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

Honey and the Electric Car.

Weather has been as bad as predicted, coming in on Monday afternoon from the south-west and quickly blowing from the north-west. This is the worst direction for the boats in Applecross especially with a high tide as we do not get any shelter from the reefs and the motion rolls in. I arranged a trip to Kyle to take over three frames of honey for extraction. Was a little later than planned as had to wait for the tide to go out to the Varuna, check the bridal and then take the dingy into the shore as it is far too exposed for the forecast. Funny how you miss the obvious and was half way up the Hill before realising that the easiest way to transport them was in a super not the ice cream punnets that I had. Only the one minor tip before wedging them in and driving slower. Arrived about twenty minutes late but the next two hours flew by and learned a huge amount.Depending on how things go this winter plan to have my own extractor for next year. Both hives seem to be in reasonable shape and still flying. Started feeding them this weekend. So the frames were uncapped, put in the extractor


and spun


resulting in about six pounds of honey.


So all loaded up with wax and honey and back over the Hill.

Tuesday was a sheltered day, watching the weather, the boat bouncing around on the mooring and seeing if the dingy was okay on the shore.


Poor weather but not the worst and everything seems to have survived. Dougal, of course, is always on hand to check things are all in their rightful place.


So back at the house the only thing to do with the honey today was to drain the honey out of the wax, a good half pound or so, in a bowl above the fire.


And the wax once drained to be frozen and recycled by the bees next spring. Think I may have a wee holiday on Colonsay around May/June if the Inn will let me. Meeting a real bee keeper only tells me how much I do not know about bees. Rest of day spent looking out the window and watching depressing Scandinavian films. May be moving into the speculation time of year and picking up some criticism of the Company and the Council and how they are too close together. Not sure how to respond to that other than say why not. The sooner all the Community organisations, whether based in the community or absentee, work together the better for the whole community. Some people cannot seem to separate personality from organisation. I, for some strange reason, do not care who is in what but if there is a Community benefit that is enough.

Technology day today, after the butcher came to the front gate, and it was on the Ebike to see the visit of the Ecar which had made it over the Hill with ease and with power to spare.


Very interesting morning chatting about the potential of changing our transport in the countryside, one of our biggest carbon footprints.


Although I do not like the supermarket style of presentation before huge waste, the fact that a van comes in instead of five cars going out does make sense. That does not mean I will ever order from the TESCO van but can acknowledge the benefit. I just think the cost outweighs the benefits in the long-term in the possible loss of shop and PO. Calum, now working on Eorpa, alerted the new contact for BBC Alba, Steve, who duly turned up to do a bit of filming.


Certainly on the cards for the future transport needs of the schoolhouse. Having turned up on the Ebike it was suggested that a wee interview took place after the proper ones. Finished in time for Applecross Ices to get her own back in her wee “media” comment. Group of young chaps from Kyle turned up


to see what was going on and Steve set off on a little drive in the car. This vehicle has a small petrol driven generator which extends its range by another 60 miles. Huge advantage in these vehicles is there are no moving parts,


still a bit pricey coming in at £25,000 with the Govt grant of £ 5,000. Seeing nothing under the bonnet reminded me of the old VW Beetle joke, lady broken down lifts the bonnets and finds no engine when another pulls up and a guy jumps out to help. Tells her it is okay he has a spare one in the boot. Ahh the old ones….. Weird watching it head off without a sound. Means I can wear my headphones on the bike when they arrive here in numbers, invest in a couple of mirrors.Other major excitement of the day was to book up several concerts for the Celtic Connections Festival in January. Two weekends booked up with music from The Americas, here, Africa and Asia. Will be a good break from the depths of an Applecross winter.

Sometimes you hit pure gold and that is what the last hour and a bit feels like. We had a visitor Val, who dropped in some posters for the Ecar which is coming to Applecross next Tuesday and information that the Filling Station was not performing as it should. So it was on the bike with Dougal and Eildh a strong southerly on my back, beautiful strong sunshine and fresh feel to the day. Bit apprehensive about the Filling Station but called in at the Inn for the key and with instructions from Alison and another phone call got it up and running in time for a customer leaving town. Not too worried and hope it is just a glitch. Last night for about an hour I could not load a photo on twitter, these things happen, it is just that when it is a Community Service it means, more than a little inconvenience. As I was on the road, came back through Camusteel and picked up a paper for Raymond, up for a couple of days. Ewen was in and mentioned he had been to Broadford and seen my Mum and the conversation quickly went onto Dolly Macdonald, also at An Arcasaid. I knew she was born in Camusteel and asked Ewen where and then it was a journey into the past. I was taken 60 to 80 years back into what was then life in Applecross. Alistair came in then and it continued. Dolly was one of 7 and I knew “Buttons” a brother who lived in Camusluinie on the shore of Loch Long. The story went on to describe the house, three rooms, a kitchen and bedroom with the third room a small bedroom!!. Told where it was and on the way home was drawn to take a snap of it and imagined the family, the lives they lived on the edge of the land overlooking Camusteel Bay, very powerful living oral history. Possibly meaningless to anyone seeing this remnant of a wall but to me it is now a snap shot of Applecross history that stretches across the world.


One of the stories involved a brother of Dolly’s, Alasdair and Roddy Macbeth, a cousin of Roddy, whose son Rob is putting out the great food at the Inn, were working up at the Walled Garden under the tutelage of Alistair’s father. Anyway they came home one day at the beginning of WW11 and decided they would head off as they did not want to be placed where the country decided to place them. Turned up in Glasgow where they joined the merchant navy, Roddy sailed the world and survived but Alasdair was on his first voyage and coming home on an oil tanker was torpedoed off Africa on his first trip at sea and lost his life. Then it was the turn of a teacher story, Mrs Ross was at the PO when she heard of a local casualty of the war and commented “You just never know who is next” and yes she then received the telegram saying it was her husband. Wee follow-up to this, when I came home I mentioned this to Alison and told her the minister’s wife filled in the teaching role when Mrs Ross found her husband had died. Alison then told me that she has been in contact with the son of a Jewish WW11 refugee practically adopted by the minister,Macleod and his wife. The teacher had taught Alistair and seemingly showed him some numerical tricks to add to his obvious bent towards maths. He ended up as a civil engineer so they must have worked. As I said pure gold and I in a way of thanks said that this is what TESCO is putting in danger. You cannot put a value on what I experienced, it was priceless. And in leaving we all shared the same opinion of the TESCO vans. Feel very fortunate that I do not have to go a genealogy site or a museum to experience a bit of local history. I can just go to my local shop.

So a glitch in The Filling Station turns into listening to tales of the past related by men who were there, little wonder I do not mind volunteering here.

A couple of days of not very much in the production side of things although plenty happening around and about. Wednesday morning saw the first visit of our new travelling van, Kenny Morrison from Gairloch,


and a fine supply of goods he carries. He is doing this in conjunction  with our local shop. He obviously knows what it is like to be small and rural. TESCO on the other hand are now coming in four days a week and it remains to be seen what effect this will have on our local supplier. I always go on about domino effect and in this case it may well be the PO. If it is deemed too hard to provide a grocer service in the face of the current competition then how will the PO survive. Unless it is tied in to another business it is not worth the hassle of providing this. Conversation today with a resident who said they were nervous at the ramifications for their employment and possibly continued residence as a good postal service was vital to their business. Easy for me to not put my TESCO order in as I have not been in a store for years now and can well do without them but presently secure enough to buy good food and base it on quality and not price. Growing skills this year have been awful and only produced some potatoes, garlic and a few odds and ends. As there was a fairly universal failure I am putting it down to manure being too hot and that has been backed up by talking to other gardeners down at my level. Hoping for better next year….always.

Weather has been wonderful over the last week or so, bright and at times very breezy, lovely skies in the evening


enjoyed at the start of the evening shifts rather than the end of service. Often have to go out for customers to tell them their food is on the table, dragging them away from the light shows.


While the seals are with us all the year


round the autumn arrivals are flying in


and yesterday it was the swans on Milton loch,


straight into grazing. Seven in total this year so far with four young ones. Was out at the Varuna today checking her over as the fishing is so sporadic, could have gone out but the thought of the catch meant it was a day ashore. The swans were on the loch this morning as I was on the way up to the toilets which had blocked a couple of days ago. Met Anna and they had cleared themselves once they were shut. Relief but as that is now twice suspect a wee design fault. Should be okay now down to winter levels of use but we may have access to a drain camera which could identify any lips that collect and cause the blockages.Gone are the days when you just phoned up the Cooncil and waited for them to sort it. These bike conversations are like dipping back into the days when people walked and/or worked together and spent far more time discussing problems and solutions or just having a yap.

Work at the Inn keeps going, Wednesday a little quieter but Thursday we made the mistake of thinking around 7pm that it was going to be a winter’s night. By 8pm there were people waiting for tables and the dining room full. Many regulars and a few blog readers whose comments are much appreciated. Great that there is still lots of political chat. Things are still vibrant, and always will be if we continue to keep the Community Company work going. For those that say politics do not affect them, well you get out of bed in the morning and from then on you are affected by politics….no point in complaining. As usual good banter, great food although out of lobster, monkfish and mussels by the end of the night and scallops are rumoured to be in short supply Great comments about the food and also the atmosphere, so good the two guys from Glencoe were setting their tent up at the head of the Bay at midnight….after quite a few Botanists. Aware the weather is changing but the light keeps attracting more snaps and a couple more


after going back down the road from the “sorted” toilets.


Electric car coming to Applecross next week but more of that later.

No Danny Macaskill.

A couple of days off, not quite making it out to sea, and enjoying the days without too much guilt. Morning still lovely weather.





Yesterday’s main event was a wee trip over the Hill to Shieldaig for a much-needed massage, neck especially giving a fair bit of gip. As Alison was not home from the Conference yet took Dougal and mum over with me. Stopped at the Gateway


for a look to see how things were progressing and they are fairly tramping on with the clear felling. Can’t help but notice the huge amount of wastage in the operation as is usually the case with clear felling. Seeing lots of wood just lying about, enough to keep Applecross fires going for years. And that is not the wood piled ready for transporting out. Impressive road built, hearing that it is a really difficult job, I suppose due to the lack of management carried out from the day it was planted. Lots of blown timber and no thinning makes for hard work harvesting. Also hearing that it will only be the Gateway that will be going out the North Coast road as there are no more grants expected so the remaining plantations are not scheduled for felling at all. Good for the roads but not for the trees. Although Dougal would like to have stayed


it was off up the road. New venue as Sarah and Paul are now in residence above Nanny’s. Spectacular view from their door.


Long session as falling to bits after the long season. Always good to catch up with what is happening in the neighbourhood and with plenty of new housing going up the school roll is looking pretty healthy over there. Unlike here, housing and land, same old same old. Left with lots of instructions on how to excercise the old neck. Stopped off on the way out


to give the dogs a run around, chasing acorns,


in the water mainly,


and back home.

Today another non fishing day even although the weather is due to break. Regenerating ready for another blast of work but first it was a trip over to Coillie Ghillie to catch up with the Bucks from Norfolk. Regular visitors but the first time over there. On the way stopped by a car and turned out my Maths teacher Johnny “Nick”and family from Plockton stopped for a chat and catchup. It was a beautiful afternoon and a fine ceilidh finishing up with a bit of camera chat. May be purchasing a couple of new lenses after trying out some variations in the garden.




Lots of activity with Tridents and otters passing by.


Late afternoon sun lit up both Coillie Ghillie, see how close to the shore these building were,




and Ardban and well worth the visit.




Dougal and Eilidh both thought so. Made it to above Poll Domhainn Beag on the bike and quite relieved as not too energetic today. Unfortunately on the way back, while knowing I am no Danny Macaskill, and taking care on the rough track, bike stops, I fall off , roll down bank grabbing anything I can. It was bracken and a throw back to childhood when I slashed my hand with the stuff. Back on the bike and dripped blood all the way home. Not bad enough to take the rest of week off.

They do say that to get over the trouble with a horse you get back to it, so fishing it was yesterday. Before that however, on Friday, after Alison headed off to the Scottish Greens Conference, Simon from Eigg turned up to work on the broadband cabinets and do the prep work for going to Diabeg. He stayed the night at the schoolhouse and enjoyed cooking a meal and having a chat over the evening. Fascinating hearing about the new progress on Eigg which involves the Williams Formula 1 team commissioning a unit which was developed to power up their car after braking into corners. Simply put, a flywheel which draws in energy which is then released when accelerating out of the corner. The application on the island involves using some of the energy that is stored when the renewables are working to protect the battery banks when they kick in when there is no rain, wind and it clouds over. Protects the batteries from the hit they receive when they are switched on to keep the island’s power running. Very interesting to note how the people on the island think. They have a collective responsibility. Simon was asking about the air source heat pump we have installed in our hallway and his main concern was how much power was used to run it. Knowing if every one had one on the island would that be detrimental to the island power supply. The We instead of the I being the most prominent in the query. Also good chat with differing views about the Referendum. And looking at social media outlets it is just not going away. The trip up to Diabeg looked to be successful judging by the photo posted with the dish and nano station up and in position.


Also I did not realise that prospects for the next stage of the back haul connections may be a lot sooner than I thought, greatly increasing download speeds. Interesting times.

So to the fishing or at least my attempt at catching some prawns. It was a lovely quiet morning




and really was not that keen but up and early to see Simon off I was at sea and hauling, not catching prawns fairly early. Going to the next fleet was the only way to stay out and haul 250 creels for a meagre 7 kilos and a punnet of squat tails. Did not last half the evening. But I tried. Unusually large rafts of seaweed floating about on the Sound,


probably as a result of the big tides and quiet weather.


And for the first time I came across a ling otolith. At least that is what I think it is.


The creels when they are not hauled for a wee while catch a few fish some of which are ling. They are too big to swim back out and tend to drown in the creels and are quickly scoffed by crab, prawns, lice etc. The otolith detaches and falls through the mesh but not this one. Todays chuckle came from the Aff The Ball Team who were discussing the unease some voters would feel when singing the Flower of Scotland before the game last night. Conversation went along the lines of what to replace this with and the email suggestion that it should be replaced by the Strawbs ’73 hit Part of the Union caused much mirth. Looking west as I cycled up with the prawns….


Bad timing as the cycle to work coincided with a heavy shower and the trousers had a night club wet look for the first half hour. Busy shift, full bar and people waiting for tables with a contingent down from Shieldaig. All went well despite me forgetting the Big Table order for about 15 minutes. It would include two lamb rumps (25 mins cooking time) 0f course, but blagged it gave them some bread to chomp, keeping hunger pains at bay, and got away with it judging by the leaving comments. Did not close up so was home not long after midnight giving all the birthday parties a miss this weekend. Seems last night’s one wound down at 6am this morning. Oh to be so young and ill the day after, thankfully is a distant memory.

I love the company of my dogs and appreciate them taking me out and as a result see far more of Applecross than I would otherwise. Jenny still comes with us in spirit. So in bright sunshine, me on the bike, and them darting about everywhere the scenes, views and air were perfect. Highland cattle back lit,




and the views west over Ardhu lovely as ever.


Alison away and knowing they would be in the house all day makes for a longish walk this morning and to be quite honest I enjoyed it as much if not more than they did. On the bike up the road just had to stop to snap the tranquility of Milton Loch,


so arriving at the Inn in a pretty good mood. Despite a few downers, reading a missive from some one who is not having a good time, serving over 200 people who came to visit our amazing peninsula, the mood stays up. To accommodate this the Inn is gradually moving North and it is predicted that it will reach the Visitor Centre around the start of the next decade.


Mood matches the weather and fortunate to finish shift with a curried parsnip and apple soup followed by monkfish, salad and chips.Home, out with the pooches straight away and finished House of Cards, now to post this.


Scottish Rural Parliament.

It was one of those days. Should have known as the last thing I said when I left the house was “I can’t be bothered”. Must have really meant it as the better half was surprised that I went fishing. Just as well the weather was good, despite a rolling motion coming down from the north. The wind must have been blowing a bit harder out by the Hebrides and we got the left overs.


Back to the wee disasters. First fleet, came to the end added a creel and then put the rope in the prop. Not deliberately of course, so cut rope, resplice, and get going again. Put knife down and it goes over the side. Next fleet, north end, first six creels foul and is all well until the second end and result is have to haul it on board to sort out. Doing a multi task and the buoy disappears only to jam in the prop/rudder. Another rope cut and take a chance by putting her in gear. Buoy pops out with only a little rope left in prop. Next fleet hauled okay but when shooting back a bundle of eight creels go over at the same time towards the end. By this time I am wondering what I did wrong. The next one is shot over by a neighbour and is quite a struggle to get it up and clear from the other fleet. The buoy gets tangled in the shooting back and a mini chaos reigns for twenty minutes. Keep the head and go for another fleet. And all’s well. No tangles either on the way in or the way out and there were some prawns in it as well. Although there was the heavy motion coming down the Sound the day was spectacular




and by the time I was heading in it was all gentle and calm.


Coming across the Bay always enjoy looking to the settlements at Milton


and Shore Street.


There was a little more to come though as I put the box of squat tails on the shore they coped over and ten minutes were spent picking the tails out of the bladder wrack seaweed like winkles from the shore and to finish off I had to phone the Doc as a tourist had fallen over, been picked up by Rod who was at the Surgery just up the road, and was holding up her pinky which was going in all directions.

There were many good parts to the day but all the mishaps do tire you out and then there is the shift at the Inn. Wednesday evening passed gently through a nice sunset


and without incident, two lobster themidors instead of one was easily dealt with by cheffie. And home in reasonable time. Getting used to not putting on the telly to wind down. Not quite got the smart TV up and running but expected visitor today will be asked for advice.

Thursday began with a little irony pointed out by Marion. Took photo of TESCO van in town and belatedly noticed the slogan, “Recently clicked” as I snap a wee shot of the van going by.


Lots of things going on on the shopping front locally and seems to be a sign of the times. For decades there was a well-respected butcher outlet in Lochcarron recently sold and very quickly sold and currently shut with possible intention of turning into flat conversion. Butcher arriving on Wednesday morning in the form of Kenny Morrison from Gairloch along with Kyle butcher George Macrae planning to make inroads as well.  Same here, long-term shop sold and quickly trashed. At least we still have a good wee shop that tries against the odds to survive.. Ongoing pressure from outside influences from Royal Mail to Supermarkets will test this outlet to the limit in the coming years. So a trip to the Scottish Rural Parliament was a good way to head out-of-town and exchange views with other communities about our problems and opportunities. Good to see so many people there considering some of the low turnouts across rural Scotland. Apart from the interesting interaction and chat three things stuck in the mind. The first being that there is plenty money in the system it is just going in the “wrong direction”. Why would you subsidise land owners and corporations with CAP and FIT payments when they already have everything. In fact estates are bought and sold on the income generated through subsidy now. Land reform needs to be carried out and the spiralling  value of land graph needs to be brought under control. Remember being shown a graph showing business and property values compared to the tax imposed on them and showing the tax exempted land completely out of sinc with other values. This was during a workshop at the Community Land Scotland AGM. And thirdly, why not have local decisions overturn national ones rather than the other way round. A salmon farm which is put in place for national reasons but may have detrimental local outcomes should not go ahead as these reasons can be given more status than increasing the trade balance with China. Do not see any of these aspirations happening in the short-term but if they filter up into the system and grow in strength maybe the establishment and those in power will have to listen to and represent the “masses” better than they are doing now. Drive back through Lochcarron had some pleasing views out on the loch.



Driving my recently MOTed van picked up from DMK’s after getting new pads and discs due to underuse and rust. Can’t win. Had to stop at Kishorn for a wee snap looking out the loch.


Nice drive back, autumn well under way


and straight to work at the Inn. Very pleasant shift with a wee burst at eightish but lots of time to talk to the marine biologist and landscape gardener along with a long and satisfying conversation about the IndyRef. A view from the South and very interested in a view from the North. Like these chats where opinions are exchanged and changed by putting points across without any aggression. And even better later on, the Inn cleared as if by magic and no one there at eleven, so home by twelve.

Today was fairly sedentary as I decided not to go fishing and had prawns hanging so could fulfil last nights promises. Out to the Varuna and up the road with a half-dozen kilos. Low tide




and bright sunshine makes for lots of birds at the low water mark.


Back for a bit of wood chopping and dog walking before digging some tatties and harvesting a bit of lettuce and garlic for the tea. Simon staying the night as he is going up to fit the dish on the SW building at Diabeg tomorrow with Sean. So the North Coast chappies can start getting excited about getting their broadband on stream in the next couple of weeks, assuming of course there are no hitches tomorrow.

All about the Fruit Fly.

Saturday night at the Inn was just good fun. I suppose you could call it work at a push but as there was not too much organising and/or waiting for tables, the evening shot by and it was twelve before you knew it. It was one before everyone decided to go head for bed. The oft heard phrase of “have you no homes to go to.” Comes to minds when all is cleaned up and nothing else to do until the last drink is drunk. The fun involved keeping the birthday party on table D happy, a very easy task once he had his creamed cabbage sorted out. Just remembered I had forgotten the birthday cake I was supposed to take home.


Blame the late night. Good banter all the same. Have to say the guy that came out tops for the evening was the New Yorker who was a scientist and studied the brains of the fruit fly. It had a purpose and the results were an indicator to how the human brain worked.  Dipped very briefly into what could have been a weird world but fascinating none the less.. Discussing the advantages where you can put a living fruit fly under the scope and put dyes on nerve ends and watch the brain transmit signals to the other parts. Conversation included Constance, Mark’s wife and dipped into psychopathic behaviour and feelings of the New York community around the 9/11. And how she felt, despite not even coming from there. So good night and as often the case dipping however briefly into some one life is really interesting.

Sunday meant a long shift but was prepared for it as I knew that staff were in short supply and there were a couple of bookings in the evening. The only regret was not taking up a fruit fly for Mark in the morning. We have a few in the kitchen at the moment and I did not expect to see him before he left. Music in the afternoon from the Lochcarron guys filled the Inn and it was pretty busy most of the way through the afternoon, meaning late breaks. The half marathon runners came in for a celebratory meal and Prosecco, having completed the Glencoe run earlier in the day. Jon’s main quest for information was the forecast for Monday morning which was not good for fishing but good for Jon.Forecast was right and the tail end of a windy night did not settle down till after mid day.


The day ended up turning into a bit of a House of Cards session. Very quickly hooked on this series. Due a day off so do not feel too bad. The weather certainly improved by the end of the day,


Skye Bridge was closed to all traffic in the morning for only the third time since being built.


So, although it briefly crossed my mind not to bother going out today, made it out for the back of nine, after picking up some bait and water at the pier. It was flat calm and I did not have to go far today as it was just out to the Middle Bank. If it was not that the Inn did not have langoustine to sell for the last three days I would not have stayed out. Passing half the Applecross fleet, just off the moorings, fishing for crab. Was a day when half the fleet would be five or more boats.


Hope they caught more crab than I did prawns. Still it was good to be on the water again after another week ashore. The morning light to the south-east was very pleasing to the eye




although it changed by mid day and turned to a pretty driech afternoon.


That and no prawns makes for a day where you just enjoy being. Seemed to have slowed down a notch but still managed 300 pots before heading in by mid afternoon. Seems a calm forecast for most of the week but may only haul the creels once due to the poor catch. Dougal does not seem to mind and as he was in all day due to Alison in Edinburgh progressing the Hydro/Private Wire, we went down the road for a run out. Brightened up and Ardhu looked splendid in the backlight of the Cuillin. There are quite a few herons about but are so nervous.


Even better was the light over Raasay and Skye after a prawn fried rice tea. There was no saturation added to this. Beautiful in the extreme.


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