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

Cheeky Cormorant.

In amongst the tooing and froing of being on the water and at the Inn over the last week, I had a wee companion with me for a couple of days.


Would say he was a little forward even a bit cheeky in demanding his fish.


Cormorants haven’t a loud call, more a croak but quite an insistent one when he puts his mind to it.


He managed two days of feeding alongside the Varuna, getting his fill of pout,


grabbing the fish,


diving down to swallow it out of reach of the gulls. On the way in on Friday he reckoned he did not have enough and followed me


in for most of the way across the Sound.


He was not as agile as the gulls as he could not swoop down on the fish so lost out on those ones.


They are good at grabbing the fish straight from the creels as they come up on the lines, diving down before they broach the surface.

Still feeling the rush experienced last night at Eden Court watching the Dundee Rep’s revival of John McGrath’s The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black Black Oil. I was fortunate enough to see this play when it went on tour in the 70s with the 7:84 company, seeing it in Dornie. I reckon I am pretty well versed in the history of the Highlands and Scotland for that matter but to see part of this story put on stage with music, anecdotes, brilliant acting and a packed house made this a night of many emotions. Starting with the brutal evictions of the Highland Clearances to make way for the higher rents made from the introduction of the hardy wool bearing Cheviot sheep. Reading directly from accounts of the time you can only barely imagine what it was like to have your house burned down to make sure you were moved on. People who already had so little. The story from Knoydart of the family, six kids, taking shelter in a ruined chapel having their makeshift shelter destroyed four times beggars belief. The move onto the Stag continues the horrendous exploitation of a country to the detriment of its people. As long as there are a few jobs for the native to service the shooters in their pleasures on the Scottish Hills we are told all is well. Lots of humour in characterising the “upper classes” but actually pretty close to the bone, people with incredible amounts of money are perceived to be more important. The Oil sell out next and so damming was a list of countries around the world….Nigeria, Columbia, China, Norway, even Texas University have oil funds. We do not even have a State oil company, ours sold off in ’82. We are told how money, particularly American money, talks making money for select individuals at the expense of a country’s future. The play was also brought up to date with an appearance of an American presidential hopeful and reference to my own situation on the Raasay Sound. A government cabinet minister can glibly state that no the torpedo range will not be doubled in size and eight months later the same range is doubled in size. The music throughout is wonderful, funny, sad and mostly moving, it was a performance that left me so frustrated and angry,portraying exactly what struggling communities are up against that at the end looking for volunteers I, impetuously, volunteered to go on stage to read out a caption. Nine of us went up and mine was “The people do not control the land”. A wee highlight in my life…..sharing the stage with the cast of Dundee Rep. A standing ovation followed the finale and justly deserved. Left the theatre with the strong feeling that we are on a path that will sort out the last 350 years of utter mismanagement of the Highlands by people who only viewed it as an opportunity to cash in or use it as a playground. On the way in we stopped to walk Dougal and Eilidh above Achanalt. I took a couple of snaps which actually show how badly the current mismanagement continues.


The patchwork of clear felled inappropriate forestry, the distant hydro built so the laird can cash in on more subsidy and not a house in sight in the whole glen. There is so much to change, to improve to make it fairer for all rather than the few that have so much already they spend inordinate amounts of time to get more at everyone’s expense. The view to the south a little better.


Referring again to the play and the MoD’s role on the Inner Sound we are seeing the start of men playing at War Games off the coast of Scotland.



Life in the wee smoke of Applecross goes on and it was a week of east winds


and very poor catches. Cannot complain too much though even if the Hydro is taking a wee break. The light as usual is showing how powerful it can be.



Although there are still plenty of people about we managed to keep the langoustine and squats on the board at the Inn for most of the week. It is however tiring on the body and mind when you go out knowing there is not much to catch. Thursday evening was nippy enough with some customers waiting almost an hour for a table. Hard to work the tables when 2/3rds are out of action, a 17, a 7 2x5s and all the residents mean you have to find all the others who walk in a table as they are just as important. The weather is always an important feature and the lower light


on the way to work with the cloud backdrop


make a softer street light.


The east wind does not blow all the time, it has a tendency to drop off between strong gusting spells.


Back onto the theme of land we have been given a timeline for the Trust consultation. I personally am totally confused by the process. Are we being asked to input on the future running of the Trust, deer management, forestry, paths and property? Or are they wanting input on what is already in place, the Community Developement Plan? The one missing link is housing and land, we can play around the edges of “shared community” ambitions or future, but if we do not have access to building affordable housing the future will go down the pan with all the community consultations you want.

The last major event of my week has been the passing of Angus Grant, fiddler of Shooglenifty fame, at the far too early age of 49.


Like many music lovers I would never claim to know Angus, but his music and his band, will stay around from what they have done over the last 25 years. I think we make really strong connections with each other through music and by inference to musicians. You tend to think you know these musicians really well and it is such a compliment to some one like Angus that there has been so many inspired messages related to his passing. I was fortunate to be at three of their gigs in the last couple of years, The Fruit Market, Cambridge and Applecross Community Hall. When he came to Applecross the band were at the Inn to eat and the only band member I know is Ewen. A quiet evening in the middle of winter and a few people coming in to go to the Hall. As well as the privilege of serving musicians you respect I received a quiet compliment from Angus about how welcome he was made….going even further saying it was a true west coast welcome. His music speaks for itself but he was a fine man as well, different but then we all are.


A cancelled Community Council Meeting did not prevent me sending a photo to The Highland Council about the deteriorating state of the Bealach….


A Bealach Morning.

There have been quite a few trips over the Hill lately, Alison heading off and coming back, with a massage thrown in has meant three in the last week. This morning must rank as one of the most spectacular for a wee while.


I had to stop several times and watch the different light


on the way down on the Kishorn side.


Felt like a tourist stopping in the middle of the road and taking a few snaps as I came round yet another corner.


(Thursday evening) Sitting on the bench above Camusterrach at 10.30pm, Dougal and Eilidh giving some rodents in the under growth the fright of their lives, and me just gazing up at the Milky Way listening to The Gloaming, does not get much better. Part of this feeling must be the effort and certain amount of pain one has to go through to achieve this state. The day started off innocuously enough. Lovely morning, interrupted only by a trip and crack on the knee followed by a stubbed toe. The third (always three) event l decided happened when  my boat hook broke. We are enjoying a spell of stunning weather


and it seems to be stretching into the future and only sporadic breezes from the East. It is almost a scene from “Water,water everywhere………..” It means more days at sea but maybe less creels to haul as we should be out more often. Six fleets hauled, good to see the seas are still reproducing from life on ropes that have not been hauled for a while,


langoustine landed, and as a result of a phone call previous evening, off round the coast to pick up a half ton of herring. Had to go round as it was ready to be salted, being there a couple of days. Conversation with myself all the way back deciding whether to salt then, after the Inn shift or even Friday. Made the effort to go for it


and so glad now.

Mind you pretty tired starting work but the mistakes were small ones, easily corrected by kitchen and not noticed by customers. Although still classed as busy there are fewer people about giving us an easier spell before the schools go on half term this week. Every table still booked up and used but the need for sharing a bit less and the dinning room not used quite so much. Wednesday evening was pretty much the same. Boss is back in town and looking pretty refreshed after a few days away. The evening she came back was impressive and the after sunset took a few customers out of the Inn. The Hebridean Princess anchored off


and suggested photo, acquiesced but preferred the scene to the south with the new fingernail moon, pleasant to see.


(Friday evening) Think yesterday took its toll a little more than expected so it is going to be a gentle evening in front of the Gaelic Pro12. Just made it out this morning, with all the niggles feeling just a little worse, and the fishing not so good it requires an extra effort to get away from the moorings. The creels washed earlier in the week are still on the pier


so the plan was to get some back on board and ready them for shooting back in the water on Saturday morning. That part of the day worked out okay as thirty creels roped up on deck. Turned out to be a nice day ashore, sunny and a good hash of wind by mid day meant I only hauled four fleets for not very many langoustine.

Tuesday was put aside for a bit of massage. Had not been for a few weeks and was badly needing one. The fact that I involuntarily swore during it told me I was in need. Had a passenger this time in the form of a bad back. She went first and I went for a wander as I was all prepared with Dougal


and Eilidh.


We went to the end of the road and round to the first bay where I watched a local guy work his way along his fleet.


Later confirmed it was John as I was not sure, him losing a bit of hair since I had last seen him. Took a bit longer to go through the village as stopping to chat with just about everyone who was out and about. No sign of any eagles about but saw a heron taking off across the bay.


I had been told the Sea eagles had sorted the herons out but they are still around. Still windy on Wednesday when I was back over the Hill to take Alison to the train as she was heading off to the Rural Parliament in Brechin. Takes a whole day to get there by public transport. The afternoon weather although breezy is still fine


with the Applecross hills looking resplendent in the autumn sun.


And for the last time, hopefully, I am going to mention the M&SEnergy competition looking for anyone that has not voted yet. Although in front our lead is under threat from second place, Glenalmond College our public school competitor. They have launched a late surge and it would be a pity to lose out at the last hurdle. If you have already voted, find one person that has not to help us over the line. Cheers. https://www.mandsenergyfund.com/projects/applecross-energy Is the link to vote for us.

I so enjoyed Monday’s day out on so many levels, the experience of the solitude, beauty of the surrounds and the music. Even here some people leave the gates open. This must have been where it all started to go wrong, when people decided they owned it so fenced it for themselves.


The feedback on both Facebook and Twitter has been enjoyable and the little conversations show that so many people are connected to this part of the world and for so many different reasons. Also it provokes thoughts about what is remote, the policy of rewilding and what that even means when people used to live there. “On the edge”, well Edinburgh is on the edge of the Forth, likewise Glasgow, the Firth. How people used to live in far greater numbers in these now remote parts but had a far less impact on the natural surrounds. Sometimes simple snippets of conversations stay with you and I will always remember Jim Hunter telling us about the large number of bounties paid out for eagles and other “vermin” considered detrimental to the new industry of sheep rearing in the Sutherland Glens. The people who used to live there lived alongside and with nature unlike the introduction of mono cropping, which does not work anywhere far less the fragile uplands of the Scottish Highlands. It carries on today when so much has to be controlled to allow grouse moors to make a profit for a few. And a wee coincidence turns up the Dauntless Star coming into Kyle from the south. Going by the date of Linda Gowans photo on the West Coast Fishing Boats there was a fair chance I was behind the wheelhouse out of sight of the lens. Would have been coming back from a trip up Loch Hourn.


One of the best though is the couple of stories initiated by the photos of Kinlochourn. Many years ago an Applecross fishing boat was plying the waters of Loch Hourn and as was the case, there was a little extra money to be made by going ashore and controlling the local wild life. Of course the local keepers were aware of this practice and on one occasion, so the story goes, the Applecross fishermen had returned to their boat with their bounty, pursued by the local keeper. Knowing they were at a safe distance and out of range the bounty was tied to the mast and derrick and sailed past the infuriated keeper who by this time had lost it. He was taking harmless potshots at the stag, crew and boat that made a couple of taunting runs past him before making out down the Loch. Another venture, this time in one of the Lewis lochs and again in September. Having gone ashore and enough venison casserole in the hold to do Applecross for the rest of the Autumn they realised they would have to go back ashore for water. By this time the local keeper had been alerted to extraneous activities and was waiting on the shore as the tender came in. He casually asked how long they had been at sea. “Three days” came the innocent reply. At which he leaned forward and picked a chunk of stag’s hair of one of our characters shoulder and quietly said he did not wish to see them on his patch again. Another place another time, Uiar Eile and when you go to these places you are connecting to a rich history of folk living of the sea and land and with just a little humour while they go about it.

So after my wee holiday it was back to bad weather and working at the Inn.


The weather has been pretty grim



and no langoustine on the menu board since the weekend, plenty of other good food though. This time of year we really do not know what to expect, Wednesday almost dead, relatively speaking, but Thursday was pretty nippy. Have to take all the ribbing about no prawns but they have hand dived scallops so not all bad.

The weather changed by Friday and two fine days were spent at sea.


Bright and sunny


although on Saturday afternoon there was a little breeze from the north, not before hauling 400 creels. Having to haul more just now due to poorer catch and the broken weather. Still it is good to get back out on the water no matter if there is little langoustine to catch. This time of year with the light changing so much



and so often there is always something to see,


including the first time I have ever steamed under a rainbow.



Being a bit lazy the last few days I had to do one of the jobs on the way across the Sound that I should have done earlier in the week.


Saturday evening was uneventful, leaving before the biker took his clothes off to try on Taneil’s apron. Only other thing of note was having to deal with a resident who did not get to sit at a table she wanted to, “up herself” is the technical term for that. Sunday starts slowly and although the weather is still fine we were not expecting the hordes, they came in numbers, from Barons to plebs they all ended up at the Inn for lunch. It was like a day in July, cyclists, expected, motor bikers, random, locals and day trippers from Inverness to Shropshire. They were served, the dogs were walked



and Alison was picked up from the train.



Glad forecast not good for Monday as slightly overworked. Last couple of Sunday’s the food has been stunning. This week was local lamb, wrapped in an exotic cover and served with aubergines amongst other delightful ingredients. Previous Sunday it was a routine venison loin. No wonder we struggle when eating out from Applecross.

Amongst all this is the mundane taking of fuel deliveries,


rebooting the Filling Station, checking the Hydro for on going glitches and pestering friends to vote in theM&Senergy competition,while trying not to stress about falling behind on the paperwork. Many thanks for all your votes as we seem to have pulled ahead although wary of another push from our closest rivals. Also I do not say it enough, Thank you for taking time out to read the Posts, I will never get used to so many people taking time out to do just that. Cheers.

In a hectic spell after the languor of earlier in the week when the weather was contrary. Part of the rushing about involved getting on the eBike and taking Dougal and Eilidh south for a run as they were going to be inside for most of the day. There is stillness despite being time constrained.



Actually as it turned out they were back on the same road around 4pm having another run followed by tea(for them). Amongst all the rushing around there are moments of pure tranquility when you just sit on a rock and look west.



Sitting a public bar in Ardnamurchan and it brings back memories of what the Applecross Inn used to be like. Although the fish and chips look pretty good there are five, two ladies and three guys round the bar and me. (Six now) Would imagine the Inn is filling up by now even if it is getting post season. Down here for a David Francey evening at Resipole Arts Studio. http://www.resipolestudios.co.uk Called in to check venue and getting excited now. Just Dougal and Eilidh with me at this one as Alison is up in Shetland enjoying a Wool Week. So with this in mind and having decided that on breezy /windy Mondays I am on the road and heading down parts I have driven past for years and wanted to go down but am always going somewhere. Today I made for Kinlochourn, a sign I have often passed and wanted to travel down the 22 miles. And I did and it was special,


beautiful day,


the dogs in fine fettle and I headed down towards the head of Loch Hourn. Brought back a few memories of working aboard the Dauntless Star in my teenage years, although was more interested in the football and working how to get to the next dance than learning about the fishing. We fished Loch Hourn and moored at the head of the loch twice a week.


Was walking for a good two hours and it was so peaceful with only the sound of tumbling water and the occasional call of a disgruntled heron taking off to fish on the other side of the loch. What a place to clear the head, to listen to the sounds of nature and Dougal and Eilidh on their inevitable rodent hunt. The rodents down here must be more astute as I never saw any victims. Interesting how quiet it was, remote I know, but apart from a bit of fish farming at the start of the journey, it seemed the only activity was about the big house, guys checking where the deer were for shooting and a couple coming back along the track from fishing. Always on the lookout and there was a new run of river Hydro, newly built Turbine House by SSE using the excess from the Loch Quoich scheme.  Some of the burns are wonderful to sit beside to watch and listen


making their way down the slopes. Some forestry but pretty barren as you head west so the tree on its own catches the eye.


In fact every where you looked….



You wonder if it is just another walk for them, I think they knew they were somewhere special.


(Cheesecake was pretty good as well) Better not fall asleep during the concert. More later but now off for another short walk and feed the dogs before going back up the road for what should be some amazing music. Salen at dusk on the way up to the venue had inky feel to it, restful.


And that is how it turned out, amazing, (now on a stormy Tuesday evening) and still a little high on yesterday’s walk, scenery, music and people. It seemed it caused a little stir that I had travelled so far to hear some special music. It was a long way and the green part of me always questions my privileged position and whether I abuse it just for pleasure, although satisfying the spirit is important. Luckily, earlier this year I spotted a post on social media from Mairi Campbell, video of Empty Train by David Francey and was immediately hooked. Just so happens I noticed an Eden Court gig by the very same but on a Saturday evening. So looked up the tour dates and the nearest was at The Resipole. Even the fact that when I turned up and noticed my dipped headlights had fused I was really up for this. Surprisingly it was well known that I had travelled and met David at half time and again after the gig, bought one and was given another cd, photos were taken, Dougal


and Eilidh became involved and all in all it was a fulfilling end to a fulfilled day.


The music was top drawer and many songs I knew from the Empty Train album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKrE2ziF28I Even the drive home was uneventful, the cds getting me to Invermoriston Bridge, meeting very few but puzzled drivers coming the other way when I was dipping at last moment to side lights. Bit of a tense drive back but made it by 2.15am and still high after the day’s music and scenery.

Of course needs must and it was back on Hydro duty and later on another check, this time with Dougal and Eilidh who are starting to wonder about the wisdom of all the fuss. But if you haven’t voted please do as it will help the continued development of Applecross into the future. https://www.mandsenergyfund.com/projects/applecross-energy


I had a wonderful wee visit from Maisie, Freya and Morganna who decided they wanted to test my DNA. Mention of a rugby ball in the garden was just the excuse methinks. Seems I had to give them a fingerprint and then there was a test to see if it rubbed out. It was, then I was told I was a robber if it didn’t, a conversation then ensued as to whether there were good robbers and bad ones……. It is why I get into all the hassle and stress of community stuff, so that there will always be lovely kids running about next door at the school.


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