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

Transatlantic journey Home.

After a very pleasant and relaxing afternoon atLenzie and an uneventful journey back into “town”, already getting blasé  about driving around Glasgow. Mind you when I came in on my own on Friday I was honked, I think for driving too slow and the guy behind me got stuck at a red, and made me think the tables are turned when I am stuck behind a 20mph tourist in Applecross.  The only difference is I don’t use the horn. Transatlantics were superb. We knew what to expect and lived up to them. Supreme music played by top class musicians, Julie Fowlis with some mouth music was up at the top but the rest was pretty bearable. Phil even managed a Fergie joke. But with names such as Danny Thompson, Jerry Douglas, Shawn Colvin, Michael McGoldrick, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott you cannot really go wrong. Short walk back to the hotel and another early crash and the road north set for tomorrow. A special tw weekends away and promises to be an annual event.

A nice leisurely meander up the road which involved calling to Dunkeld to pick up the missing marbles for the inlaw’s  Christmas present. A lovely community run centre


and I just cannot help it but immediately felt all the better for it. Tips left are just a wee bit bigger and the ambience feels good, this in the middle of The Dukedom of Atholl. Seems the current Duke is South African. Interesting drive north now after our wee LAS campaign of a couple of years ago, made you very aware of land issues across the country, I suppose my views have not changed that much but probably been confirmed especially due to the way one is treated when one does not conform to the establishment line. There is a fair old lump of Perthshire  under the Dukedom. Uneventful journey up the A9


and over to Achnasheen where Alison picked up the car. Noticed a tyre was a wee bit down so got the  pump on it and while that was underway the Achnasheen wildlife came over for a look to see what was going on,


some not so shy hinds and some very well fed ducks



who just wandered up to the vehicles.


Through the trees one can see the now controversial track that has been cut into the side of the hill above Ledgowan Hotel.


The estate has changed ownership in recent times and there is a bit of an atmosphere locally and with ramblers and walkers. I have only met the owner once and try to stay away from personalities but rather the system which allows these situations to develop. It is not fair that whole communities can be held to ransom with a change of land ownership. It happens in very few other countries across Europe where huge chunks of land changes hands with the communities involved having no say at all in these transactions. These communities have to rely on the good will of the new owners or not as the case appears to be here. A really tricky problem to solve as we are where we are and you have to go back centuries to discover the theft which the current owners were not involved in but perpetuate.

Good to get home and the weather has been quite settled


although the desire to go fishing is only slowly returning. Fresh breeze on Tuesday morning from the south south east so with me still having a hacking cough decided to leave it a bit later in the week to go out. A few shifts at the Inn planned and with the weather a little more settled we should be on the water before long. It will be quite a while before the memories of Celtic Connections fade.

Comments on: "Transatlantic journey Home." (11)

  1. In what respect is Achnasheen being held to ransom by the owners of Ledgowan Estate? And what was the theft that the current owners of Ledgowan are perpetuating?

  2. A great shame to see such a vast track been built on the side of the hill, for what appears to be recreational use and not for agriculture which planning regulations would require.

    Do these people have no shame, they should act as guardians of the land, not wantant vandals.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      An example of some one doing whatever he wants where ever he wants. Never mind you have made it, you’ve been mistaken for me!!!!

  3. I couldn’t agree more about the track but that’s not what I asked.

    What I asked was how Achnasheen is being held to ransom by Ledgowan Estate (because you said in the context of the locality of Achnasheen/Ledgowan: “It is not fair that whole communities can be held to ransom with a change of land ownership.” )?

    The other question I asked was what theft the current owners of Ledgowan are perpetuating (because you said “… you have to go back centuries to discover the theft which the current owners [i.e. of Ledgowan] were not involved in but perpetuate.”)?

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      Alistair Sinclair replied to you Neil. In regards to your first question I think I have a fair bit of local knowledge which I will not put up here about how the Estate reps are acting locally and cannot be condoned by any one. And the source is not gossip but authority. The “theft” issue, I have read a fair bit of history including Jim Hunter’ and Andy Wightman’s take on land ownership across the Highlands and the rest of Scotland. When the establishment control and change the law over the centuries to make it legal to acquire common land as their own possessions I describe that as theft albeit legal theft. I do not have a respect for people who abuse their positions of power or the law that allows them to do that. Over the thirty years in Applecross the few dealings I have had with our landlord have been pretty negative and one incident in the 80s when I recalled it in the Inn last night resulted in open mouthed astonishment. my experiences up here have been completely different from yours so our perceptions on what works and how people abuse the system are bound to be different. Attitudes have not changed as evidenced by me being hauled out to a meeting to be lambasted with my social media comments thrown at me and basically accused to daring to speak the way I see it. This as recent as 18 months ago during the LAS campaign. So please excuse my language if it offends, it is based on my readings and personal experience. I know my prejudices.

  4. Sorry for mixing you up with a different Alistair!

    I’m very intrigued to hear there was a commonty around Achnasheen. It must be a very far north west example. Do you know any more about when it was divided and which estates were the heritors at the time? Probably much larger units than now and maybe even Gairloch and Applecross Estates in these days extended up and in as far as Achnasheen. I believe the Cromartie Estate used to own land around Loch Fannic so they could conceivably have been involved as well.

    You’ve got to be careful about Andy Wightman’s treatment of division of commonties, though. He portrays a procedure for the regulation of rights amongst co-proprietors as being “theft” (or “grab” is his word) for reasons I’ve never understood. I don’t think it’s any more reasonable to say that Ledgowan Estate (whatever their faults as regards that track and obstruction of public access and your cryptic ransom allusion) are “perpetuating a theft” because they own part of a divided commonty than a crofter who as an apportionment.

    But if it uncovers a nice bit of local history, then every cloud has a silver lining.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      I declined to talk about Achnasheen as it is too close to home but merely used it as an example of what is wrong with Scottish land ownership in that the well being of a community can change over night through a change of ownership of an estate. I was at a meeting last night which was open, well chaired, no hidden agendas and there were people with very different views able to express them with out any fear of recrimination, and there was one apology of absence. I keep saying that I have my prejudices but they are based on my own personal experiences and also I am far more interested in ideals than macro/legal matters. I would just agree to disagree with our takes on how the Highlands are run. Always remember Angus Macrae’s impassioned speech talking about how wonderful it would be if the glens were repopulated again and you would drive home from Inverness seeing lights on the hillside so you know you are not alone on the journey west. Again through my own experiences there is no desire for this to happen as deer are more important in our locale.

  5. I don’t know nearly enough about it to have a credible take on how the Highlands are run which is why I ask questions. I know there’s a vision to repopulate empty glens but I’ve no idea whether that’s practical and/or whether the existing system is as irredeemably awful as is made out in some quarters. (The latter is not my experience but I freely admit that that’s only a drop in the bucket compared to yours.)

    Seeing lights on the drive home from Inverness is a wonderful image (particularly on the drive to Achnasheen, of course!) It’s an all too rare example of positive campaigning in this context. I find the endless negative campaigning on this issue depressing and counterproductive – raking up misunderstood events of hundreds of years ago (and I don’t one or two hundred years, either!) to accuse people alive today of perpetuating theft – sins of the father? Why is more time not spent painting a positive vision for the future to convince people of the unsustainability of the present set up instead of all the mud-slinging? Why don’t you do a blog post with your dream vision for the Applecross peninsula in 10-20 years time?

    Was there a commonty at Achnasheen?

    • Neil, you say to Ali “Why is more time not spent painting a positive vision for the future to convince people of the unsustainability of the present set up instead of all the mud-slinging? Why don’t you do a blog post with your dream vision for the Applecross peninsula in 10-20 years time?” It is rather presumptuous of me to attempt to answer on his behalf but I guess it is because he spends most of his time, apart from earning his living, in doing things for his fragile community: painting the public toilets, re-booting the computer which controls the delivery of petrol at the community-owned petrol pumps, going down to the said pumps to sort things out for visitors at all hours and attending meetings of the local Community Trust… All the whilst having in the back of his mind that there is a group of people who own the huge estate on which he lives who do not care to include a single local person on their management board, nor do hellish much about the wellbeing of the community who lives and works there, if I am right. ( Please correct me if I am wrong Ali . Hope I am not being cheeky!)

      • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

        Wow, I enjoyed reading this comment. Thank you, bit surprised that the blog is regarded as negative. If stuff does not work, I moan about it but we try to sort it and I think our community is growing and becoming more aware that we can do so much more ourselves. We do need a hand from outside because if we do not watch it we end up providing services that make very little return and ones that no one else will do. It always will stick in the throat the way the Trust negotiated with us to get as much rent as it could from the Hydro scheme and even at one stage suggested that all the revenues go through them and they hand it out to us……it is a mind set problem endemic in the establishment, they know better. Thanks for the opportunity of a wee rant and hope all is well up your way. Going to head up this year. One of my resolutions.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      I live on an estate where a conscious decision was taken in setting up the Trust to manage the estate not involving the people who live here. A direct quote to a previous Chair of the Council, “We do the land and you do the people”. Apart from the presumption of that statement it is impossible to separate one from the other, this from the Chair of the Trust. I reckon I am fairly positive and always look for ways to do things better. There are many more better skilled people living here who are now realising that we can do it and “going cap in hand ” belongs to a different era. I can see upheaval in the near future as capacity is released in our communities. we no longer believe that we cannot improve our lot. As to the future of Applecross, I have not got the space to put it down at the moment. You do seem to look for anything negative in anything I write about land ownership, but I would defend that by pointing out what does not work under current conditions….answer try it another way, give more power to people who live on their land, who care about people more than deer and recreation. That is just the start of the vision. Many mistakes will be made and are. I am honoured to be part of a young but growing Community Company which is trying to tackle my perception of decline over the last three decades in the community. It is not good enough for any landlord to say “Not my problem”. My vision for my community is to still be living in the schoolhouse in twenty years time and see several different groups of children playing teams games and mingling in the playground. At the moment the whole school cannot raise a shinty team. I will sling mud if I think it needs slung and I pay for it. I think it is unfair to accuse me of being a negative campaigner. To finish, ironically i have spent time on a long journey with a member of the Wester Ross Deer Management Group who brought up the Ledgowan Estate and described how the other members of the Group just winced at what was offered by this Estate. Another landlord has got in touch supporting our efforts on this side of the Pass, so it is not all Us and Them. But you have to remember I am the son of a presbyterian crofter/fisherman and maybe that gulf is too far to cross.

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