A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland



calm weather meant that summer fishing goes into the autumn without much of a break.


The good weather has meant that it is not only busy at sea but the Airstream is keeping Aron churning through the night.


Tuesday to Thursday with 350 hauled each day allowed me a day off to wash some creels on the pier today.


The weather has been spectacular but there has been little to see in the way of sea life apart from the autumn appearances


along with our long-term residents.




There does seem to be a lot of fish about and there an eerie lack of birds around the boat.


Hearing reports of large numbers of birds around the Sand base and they seem well fed along with a large fat dog otter. Ties in with no birds around the boat. Also mackerel being caught off Toscaig Pier. Fishing, although not special, is holding up and there is enough staying on board to compensate for the large numbers of berried females going back over the side. We seem to be catching a better quality of langoustine this summer. There are fewer boats north this summer, one possible reason. The last 4/5 years there has been a sudden collapse in the catch at this time.

As well as the fishing the week has been interspersed with meetings and big tides.


The tides were predicted but were possibly more noticeable due to the large anti cyclone over the country.


The new landing point is slowly taking shape with stones being thrown to the side to create a smoother track to the top of the shore. The low tide does not throw up any new problems. I used to dive for my scallops not far from here when the scallop farm was going well.



and Shore Street


are looking good from the vantage point of the sea.


First meeting was the Community Council on Tuesday. Sometimes you are just not up for them but on the bike and off up the road to see several cars outside the Hall. Heart sinks wondering what the issue is to bring all theses people out but then remember the Zumba class is on and relax. Of course I do not mind people coming out but it usually means all is not running smoothly for a section of the Community. In fact I would rather they come out and say what they feel at the meetings rather than just complain that we are “not elected” or do not “represent” them to any one who will listen. Roads still an issue but the burst tyres outside the school will have been resolved. Posts not attractive but effective and cheaper than shifting paving. Road south not sorted yet but flooding problems up north taking priority. Back on the phone next week. Little problem with Hands on Events, the guys who run the Bealach Races. They have decided not to communicate with us at all now despite promising information, communication and co-operation for their events which close the Hill. They also seem to be trying to renege on their promise not to put their Mor event on the August bank holiday. Can’t help seeing the irony in this attitude as here there has been a big uptake in cycling this summer. Just the other day, when delivering the langoustine to the Inn, passed or met seven bikes in the two miles. There is little opposition to a well run and communicative event, we even have a top racing cyclist journo living in Applecross, so one would think…… just shows that when talking stops situations always have potential to deteriorate. Luckily we have a channel through Shieldaig CC. Still a short uncontroversial meeting with a LDO report saying that the new Filling Station is arriving on the 23/24th of this month. A relief of the first proportions. And a planned share issue for raising the finances for the Hydro Scheme next February.

The other meetings were ALPS management Group and the Community Company meeting up with the Applecross Trustees. Although a few stresses amongst a few participants pre meeting they went pleasantly enough. Two and a half hours in the Estate Office was certainly not first choice on a beautiful sunny day. hauled my 350 and in early enough not to miss any work. If I had I would have been annoyed. As I have said both meetings very pleasant and easy conversations despite my reputation. Even if I disagree always good to keep relations personable. Not convinced these meetings achieve much and they are the only meetings over the last half-dozen years that are not minuted. So lack of progress is not noted. I am trying to think of any of the issues that have been progressed that need partnership with the Trust like the local need for housing. And I cannot think of one. I posted No and Groundhog Day this time last year. This year the two issues that came up were housing and Community Woodland. Groundhog Day is still in operation for the housing and for the Woodland it has been changed from No to what looks to me like the above. The only other note of interest was the request for local representation on the Applecross Trust. Answer No. This incidentally was a question asked at the ALPS meeting and not at the Community Company one, (for those that cannot work with the ACC). As a result of the personal backlash received from the LAS campaign two years ago I would not waste time in asking for this as I know the answer. As I get older I have become more interested in the past and the journey to how we are where we are. Good to dip into attitudes from the past to realise just how it is. Must be going up in the world though as before today I have never attended a meeting where the investors Cazanove, an independent bank founded in 1823 and recently bought out by Schroders, were introduced into the conversation.

To things more positive, after Friday’s creel clean it was off to a much-needed session in Shieldaig


where the only conversation is who is voting Yes/No. Mostly Yes or maybe the company I keep. Excellent massage, chat and left slightly battered with my little vial of drops. Keeping these visits up is essential as it was so painful having three or four strains, gathered over the five weeks, worked on. Good fishing chatter on the pier before heading off for bait, salt and a trip home around the coast.


As expected the Ref campaign is hitting new heights of “We will be doomed” scare stories, not that is affecting most of us up here.


There are exaggerations and half truths on both sides and some of the interventions are becoming plain ridiculous. But, and I see this locally,some people are protecting their positions of privilege and power over the good of the whole of society. There is such a thing as society, community, well being towards your neighbours (if allowed) and I think the panic over a possible Yes vote next week should make a few people examine their raison d’être. Maybe fighting for people not so well off as they are would be more satisfying rather than keeping their exalted positions in society. So fortunate to have social media to balance out the negative MSM, otherwise it would be the same feeling as coming out of this weeks meetings. Still low tide at Sand is worth a wee stop off.


So fortunate to take the decision this morning just to take the day off fishing. That means salting bait, cutting wood and splicing rope plus some paper work…oh and a busy shift at the Inn tonight, as Gerry’s Duathlon is on today. Sounds busy but it is just doing stuff.


Work and Walks.

While it is the biggest political event in my lifetime the ordinary world of living goes on and there was a good spell at sea from Wednesday


through to Saturday with enough prawns being caught. I almost always say that nowadays even the the fishing is poor Not that the weather was as settled as I had wanted,


in fact on Thursday I came in a bit earlier and took my time going in past the seals on the rocks.


They are quite jittery but hope they will get more and more used to me and I will get a couple of closer shots in time. They look as they were getting lined up for the shot but some never quite made it.


Porpoises have arrived just out from St Island and I find watching them very peaceful. They do not come clear of the water like the dolphins but slowly appear briefly, glinting in the sunlight. Favourite bird is the gannet at the moment and there are a few on the Sound, fairly cautious and take that as a good sign as i think they are feeding well. I often look up and catch a splash as they hit the water catching another fish. Interesting traffic passing south and the best way to shift wood.


Autumn is very much under way with the Devil’s Bit Scabeous out in force.


Dougal at the moment is looking like a “sticky willow” seed spreader but always wants out for more. This was taken pre seeding.


The big high pressure has not been wall to wall sunshine but the evening light has been ever changing


and Dougal has got me out for a last run on the bike on two or three nights.


Saturday evening was just a couple of notches up


from the usual spectacular. Went down to the Caman and back,


beautiful all the way.


Saturday evening usually means a shift at the Inn but the old head decided to have a particularly bad day. warning phone call at two, which was followed by a call off at five. phoned back at eight to offer to come up but it was all over by then. Busy enough especially for the Boss as you are one down and have to work that bit harder. wednesday night saw a Canadian four eat out on table 8


and the seafood platter,


always spectacular, was outstanding sitting on the table in the two large dishes.


They were entertained by Phil while enjoying their meal and their experience of Applecross was extended for another night as they had such a good time. Indeed as I headed to bed at twelve I heard their voices drifting across the fields as they continued their evening into the early hours.

The Debate has really hit the headlines over the weekend as the polls have finally picked up what has been happening here for weeks if not months. I do not think it has shown the true nature of the grassroots campaign and is still concentrating on the top down stuff and has not realised the new energy coming from the people previously taken for granted by the big three parties. Where it is fascinating for me is the conversations going on everywhere on the ground. Staff members asking for information, customers asking one’s opinion, undecided people really confused about how to vote. Even had a delivery of the Wee Blue Book, which were all handed out. One table in particular were very enjoyable company and most of all it is the pleasantness of the discussions that is impressing me. Such a momentous decision with all its passion and fervour is not spilling over into any acrimonious arguments. Uploaded all the photos in record quick time tonight, internet working well. Filling Station news is that our new one is arriving on the 22nd of this month and will be fitted in three days. Once local card bills sorted out it will be a welcome goodbye to a disastrous relationship. Hoping for a new and less time consuming phase. I suppose one way of looking at it is we have been resilient enough to survive all the problems.

Aye Nomination.

Slightly different post tonight as I have been nominated for an Aye nomination. Basically a video to say why I am voting Yes for Scotland to be an Independent Nation. This came through about three days ago and is on the same lines as YesBecause and other “naming” activities. I am supposed to video this but as I not only dislike being in front of the camera, I prefer the spoken and written word. To all those No Voting friends and family you will remain just that unless you choose otherwise.

Recently we are seeing a Yes Vote becoming a possibility as opposed to a No Vote a probability, which looked the case until a couple of weeks ago. I have never thought of my vote as a party political instrument but as a peaceful tool to set up a nation, small and prosperous, but more importantly fair and just, something I see less and less as I go about my daily life. This campaign to assert ourselves, our beliefs and hopes has led me to think about how strange the Scottish mentality of “doffing the hat” to supposed superior wisdom. Whether this is at a local, national or international level we seem to have lost the confidence in believing we can do things for ourselves. Maybe it is part of our history of being constantly told we are unable to look after ourselves that over time we have come to believe it. My view of the debate has been heavily influenced by writers and journalists who over time have put their weight behind the Yes Campaign, people like Riddoch, Bateman, Hassan and McWhirter. On the No side all I have read is disaster, it won’t work, the oils running out we can’t have the pound, won’t be able to defend ourselves and it goes on and on and on. Their campaign has been based on fear and uncertainty but I do not understand how they are so certain that we will go down the pan if we vote Yes. The uncertainty of oil revenues cannot be more uncertain than those of the financial sector, 2008 is not that long ago.

There are many things that I disagree with what the SNP Govt has carried out. The National police force, armed officers in the Highlands is not something I want to see. However I am voting for Scotland and not the SNP, Labour or the near extinct Lib/Dems. I was listening to a debate on Radio Scotland on Friday as I was out fishing and there was disagreement from the Yes speakers, in this case over the currency, and this was jumped on as a bad thing. Completely missing the point of the whole campaign. I am voting Yes to decide what I feel will be right in my new country. The balance of all the things that may go wrong could be outweighed by so much more, Trident being shipped down the road, public services run in our national instead of shareholder interest, development of renewable energy instead of building ludicrously expensive nuclear power stations and returning local power to local people. An inspiring speech from another time but possibly even more relevant today is Jimmy Ried’s speech to the students at Glasgow Uni on 28th April 1972.

“Let’s gear our country to social need. not greed.” An aspiration worth following in itself but also he said “To measure social progress purely by material advance is not enough. Our aim must be the enrichment of the whole quality of life. It requires a social and cultural or, if you wish, a spiritual transformation of our country.” Also the much quoted “The untapped resources of the North Sea are as nothing to the untapped resources of our people”. There may be many people reassessing their neighbours potential if the polls are to believed this weekend.

He finished the speech by quoting Burns from a poem called “Why should we waste our prime…..”

“The golden age,we’ll then revive, each man will be a brother

In harmony we will all live and share the earth together,

In virtue trained enlightened youth shall love each fellow-creature,

And time will surely prove the truth that man is good by nature.”

In a way I see what is happening in Applecross as part of this new and developing belief that we can carry out the necessary work that will enable us rebuild our communities, to increase our capabilities, believe in ourselves. Like recreating a nation it will not be done without many difficulties. Current establishment never wants any deviation from their status quo. When our Community Company was set up there was a 2/1 vote for it with a high turn out. There has been many problems along the way of setting up and running a Filling Station, Public Toilets,Community Broadband Network and the ongoing financing and building the Community Hydro Scheme with local power usage. There is a changing attitude amongst residents here with more wood being harvested and burnt locally and upsurge in bike use to name but two green initiatives. Change happens all the time whether we notice it in the short term or not. One incident that will always stay with me is a conversation about three years ago in which the Charitable status of Applecross Community Company was discussed. It came up when we were discussing the potential earnings from the Hydro Scheme and it was suggested that we would not need to apply for charitable status as thee was a Charity already established and all the proceeds could go through this Charity and they would decide to give out the monies as and when they saw fit to when we needed funds. I have always thought that this attitude is so prevalent amongst our establishment. We cannot know or be trusted to do what is best for ourselves. Our national revenues are sent south and come back depending on the political views expressed at any one time. Whether more or less comes and goes is entering an interminable argument of statistics but misses the whole point of responsibility of looking after our own affairs. So on Friday, in a place where views are often kept to oneself, I raised my hopes on a makeshift flag pole and steamed for home.


Called out early on Saturday evening as there were a couple of groups booked in at six and it is quite difficult to arrive and start work at the same time as the customers arrive while looking at the booking list for the evening. Turned out fairly busy but not silly. Lots of moving people about throughout the shift and seem to have got away with it. Bit like a game of chess when you have to plan a few moves ahead. Building a rapport with the tables helps and “being too nice to refuse my requests” help as well. Only because I knew them, I moved a couple in-between courses, as regulars and knowing what the Inn is like, took it as a compliment that I asked them. It was a compliment to them that I was able to ask them and also that I knew they were okay in helping us out and the table was used for yet another late group of dinners. In this case four sirloin steaks, at least they were rare and medium rare so kitchen were not too frazzled. Despite this there are always tables who are not quite with it wandering up to the menu board after service has finished to see what they are going to eat and ordering desserts at eleven, an hour after the prep room has closed down. But you treat them just the same and not get too fashed.

Sunday, and Jack gets to sit on a police bike and seems to enjoy the experience.


A police training day with a lunchtime stop at the Inn. A slightly quieter day, plenty to do but reasonable numbers. The thirty bikers booked for twelve arrived but some just stayed outside and had a coffee and ice cream at the “Silver Dream Machine” so we did not see them all inside. Towards the end of the lunch shift we had an interesting customer. First was alerted when he asked several penetrating questions about where we sourced this and that. Squats easy enough to tell but had to go to find out the rollmops came from Strathspey. That satisfied the questioner and they all duly tucked into a seafood delight. Squats, langoustine and herring. Then it was onto the ice cream…..pressure on when he let drop that he had been judging the Scottish ice cream competition at, I think, the Royal Highland Show with a couple of Italians. They were on the ball as they were able to identify all five ingredients along with saying that the whisky used was from Islay. Also the way that the gelato was finished pointed to the fact that the ice cream maker was over 60. Turned out that the whisky was an Ardbeg and the ice cream maker was 82 years old. When he ordered the Plum Sorbet I wandered off hoping for Aron it would go okay. Turned out it went better than that. The whole visit was deemed well above expectations and he went out to Aron and Sarah and told them that he would have given them a silver medal just based on that sorbet alone.


As he was leaving I spoke to him outside and he said it is so often the small dedicated producers that come up trumps. Have to say that Aron and Sarah were excited little kids after the praise their ice cream received, and rightly so. Looking round here when you see The Torridon Smokehouse and Nanny’s at Shieldaig, coming round the Coast you pass another Smokehouse at Kenmore, good things being said about this new venture. Then onto Applecross itself and you have the Walled Garden and the Inn and you realise how fortunate we are regarding food outlets. Yesterday I finish the shift with pan-fried lemon sole, salad and chips and tonight I am having some salted caramel and golden syrup ice cream after my slow cooker tea tonight. We do eat well and I for one appreciate that fact. Another wee story from last week, retold by Judith which reminded me of it. A little chap when asked for his order said nuggets, chips and beans. There was a pause and then his mam said and what is the word you forgot. Another pause and he came away with “baked” to a burst of laughter.

Dark and breezy today so no danger of going to sea so a little book work and a run up the road for my fruit delivery. Busy place with bikes, tractors and buses scattered round the Inn.


Small blinks of colour at the gate


but even the greys


of the horizon is fine to look at. As ever looking over Ardhu and Ardban is very peaceful.


Dougal keeps wanting to go out to have a look and that is what I did this evening and once again he is worth it.


Finally yet another chat about independence, this time with an Australian staying at the Inn with her sister. To cut a long discussion short…..complete puzzlement as to why we would vote No. Sums it up I suppose.

Yesterday was spent fishing in the eye of a depression.


The forecast, if you wanted, was a bit dodgy and there was a land breeze from the east in the morning but it turned out to be a calm and productive day.


First job in the morning was to head into the Pier and unload the “German writing” fleet and take on board a newer cleaned set.


Headed north and put the fleet together on the way out. Generally I have something to do for just about every minute when I am on board as just steaming for place to place is fine but I find it more tiring than work. Pleasantly surprised by the catch today. The quality is not too bad and despite the large numbers of berried prawns returned the quantity was okay as well. Nine berried prawns went back from one creels. Working around 50% returned in quantity but by weight as the berried females are smaller maybe 30%. I tend to be more accepting that other fishermen do not put them back, more so than a northern visiting fisherman who was at the Inn on Thursday evening. he took the stance that he just could not understand why fishermen landed the berried prawns. I do not know about potential imbalances of female/male structure of the stock if we all put them back. but I had to agree with him if not quite so forcefully as he was putting it. As far as I know there are only two establishments that do not buy berried females, The Applecross Inn and the Loch Ness Inn. Also we have had other guys on board Sam from London and Ian from Edinburgh who agreed 100% with not selling them. It will have to come from the buyers if it ever to become part of the fishery. I suppose  am fortunate that I cover some of these “loses” by landing the squat lobsters.

Back to the weather and there was, how do you say, plenty of it going on. Lots of showers drifting by,


good to watch especially as they passed mainly to the south. On the way in, after hauling 400 creels, I looked up from tailing numerous squats and noticed a couple of porpoises lazily making their way across the Bay. Nipped in for the camera but was not really close enough. However looked around and saw a cracking rainbow to the east across the Bay and very close to the boat.


That and the soundless flight of a passing gannet makes the day more than a job.


An encouraging sign in the last few weeks has been a re-emergence of some immature haddock on the grounds. For a while there were none to be seen and you were starting to wonder if they were following the hake in their local demise. This little one returned and swam off.


“Noo, noo, loons [boys], stop that. Divn’t ye ken whit Peter said till the haddock when he took it aff the bait and left his thoum [thumb] mark on it? He said: ‘Roast me and bile me but dinna burn ma beens [bones], / In case I grow scarce aboot your hearth steens [stones].'”  From a Hamish Henderson collection. The origin of the St Peter’s thumb print I know not. Have only seen a couple of draggers out on the Sound this year. Not scientific to put the two together and come to a concise conclusion but may be connected.

Thursday evening at the Inn there was a new edition to the Applecross dog population, a cute little terrier from the North Coast called Russel.


Sunset was not too bad either.


A Ceilidh Day

Another couple of days, beautiful weather and indifferent fishing. At sea yesterday coupled with a shift at the Inn. Cannot stop taking snaps of Ardhu in this weather,


so well situated below the Cuillin, despite The Inner Sound between them. Fairly intense schedule with everyone away it is just the dogs and me so spending so much time at the Inn and/or at sea they take priority when I come in. They do seem relatively settled and just lie around when I am out. Am assuming that as there is no destruction when I return. As soon as I come back from landing the prawns at the Inn it is straight down the road with them to the top of Criag Darroch and a wee seat overlooking the moorings.


Good for me as much as them as it is just a bit of time out before tucking into the tea, washing etc.

Today has been one of these time outs, partly due to a bad headache when curtailed the enjoyment of last night’s shift. Was in a spot of trouble by the end of it and made it home slowly on the bike doped up with painkillers and after letting the dogs out a doze on the couch helped things as it was reduced to just a headache by twelve. When I say letting the dogs out that meant two as the east wind had blown the back door open and Dougal headed off for a jaunt. He has been good lately but this time I did not worry about him too much and sure enough he was there at 7.00am sitting across the road despite the gate being left open for him.

Yesterday was a routine day with a stunning morning


to start work in


and it was over the Pier to fuel up and sort some diesel for the Inn’s Generator, and take bait on board. Sometimes I think I could do with a crewman, have a cleaner and slightly less chaotic boat although everything gets put in its place by the time I arrive at my first fleet.


Passed the Grace Anne hauling crab pots at the back of St Island with her shaky crewman. Seems the result of a couple of glasses of wine with Son No1 last night. The calm day will help.


The evening light show was wonderful,


the result of a front coming in from the west and the excuse for not going fishing today.


Kept the last fleet on board for a change round tomorrow morning. Only a couple of fleets like this and it will be a pain to remove, but we are back onto the “German writing” worm. The pressure washer does not remove them and they have to bashed off……time consuming.


Back to today and down the road early for the prawn landing. Nice few minutes on my own with a heron and a couple of gulls. Did not have the camera unfortunately as the heron is notoriously shy. But sitting on a rock looking west waiting for the Boss it was peaceful and for a couple of minutes of solitude all is well. Wee ceilidh with the Boss before head back to the house to complete recovery. Only other thing of note and this made my day, the ceilidh continued. I headed off down to the shop, Mainly for a WHFP, which had not arrived incidentally. Before setting off, Margaret was at the door and for something that took 5 mins ended up chatting for 20. On the way to the shop and stopped for a chat with Ali, who mentioned about Dan being taken off the Hill a couple of days ago by helicopter to Raigmore while out helping with a stalk. So armed with a packet of biscuits I called in to see Dan, an excrewman, turns out it was a condition that he has had all his life. Simply put it is a short-circuit of his heart that doubles his heart rate and if he tries to work through it causes him a few problems. Normally he shuts down to get it back into sinc. As there was a stag to load and ponies about the shut down stage never took place so company got worried and called in the chopper which already had a causality from Torridon on board. Dan was more embarrassed than ill so all ended well. But another wee ceilidh ensued. Makes you realise just stopping for a chat means so much and we just do not make time for it these days…..too rapped up in being busy and there is so much to talk about. Now back to busy which means the evening shift is beginning soon.


The contrast over the weekend to the beginning of the week could not be more stark. Saturday evening a definite pub atmosphere in amongst all the good food being consumed. Lots of big fishermen going over what they had caught, fish getting bigger, in proportion to the number of pints consumed but it was enjoyed by all and the visitors joined in with gusto.Sounds as if it was a good day with good catches, Michelle landing 150 kilos of fish. Being too old to enjoy myself at the Dance I was left to close up at the Inn which turned out to be a very pleasant task. Although I had come across the “man from Mull” earlier I had not engaged. he turned up after hours looking for a Heineken with the intention of heading down to the Hall. First thought was way too late, but had a look about and realised I had a half hour before it was all sorted and locked down so went to get one. Great chat and it involved Macleods and Yes voting. Realised that I may know who he was as a Macleod and box playing were dropped into the conversation. turns out Robert Macleod, son of the famous Bobby Macleod, accordion player extraordinaire. (Cannot stop playing the Libations’ Caledonia just now).Right on locking up he asked what it would be like down at the Hall, “Would it be a Rammy?” Suggested it would be and he took the decision to head back to the tent. And the story from the Hall was that it was a Rammy.

Sunday turned out to be a long shift, getting prawns in the morning before a twelve-hour shift. Cheesed off when I went out to the Varuna only to find I had forgotten to put one of the boxes over the side so all dead. Waste…. really cheesed off. The rest of the catch did last the shift so only of the menu for the Monday lunch shift. With the pooches on their own today I took them down the road in the stunning morning,


otter watch was the order of the day. Some do not learn their lessons.


Mind you others are on Dougal watch.


Cycled home for a break and to feed and take out Dougal and Co. Back up the road and was late having had to stop off to take a few snaps.





Weather has turned and wonderful long sunny days still here with sunsets to compare anywhere in the world.



Nice end to the evening when a London family turned up latish and there was a bit of confusion over a forgotten anniversary. All sorted by putting an extra-large Eton Mess on fire.


Contrast the two days fishing on my own on the water with the hustle and bustle of the weekend, the blue skies and relatively calm waters,




a breeze from the east but only gentle. Difficult time of year to fish for me as 50% of the prawns are now going back over the side. There are large numbers of berried females appearing in the creels but fortunate enough there are enough being landed to keep me out of poverty. Today surprisingly enough we almost caught as many extra-large as we did small prawns, although that does not account for the numbers of  returned berries. Don’t know what a gathering of cormorants are, anyone?


Looked busy still at the Inn but it is coming to the end of the English holidays and that will ease the numbers down a bit. Evening out with the dogs and although tiring all shaping up to make the winter feel that bit shorter,I hope. Heather looking great and going to check to see if honey available this weekend.



Had half an eye on the Debate last night out of interest, bit shouty but what you would expect. Do not think many people would be persuaded either way but twitter is full of people going towards Yes. Possibly the worst outcome looming….a recount with recriminations. Bit different from the 30% Yes starting line eighteen months ago. The next three weeks are going to be intense so better not go on too much but I think there is a chance we may be taking the opportunity to make our own ballsups instead of blaming everyone else..


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