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

We arrived in plenty of time, even if the League of Highland Gentlemen had turned up. Result being that Skipinnish


kicked off our musical evening in fine style with their new singer Norrie Mciver. Have not seen or heard them for a wee while and was pleasantly surprised.


They got the crowd going with some breakneck piping and Runrig songs as well as their own. Perfect warm up to the RURA set,


some said not so good without Adam Holmes but I thought they were excellent. Extraordinary bodhran playing.


The weather was not too hot as the showers started mid evening but the stage and tent were dry if a little cold by the end of the night. The weather was spectacular on the mainland


and the trip to Portree was worth it just for the views over the Hill.


Prefer the snow cover to be lighter as you see the rock feature.


Into Niteworks and, as a Niteworks virgin, was not too sure but they were the best warm up to Treacherous. Liked the combination of driving computer beats with the mix of fiddle, pipes and gaelic voice.


All these bands are taking traditional music on their own journeys, sure some do not go for it but I find they cleanse the soul and take you places away from the everyday stresses of rural living.

Treacherous were their usual exuberant selves with Ali dancing about the stage, Ross giving it laldy on the whistles and pipes, while the box


and fiddlers and banjo


completed the front line up.


They are a complete band and are showmen as well. Almost got a smile from Adam towards the end. Maybe because the dry ice had cleared somewhat.


Very slight downside was the over exuberance of some of the younger set which gave the security some concerns and Ali telling them to behave. Drink related rather than animosity. Certainly noticeable the amounts of drink consumed and that does seem to be the case for west coast festivals but the music still outshone, even the girl who asked for a climb on my shoulders, a very brief one as frowned on by security, was more intoxicated by the music than the alcohol. Back home and tucked up by 1.30am after a very fine visit to Skye and meeting up with a few Festival regulars thrown in.

The Applecross planets are definitely not lined up. Today however they came a lot closer in that a relay was replaced by Dan at the Hydro, Alfie, the plumber, and Duncan were at the Toilets yesterday, Broadband working at the moment with new equipment ordered and trip to Raasay planned and training for the Board organised for next Saturday.

Going back to the beginning of the week and a bit of branch collecting after a fine but very busy lunch shift at the Inn. I am collecting wood for fuel which saves a bit of dosh but I sometimes think I go out just to enjoy the scenes around Applecross.


The dogs love these expeditions and the late evening light was lovely to”work” in.


Monday was a recovery day with just a little wood cutting to get us outside in the bitter North wind blowing down the Sound. Tuesday started off with a jump out of bed and a swear as I remembered I was supposed to be at the pier fuelling up the Auk. Only ten minutes late and they were having an early cup of tea so not too bad.


Did not envy them as they made their way out to a bit of shelter in the Bay for a days diving. Had planned a quick trip to Inverness via ConnaVets for some dog chipping and tic medicine. Brightened up despite a fresh wind blowing in from the Glen.


All fine and managed over the Hill despite the course weather.


Back in plenty of time for a Board meeting at the Hall. Only thing to say about it was that there is too much concentrating on the past mistakes, of which there will be many more in the future, and not enough to sort out any repetition. My theme throughout is the Company is trying to turn around the continued decline in Applecross. Some people may not see it as the Inn is booming and news of another family leaving and yet another family mooted as going. There is another disturbance going on but really not my place to write about it as it is private, sensitive and sorely affects the people involved. Only mentioned as it does affect the Community with one of its pillars looking for support.

You can see why I think the planets are out of line and it is not just the weather. On the way to Inverness I met Graham of Lateral North http://lateralnorth.com on the way in working on a project which includes Applecross. Met up after Tuesday’s meeting and again during a lunch break on Wednesday. Managed to take delivery of the fuel and as the weather still too poor for me to go fishing went up to the Intake,in between snow showers,


with Graham


to check the head levels and screen,


water coming over, head okay, Dougal double checking


down to the turbine house and a manual restart. Seemed alright but after going back up saw the deflector plate still down, so water coming through but not activating the turbine.

On Wednesday I went over to Strathcarron to a Rural Parliament session to put in suggestions for a Rural Manifesto. Only five people turn up but it is during the day and came away feeling a little down and see that we are fighting a losing battle trying to keep our communities alive. The recent wedding has brought it sharply into focus for me, where are the twenty something year olds in our community now. They came from Skye to Glasgow and filled Applecross with craic and laughter and it has gone quiet again. There is full employment here, not what every one wants to do, but there is plenty on the go. Space for more skills but nowhere to live.

Feeling not very chipper on Thursday morning it was a real struggle to motivate myself out the door and go to sea. There was a strong easterly forecast which did not help, eventually made it out but forgot to top up the bait. Silly but maybe inevitable considering my mood. Made it round three fleets in the snow


and landed enough langoustine and squat tails to keep the Inn going for a day or so. The inn on Wednesday seemed busy but working the floor on ones own with every table being used and a queue at one stage, felt busier than it was. Time shoots by on a night like that. Called in at Eagle Rock on the way home to say cheerio to some regulars, the Boss being there on a night off. Came in covered in snow as was on the bike. A welcome surprise, in that I had forgotten he was on the way, Connor turned up with his partner Nadia, Sixteen years it has taken him but so good to see him and have a chat with them, living the London life, east end where it seems to be happening. Had a little dip into the past with him and will see him over the weekend as they are staying till monday. Later in the evening, a pleasant after sunset glow


and where there is a sunset there always seems to be an Aussie or two.


This morning with a big snow fall yesterday it was looking fine out to the southwest.


Now, with the sun shining, a quick shower and a two-hour drive to Portree for eight hours of fantastic Scottish music, the mood should be lifted a little.


It’s not Unusual.

Seeing the snow-capped mountains surrounding the Inner Sound coupled with an ongoing Northerly gale I was in two minds whether to go over the Hill this morning. Looking ahead to the forecast for today I had arranged for Dougal and Eilidh to be chipped at Connon Bidge. A call into the Inn we headed off up with the assurance it was open and sure enough it was an easy journey over.


Every now and again you put in a shift that means a little more than just another day at the coal face. Also it makes you think why you do it, I do not need to, I can blag some “bad weather or poor fishing” to the visitors as to why the langoustine or squats are not on the menu, but it would not feel right. So there I was bouncing up and down on the Inner Sound in a northerly breeze trying to catch the tourists dinner.


Pretty successful as the small langoustine are still holding up. Bright skies but not long before the whitecaps appear


and it becomes a little awkward especially when you lift your neighbours creels as well. Tricky keeping up to the fleet of creels by putting the Varuna in gear while trying to keep ropes out of the propellor. All done and retied in short order and with only a tight shoulder to show for it. Funny how the sense of achievement is greater on a day like this than if it was flat calm and no foul ups. A family of hermit crabs came up in one of the creels


and popped them in a bucket to take a photo as they are colourful additions to the day.


Noticed in the photos that they have those streamers coming from their bodies. Can only guess they left their shell outside the creels as they must be quite vulnerable wandering about with out any protection. So the day completed by mid afternoon


I wandered down in the low tide to try out the new lens on some oyster catchers but they were too sensitive to stay around. Everything has a silvery look to it in the wind and sun. Classic weather for this time of year.


Thursday evening at the Inn and we were stretched to find everyone a table. And the Boss thought this was going to be a quiet week, starting to think we may not have a quiet one until November. Big groups of 14 and 10 with a fully booked Inn, coupled with regulars in the holiday houses meant for a busy but enjoyable night. Every now and again each table tell you how wonderful the food was and this was a night of compliments from beginning to end of service. Did not matter whether people were eating steaks, langoustine or scallops the comment sent back to the kitchen were top drawer. Easy night to work the tables although a grumpy resident possibly waited a little too long for his table. Asking some people if it is okay for the next people to sit at a table they are on is not easy, especially if they are enjoying a post meal wine. The Lochcarron crew who were the victims of my request were by far the better craic and they finished their wine outside in the north wind but left in good humour. The resident was wearing a cravat so possibly was not used to waiting for anything and had little banter.

Now it’s Sunday and ready for another wave of visitors. Yesterday with the North wind blowing and plenty of langoustine at the Inn a wander around for the odd branch to take home was in order. Met some of the new arrivals from last year.


They were very curious and playful although I imagine food was on their mind.


Part of one of the oldest pedigree Highland cattle herds and look in pretty good shape.


While up there came across another causualty,


not positive, but seems to have come down in the recent North wind.


Certainly fell in that direction. Looked as though she had died and was ready to go for a while.


It is spectacular seeing them go down, saw one collapse on a wet Bealach Beag day a couple of years ago. As there is no regeneration going on in this area the bank above the Bay will be denuded of beech trees in the next 10/20 years.


Forces of nature are far greater than our little effort to manage the landscape. I suppose it will keep a few families warm for a couple of winters. On the way to the beech trees I saw the Community Filling Station in full swing.


Friday evenings bikers all down filling up before heading north round the coast. Reminding me of the many conversations with visitors of the hurdles we face but get nothing but encouragement from those same people who face some of the same problems in their own communities. Coming up to mid day so better get in the right frame of mind, my music on so that helps, nothing like a bit of RURA, Rhiannon Giddens, Lone Bellow and Stray Birds to get you going.

So that is the lunch over, easily over 150 meals, but went as smooth as you like. Even when the 20 bikers came down from Ullapool or the 15 French came and took over three tables by the Menu Board. Not one person in the bar now, seems strange when two hours ago you could not move for customers. They came from Wisconsin and Italy to The Black Isle and Lochcarron. Slightly bizarre little scene late afternoon as I went down the beach to try to get close to the oyster catchers working the tide. Failed but on the way up there was a deal of shouting from a lady, a small group of ewes appeared from the direction of the Estate Office, the appearance of a greyhound showing far too great an interest in the ewes turned out to be the catalyst of the shouting. So scattering of ewes and the greyhound was not responding to any pleading. The coats were protecting them so no damage although the greyhound was trying hard. Zeroing in on one ewe was its mistake as the four or five people involved were running in circles. I managed to grab the ewe with the distressed greyhound owner grabbing her dog which was holding on to the wool. No apparent long term distress to the ewes which trotted of in a slightly undignified pace, greyhound back on lead and the show over. To be fair the owner was the most distressed among us all and accidents do happen. What is around the next corner who knows?

Of Dogs and Seals

Although fairly quiet weather wise today decided not to go fishing yesterday, knowing that I would probably pay for it in the predicted north winds. Was out today and  it was the case. Hard work on the Sound but bright and sunny by the late afternoon. Still lots of langoustine about although some fleets are looking a bit shaded with a lot fewer in them. Small but plentiful. But back to yesterday where I took the dogs out for a spin on the bike after the Memorial service for Mrs Wills at Clachan. We ended up down at Culduie


and went out to see the seals.


Calum would not make a living doing any seal trips here.


You do not need a boat.


Arriving on the point there was a rush into the water


but not by all.


They seem to realise there is no danger from a couple of yapping, excited dogs.


Both are very curious about the other but a safe distance was kept between both just in case.


Noisy but fun interlude to the day, although some looked slightly nervous.



And through out it all there were still some who just lazed through it all.



Just Making a Wage

Longer stretches between posts at the moment and that is reflecting how much time is left over. there is always time but sometimes the energy levels are pretty low and watching a Scandinavian TV series on iPlayer is all that happens in the evening. Fine couple of days at the Inn over the weekend. The wedding seems to have progressed very well with lots of young folk visiting from the neighbourhoods. Did not have too much contact with the wedding itself or the gentle aftermath as work intervened but the general impression was that a fine time was had by all. Happy with my reminisce on Thursday and to come away with no hangovers, although my football reputation may have suffered somewhat. Being disabused by a Sgiathanach is acceptable if you have played football for Kyle/Plockton, I suppose. Sunday at the Inn was pretty hard going during the day although the evening was a bit easier and the 50th birthday group were very pleasant to serve. The day had started with a 25 from a car rally quickly followed by 22 geologists. The others 120+ just came in, had wonderful food and went. And that was just Sunday lunch. The weather had turned to the North so the stocks of langoustine hanging from the Varuna have been almost used up. The fishing effort is slowly increasing to keep up with demand. The size of the langoustine that are now coming into the creels are much smaller now but suiting my market. I tail the smaller size of, what we call Threes, langoustine and they are sold in half pint mugs as a sharing starter.


Seem to go out onto the tables in a couple of days. They are still ten times the size that is commonly called smash or beetles and there is not wastage.

In between trips to the Inn and to sea there is a growing list of tasks, not least collecting a few bits of wood here and there.


There are tons of wood lying on the ground, mainly as a result of the storms of 2/3 winters ago and have dried nicely and seem to be going back into the ground. Wondering if some of the tatties have not gone into the ground a bit too soon


seeing what was lying on the drills on Saturday morning.


There are lots going on on the Community Company level just now and much of it is too fresh to comment on right now but a retrospective will be coming soon when things die down a bit and get less emotional. I will always take a positive about it even if getting there is stressful and rocky. On a practical level the Raasay mast is providing us with a difficult problem. The mast itself has been worked on by Paul https://lifeattheendoftheroad.wordpress.com/about/ and is solid, very solid by all accounts. The problem is intermittent and is only solved just now by Paul rebooting the power. We have already been trying to work out whether the quality of power to the mast has to be improved or whether the equipment or some of it is faulty. We are ordering replacement equipment and this has to be configured before setting off for another expo to Raasay. We, as are the other communities in the same position, are on the pioneering edge of trying to provide community broadband and we are now in the difficult “keeping it going” stage rather than the exhilarating setting it up one of three years ago. Due to the income and expenditure based on the original business plan there is little spare profits but they were always going to be ploughed back into the system anyway and it is one community.

After a weekend of lots of people, discussions and meetings, steaming out to the fishing grounds can always be a relief of sorts. hauling a few more pots than before but there are still enough about to make it a decent catch. “Just making a wage” as the saying goes. The bonxie numbers are slowly increasing and there were four round the boat today scrapping with the black backs for the bait. The newly berried langoustine keep coming up in the creels,


a small percentage but a definite change in their behaviour. This time of year we should be seeing the mature eggs coming off the females, the green sac which is the pre egg stage, and the new eggs appearing on mass around August time. The fact that some are appearing five months early is saying that there is a change taking place. There are quite a few cuttle fish coming up as well, this one carrying an unusual markings around its eye.


They do not seem to like the pressure change and struggle to get back down. It was a little busier to-day with a number of boats out on the grounds. Speed of youth passing by on the way in.


Yesterday I nipped over to Kyleakin to give a pint of the best to the Donor unit. I get a follow-up letter being O negative which is good for everyone and stocks are low. Picked up a nice secondhand lens for the camera. Cannot justify a new price especially the conditions that it would have to endure. Expense enough hobby second-hand. Stopped at the top of the Bealach to try it out.


Took a couple of minutes to work out how to work the zoom, must do some reading up. Always something to do and on the way past the Gallery a couple of posts had to be moved to Toscaig in the back of the van, easy done especially when you get a snap when you are there.


Thursday evening at the Inn was one of reminiscing about days of yore, particularly around football and fishing. Football was high on the topics of conversations especially if you get a couple of guys in their mid to late fifties are around the current generation of players. The upcoming event of Oliver’s wedding brought in not a few bods from the south end of Skye. Not quite up on who is who but conversations quickly went on to the standard and quality of the local football leagues thirty-five years ago to how they compare with now. I spent most of my growing up in Kyle playing, practising (I needed to) and spending time down at Douglas Park in Kyle. When not good enough to play for Kyle I played for Balmore and Plockton, there being slightly less competition for places. Vague memories of being in the winning team of Balmore winning the Macleod cup, their only winning trophy as their team members drifted back to their native villages. There were the traditional “old firm” matches of Kyle/Plockton which was replaced by the Kyle/Kyleakin games. I think Plockton faded a bit as the Byrnes, Finlaysons and Hays were not replaced in sufficient numbers. Good to chat with Chris and remember incidents of yore, no big-headed stuff but lots of banter. Makes you think, the Kyle defence of D.Anderson, S.Moore, I.Munro, A Macleod, D.Macleod and S.Barckley, was part of a team that almost won the “grand slam” missing out on only one of the available trophies. Sad to think that two members of that group are no longer with us but good memories all round and we were probably not better than today’s players.

Fishing was another topic when I came across Will who was on board the Kyleakin ring netters. Seems he has done a study of the ringnet and has numerous photos of the boats including the Mary Ann BRD 423 that my dad was on. There was a bit of confusion as we sorted out which Macleods were which as there were three altogether on the fishing boat. I am pretty sure that the photo is one of Will’s and she laying at Canna.

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 21.09.34

Remember he did say that Canna was part of his research. It certainly of a bygone era. Chris also mentioned that he remembers the day when the Fortitude came to Kyleakin. That would have been a big day for the village, seeing a new boat arriving in the small port. So it was certainly an evening of memories both on and off the pitch. All this going on and a family I have got to know over the recent years, the Boyds from Lewes, were in for their “last supper”. You make good friends working at the Inn and I was fortunate to get off a little earlier on Wednesday evening to catch up with them as they were staying down at Pier Cottage. Dougal and Eilidh were impressively well-behaved during the late night visit.

The week has had its usual rendition of fishing


and working at the Inn with a blip at the Turbine to sort out. It is off just now as we have not had any rain for quite a few days. The predicted snowfall has not hit Applecross and there was enough sunshine for the wedding to be enjoyed by all including Son No3 who had come home for it. The 150,000 kWs is on target for the projected income so a dry spell is welcome at this time of year. Lambing is going full pelt so it is inevitable that we have some snow flurries although with the wind in the east to north east the sunsets have been okay.



There was a breeze from the east forecast on Monday and as the day was bright and rumours of adverts being filmed on the Hill I took the dogs up for a wee look.


Ended up walking to the mast and enjoying the views from all quarters.



There is a spate of people using and wanting to use the Bealach these days, whether for tourists, cycle sport ifs, car clubs and filming and one wonders where it will end up. Road closures, if only happening once or twice a year can be met with a shrug of the shoulders but as there is more and more demand for its usage which includes closures it is little wonder that this is a topic that is now coming up in our Community Council Meetings. There is little direct benefit from all this activity to Applecross and the road is deteriorating fast with small prospect of much money being spent on it. Maybe if HC put some of their monies offshore they would have some to spare to spend on the Bealach. No wonder however that there are so many who want to drive over the Hill.


The views on a day like this


are at the top end.


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