of the crofts, half-buried under a thick layer of snow, serve as visual markers of the struggle for survival in the unforgiving cold. The colder months transform the moor into a serene yet challenging tableau, where only the hardiest flora and fauna endure.

On this visit, as I ventured deeper into the moor, the barren beauty of the landscape unfolded before me. The vast, open expanses, punctuated by rolling hills and a sparse scattering of golden autumnal vegetation, create a minimalist yet captivating scene. 

The vibrant colours of Autumn – the bright reds, oranges, and yellows mixed with the deep greys of the sky, and the occasional burst of green from hardy shrubs – paint a picture of solitude and resilience. Shooting with my camera I opted for a slowed-down approach and a thoughtful route around the site to photograph it from various angles to try and show what the surrounding area was like for the Fraser family who lived here until the 1950s. I worked hard to capture the subtle interplay of light and shadow on the moor, emphasizing the stark beauty of the Dava Moor in autumn. Hopefully, the images tell a story of endurance, where the remnants of human habitation and the raw, untamed landscape coexist in a delicate balance. Each photograph serves as a visual narrative, inviting viewers to contemplate the silent tales whispered by the wind across the moor.

Dava Moor, with its old derelict crofts and harsh seasons, offers a captivating glimpse into the soul of Scotland’s wilderness. It’s a place where the beauty lies not only in the picturesque landscapes but also in the resilience of those who once called it home. As we navigate the remnants of the past and witness the moor’s transformation under the winter’s embrace, we come to appreciate the timeless allure of this barren yet breathtaking terrain.

You can listen to this fascinating 3-minute interview with Nan Fraser who lived in one of the crofts in the 1950’s

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