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

From Bees to Boris.

It has been a quiet few days in that the weather has been pretty poor. It was good to get the extra fleets up on Friday as the weather broke over the weekend and stayed that way up till now. Hoping to be back on the water tomorrow, back permitting. A potter about day on Saturday which included a wander down to the shop with Dougal.


There seems to be a burst of colour showing how well the heather is doing this year and any break in the showers and wind the bees are out collecting.


The evening we were up at the Inn as usual and it was a steady night, less silly busy than usual and the Boss took some time off leaving us to do the front of house ourselves. Good mix of Europeans and home-grown and all happy with one or two comments expressing best meal. Always good to pass on to the kitchen. Couple of late arrivals from the Hostel, Germans from Frankfurt, deliberately took the bus so they would speak to people. They had an interesting take on learning language in that they reckon that we have more time concentrating on other stuff rather than spending time learning some one else’s language. I am always in awe of the effort people make to learn my language and have promised myself that this winter I am going to make an effort, however small, in order to interact a little. They got me talking about the Referendum and in a good way, just explaining the logic of how it is going to pan out. With Son No4 home as well the discussions are raging at home and it is great to hear articulate reasons put forward. Defence, economics and the rest are getting the full works. Something I got into only when we went to war in the Falklands in the early 80s. Good these discussions are taking place with an air of respect and no one is falling out but using words rather than fists to support their arguments. Bit different from some the bigotry expressed by some supporters I have seen on twitter this last week. Fascinating programme on just now about how people may vote and suggests that people who are risk averse tend to vote No. Great chats with the boys about how the brain works and scans showing parts of the brain reacting to liberal ideas. Feel lucky.

Sunday was a long day at the Inn, inundated by Italianos from Florence and was broken by a trip to Shieldaig, a taxi run for three cyclists,


two of whom were booked into the Inn. Geordie, a Spanish cyclist, had joined them and it was a bit of a squash on the way back. Interesting chat speaking to a lady working for Boris in London and a teacher in Hackney. Love hearing other people’s perspective and there’s on Scotland was genuinely positive and they had a lot to say about the welcome they had received around the country. Also a wee insight into how Boris “works” with planning. That, and a couple who were travelling around the country having sold up in Amsterdam and he was reading “The Poor Had no Lawyers”, so the obvious conversation followed. Would like to get it sourced but read last week that 70/80% of land ownership in Scotland is based on the profits of slavery. I guess that may be a bit high but even if it was 10%, nothing to be proud off. Just missed a spectacular shaft of light over the Sound. By the time I got the camera out it had gone but still not so bad.


Wind continues yesterday from the North so it was a trip out to the boat to bring ashore the rest of the prawns for the Inn and as it was up in the van I was duty bound to fill it with wood on the way back.


Power saw on the beach and the tree is now home unfortunately I must have weakened my back as I could not move this afternoon after leaning into the back of the van for something and moved the wrong way. In retrospect should have cut them into smaller logs. Painful but may be okay tomorrow as I recognise the muscle that has been stretched. Compensate by using stomach muscles to protect the damaged back muscle and a visit to Sarah is on the cards for Friday. May be painful. It was shaping up to be productive day, working on buoys


and a tidy up but came to an abrupt stop. IMG_0989Had a laugh at break time when Teacher came out to ring the bell for the end of the break but the wee ones had n’t quite got the hang of it and carried on playing across the road. There was quite a lot of bell ringing to get them to come back to the classroom. Son No3 looks as though he is heading off tomorrow fit and healthy and according to the Doc one of the most tested patients she has come across. He has three pages of twenty tests per page to his name. Seems an unknown infection and no long-term damage so off to a dive in Scapa Flo and next term.

Fergie and the Cuttlefish.

Good to be back on the water although the morning was rough enough. Put a fleet together on the way out to north of the Bay but there was still the left overs from yesterday’s northerly coming down the Sound. Only just stayed out, hauling the first two fleets was hard work. A half decent scattering of prawns helped keep me going and in due course the forecast turned out to be correct, a decrease in the strength and change in the direction meant a flat calm end to the day.


This was needed, wanting to get as many creels up as possible and still land the prawns in a reasonable time. Made it in by six and with the buckets outside and pans on the cooker the kitchen soon had them under way. Luckily the evening had not kicked off, there only being one order on the tab grab. Would have liked to have stayed out a little longer but coming in at seven or eight would have stewed up the kitchen. Weather breaking again tomorrow so that appears to be it for the week. Still lots of squats about and although the size of prawns are nothing to write home about there should be enough for the weekend. Not many boats about the Sound just now so the skuas gathered around towards the end of the day, had a half-dozen around the boat by the finish and lovely to see the diving gannet in the morning. He did not stay around. Signs of autumn in the larger numbers of berried prawns coming into the creels. Good to know there is scientific back up in knowing they survive when they are put back in. Also came across the first cuttle fish eggs of the season complete with cuttlefish.


Quite a few octopi about as well although the creels being left for the week will attract a slightly larger number. Good to come in late, tired but in quiet weather and although not that sunny, bright and clear.


A low tide and this proved awkward in the morning as the tide was with the boat while hauling against the wind. Not quite the Caribbean but there are many bright colours in the sea life of the west coast.


Struggled to rise early this morning after a night at the Inn with Fergie doing his annual trip with his button box accordion.


Busy enough early on but the weather helped with a number of people sitting outside. However, around half seven it became too cold and the waiting list for tables grew somewhat. Also making room for Fergie and his accompanying keyboard took a little doing especially as a couple of locals were eating at the big table when we were planning its move.


All ended well and Fergie struck up and played with out a break up till I left at 11.30pm. “Finbar” came out for a dance


and had just about every visitor up on the floor for a waltz.


Fergie also had the Boss in tears as he is publishing a book of a 100 tunes he has composed and one of them is called “Judy from Applecross Inn”, an honour indeed and the tears flowed…..possibly the first time this week. Fergie can still reduce a woman to tears, not bad for a man of seventy-five.

Good news to come home to with the Filling Station up and running again. I lost count of the number of people I had promised to fill up before they were leaving over the weekend. Good to see how well supported the Filling Station is by visitors who see the efforts made by the Company in providing some of the basic services needed as background to the current tourist “boom”.

Post Bertha and Roads.

Still unsettled on the weather front and as a result there will be no langoustines on the menu tonight. First shift for quite a while having taken my last box ashore yesterday. By the end of last night’s shift there were one main and one starter portions left. Part of this post is to do with getting photos to the Highland Council after bringing up the roads condition south of Camusterrach at the Community Council meeting on Tuesday evening.


Good way to bring the poor condition of the wall to the Roads Dept attention and other than sending in a memory stick technology is failing on my computer.




While I would not like to be in Broadford and Strath’s shoes, read in the WHFP that they had dissolved this week, usually if you are doing something then some one somewhere is objecting to it. Take the same opinion with the Company. If we do not have people saying they do not want to work with us then it usually means inertia or we are doing anodyne stuff. At the moment it is all quiet with only very few negative comments.. Getting the road fixed before the winter kicks in is a priority however. A strong North westerly and a high tide will work its way under the road and cost a lot more to repair than if it was done now.

Just one day of rain in the dingy to bail out,


head over to wash a fleet of creels at the Pier,


in fairly miserable weather


and take a box of prawns up to the Inn.

Tuesday morning saw us up at the Bay going along the shore with the chainsaw and loading a half ton of wood into the van.


A silver lining from Bertha, lots of larch and the tree that was sitting in the river for a couple of months providing a good deal of fuel for the winter.

Last night busy but not silly, seafood platters being the order of the night along with scallops, prawns, monkfish and cod. The Luxemburger was so overwhelmed with his meal he had a short nap while Lena May set up for breakfast.


Not been out all week fishing and had planned today but the Filling Station is causing headaches again along with a transformer blowing up behind the Inn. We can manually supply fuel but at the moment Gilbarco seem at a lose as to what is wrong now. Weather has definitely improved today along there is a strong north wind blowing down the Sound so The Filling Station did not really keep me ashore.

Always good to chat to Audrey about bees and pick up little snippets of information. Have little moments when I think I may be doing something wrong or do not know what is going on in the hive. Have not had too close a look recently but been comforted that all is well in the new smaller hive as both sets of flying bees are taking in lots of pollen just now. They look nice strong almost black bees and seem to be surviving well.


And tonight none other than the famous Fergie Macdonald playing accordion at the Inn on his “last” Last Highland Tour. No doubt we will see him next year.


Bertha Brushes Applecross.

Lots of electrical and internet disruption over the last day or so. Went up to the Bay when I saw Val’s photos on fb and took a few of my own. Got there not long after the height of the flood going by one or two bits of wood by the side of the road leading onto the Home Bridge. We have not had the damage to roads and property that has occurred further north around Gairloch and Ullapool so I was able to watch the awesome power of nature rush down the Glen. The VT road was shut


and there was a loch looking over towards Clachan.


The river had burst the bank above the sea pool





and the river walk was under water


as was the other side.


Joiners Shop was close to flooding out.


Back up to the Home Bridge which was still taking a pounding. Only needed some large tree trunks to stick.



As it was you could feel the bridge trembling when you put your hand on the stone post.


The River Walk was definitely a no go stroll, wonder if some of the larch stacked up there is still there. May have to watch for floating logs on the Sound later this week.



Tension, What Tension?

Been a busy three days with an extra shift at the Inn thrown in on Friday. Fishing and the Inn means tired. On Thursday evening we had the annual visit of Tarneybackle www.tarneybackle.co.uk who struck up after a busy service. They always have a crowd out to hear their brand of Scottish songs and it was a crowded bar. It was good to catch up and watch the latest addition to their percussion section,


very keen to make an impression and join the band.


As it is now Monday you realise just how much time rattles on. I suppose from Thursday on it has been work and sleep. I see I have 320 emails in the mail box at the moment and building up to going for it. Cannot even remember when I started this post, it looks around Saturday afternoon  as I was out early and had a couple of hours at home before going up the road to the Inn. Back to Thursday evening and Yes conversations, do a lot of reading and seem to miss out on the grandstanding in the media. Watch internet programmes like ReferendumTV referendumtv.net with the likes of Ian MacWhirter and Lesley Riddoch and chatting to people, mainly Yessers admittedly, talking about potential, positive, and keeping away from party politics. I am finding this aspect of the debate oppressive and repetitively boring. The potential on the other hand is unlimited….just like Community engagement. Pointy fingered politicians are a complete turnoff and like many in the Yes camp have never been Nationalist but recognise the untapped possibilities that lie just up the road. The Vote is going to become a greater part of life over the next month or so so avoiding it is leaving out a big part of the story. Sometimes just looking out to the West puts a lot in perspective.




Great to report the mystery illness of No3 is disappearing without revealing its content and not leaving any damage in its wake. The pooches are getting longer and longer walks often in the dusk. Bit of a scare for Eildh, Dougal’s Mum, when No 3 realised the yelping in the dark involved an otter on the Caman. She probably does not realise she could have lost a major part of her face but ended up with a scratch across her nose and No3 with wet feet.


I have had two wonderful cycles home on Friday and Saturday evenings where the moon was shining bright with clouds whispering across her face. The reflections on Milton Loch and later on Pol Creadh arouse a fair amount of emotion, especially when you have Micheal McGoldrick and Blair Douglas playing on the iPod. Living here is the best, working, that’s what most people call it, here is even better. I just say that people keep giving me money for doing things I enjoy. The Inn has been extra ordinarily busy as well but for the most part enjoyable, been tested a few times over the weekend but managed to hold on in there. Being tired even when you do not realise it can affect your judgement. But if you always remember it is people you are dealing with, their desires and concerns may be different from yours, and you are there to meet them. They probably have stuff going on in their lives which takes them to Applecross for a bit of time out and if you can give them an experience that allows them to deal with the problems they face then you can hardly ask for more. It has been a European weekend which I have loved. Switzerland, Cyprus, Germany, Holland, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg have all sent representatives to eat at the Inn and seafood was the main attraction. The best comment came from a French Dad as he was leaving said “My son was eighteen today and I thank you for such a fitting occasion, could not have been better”. Everyone at the Inn should take credit for that comment as everyone working there contributes to an amazing place. Things have been a bit tense behind the scenes over the last couple of days but do seem to be working through with no casualties. To provide such a great venue puts staff under so much pressure that it blows sometimes. Only on Friday I got a good blast for missing out a mussels on an order. It being ten to nine did not help. Always I look to the humane side of things and actually seeing so many people, who are so different, working together says a lot about the people involved.

I get my escape from this intensity by going to sea,



to be in the natural and real world of the ocean,


catching good honest meals for people to enjoy. Fishing very patchy and although compared to times gone by it is still worth the effort. There are a few tense and scary times that go on in this idyll as well.


Although some look fairly unconcerned with a stressful lifestyle.


Everything I do has its rewards, the scenery and solitude of the environment that you work in. So enough of this living in paradise lark. I had decided that I was in for the day after getting soaked earlier when I went out to the Varuna for prawns for the Inn, but after seeing photos on FB of the river at the head of the Bay I better go out and take a few shots myself. So it is back on the bike for another soaking.


Eric and the Snails.

Bit low-key these last few days, certainly this week, possibly as I have not been out on the water yet. Sunday was a fairly busy one and with one or two staff having headed off it was a slightly longer shift, lasting till almost 8pm. Nice view across the Sound


and a lovely cycle home after a fine afternoon’s music and visitors. Eric, the cockerpoo,


is back in town and I finally took a couple of snaps. He is pretty cute and very well-behaved. Weather is pretty variable at the moment, we got the Commonwealth Games rain overnight on Saturday into Sunday


but before that it was a lovely calm midgy day.


Monday was a breezy day and with the lack of prawns around there no question of going out. Prawns still on the menu and although I could not make the effort to go out Tuesday, going to Inverness instead, they stayed on. On the way back from Inverness I stopped in to Ardelve to drop off a nice camera lost at The Applecross Games. First time I have ever been down that wee shore road, lovely place, good chat and good company. But always good to get back home to the Sanctuary.




Today with the energy level back up a bit I started off by taking large prawns ashore for the Inn and then back out. It was really strange as I came on board I had a thought about batteries and weirdly enough getting to the wheelhouse I found four very flat ones having left a focsle light on over the weekend. So down to the engine room and out with the said items, into the dingy and ashore. Up the road with the prawns and back down with the second charger. Glass calm day




does not make the mood any better but pressure washing a hundred creels did make the day less of a disaster. Lots of very large snails liking the long grass growing into the creels.


Off up the road now to the Inn, to whatever is there. Monday evening was stowed out but last night was just normal busy. Still calm and love the scene of a boat heading across the Sound towards the Crowlins and Kishorn.


Now Thursday afternoon and it is blowing a nice breeze from the South. Feeling quite smug as I was up early doors


and had more than half the day done before the breeze arrived at the back of eleven. Just three fleets to haul in the up and down bits. Even with the hard work it almost always improves my state of mind getting back out on the water. A lot of people who are connected to the tourist trade start to find it a little tiring by this time of the summer. Still full on and a good three full months to go. The four previous months have already taken their toll, but should not complain as it sees one through the winter. The shift last night was not too bad for front of house although the kitchen did get panned with a ten and fourteen , a six and numerous twos and fours. managed to get off early as today was planned as an early start. Was asked about the Yes/No last night by a Dutch family who are asking every one they are meeting how they are voting. Good chat although they were a little nervous that we may be too small. They did understand my point when I said they would not want to give their taxes to Germany and wait for the Germans to decide how much they could get back. Came across an amusing tweet yesterday which explains it all. “Even if you found some one to scratch your bum better than you can you would still prefer to do it yourself.” One thing is certain the noise levels are going to increase over the next six weeks or so and we might as well get used to it. And finally on Tuesday the fuel arrived, only for the Filling Station not to allow it to be sold as the soft ware needed work by Gilbarco. All good now till the next time.

Music and Work.

With the wind settling down to calm again it was two uneventful days at sea on Thursday and Friday. Interesting spraint on the boat on Thursday morning. If found in the garden I would immediately think of pine martin, but on the boat…. Obviously interested in the bait that was in the covered tub. Did not think pine martins were that interested in water and mink and otters that interested in berries.


Over the two days the quantity and quality of the fishing has been nothing to write home about until I hauled the last three fleets on Friday afternoon. Good selection of medium and fair-sized small prawns in amongst mountains of squats, so many I was tied up on the mooring and still tailing for another twenty minutes. Friday saw an unusual almost painted prawn.




The evening at the Inn promised to be very busy but went smoothly with the Boss leaving us to it. The Ceilidh Trail had their annual visit,


a product of the Feis Movement,www.feisrois.org, and after a meal they struck up with the pipes and played the night away. very much appreciated by the visiting Europeans. traditional music across the Highlands in good hands with the Feis across the country putting out young talented musicians making it a vibrant scene seen with the many bands being formed.


Currently listening to Breabach who played on “In Tune” on Radio 3 earlier this week. bbd.co.uk/programmes/b04bry9r. Outside the Airstream was sitting in front of a misty background.


On the way to work on Thursday it was pleasingly ominous on the Sound.


And looking south the Crowlins catch the late afternoon sun.


There was a pleasant moment on Friday morning when I looked up to see a gannet come alongside looking for fish. Dived for some old bait so did not wait around but before she went,looking around, there were the several black backs and herring gulls, a fulmar had come over and the four bonxies were in attendance. They dispersed as there were a few other boats on the Sound. The black backs are particularly fierce at the moment and are fighting with the bonxies for the bait, not many birds stand up to them. Stayed out longer and hauled a couple of extra fleets on Friday so did not have to go out today. The day improved weather wise till it was almost hot by the afternoon.




Was watched very closely on the way out on Friday.


Well last night at the Inn with the rain falling steadily it seemed the world and her mate came to eat and drink. There was not a table free from the time I started at six till ten but it was controlled chaos. The kitchen had an easier but still hard evening and it went on a bit later than normal with thirty-five still waiting for a table at half eight. On nights like these it is eleven before you know it and today (Sunday) is going to be no different. It was a well appreciated night, Germans, Dutch, Icelanders, French. I saw something towards the end of service which summed up the evening, a young family, German I think, finally got a seat and shared with another European couple. The Germans had a baby, possibly ten months old or so, and as their food came out the other couple took the baby and fed her while the mum and dad had their dinner. Not only did they look after her but continued feeding her…..never met before in their lives

And finally had a link sent by Jimbo in the comments about a guy trying to volunteer up at Assynt and all the problems it entails. I know there are specific problems there, possibly being the first and crofter exclusive and being severely depopulated all counting against the community spirited volunteers. It is still a salutary tale of how communities can go if left to decline and just become destinations for city dwellers. I think our visitors still pickup on the community spirit here and recognise that there are many aspects to living here that make up a still vibrant community even if warning signs are not far from sight. It is not just the Inn that makes Applecross or the paths and scenery. As I have said many times before it is no accident that its Gaelic name translates as Sanctuary. Martin is hard on the lack of powers of the Community Councils and he is right. We are pretty powerless and sometimes end up as a notice board for other organisations when wanting funds or showing off a PR face to tell everyone how wonderful things are. Getting a dangerous, deteriorating piece of road fixed is another matter. As in all these matters patience and keeping stress levels to manageable proportions help you through the seeming morass. It is a fine link and well worth a read to tell folk how difficult  it is to live and volunteer here. I have decided to vote Yes simply because I have not come across any argument not to but also taking responsibility in running a community or country is a bit of a difficult argument to go against. I have never been party political and there are many things that are very wrong, local government or lack of it being one,but I cannot be pessimistic about being given the chance to do something for ourselves. www.scottishreview.net/MartinMorrison164.shtml.

A classic example is my late ordering of the fuel for the pumps and we are out of fuel for this weekend. I had thought I got away with it when I was promised a delivery on Friday but it appears Monday is the soonest. No one is more cheesed off than me for running out but it is interesting to note how important the Filling Station is to the Community by how many people have asked about it and how many people are being caught out with it running out. In a way that is a good sign as people have got used to it being open and available unlike before the Applecross Community Company. Can only apologise for the inconvenience and am not complaining about volunteering. The day I feel I have to will be the day I stop.

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