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

Typical, just when you want to have a wee chat with a Welsh man you can’t find one anywhere. A lovely shift at the Inn today and while the rain belted down, the fire was on and the food was as good as anywhere in the Highlands, so said the customers, and as you know they are always right. Working my way back and yet another funeral attended, this time on Saturday. Jessie, having passed away earlier, brought memories back from years gone by. Many a visit of a weekend coming from the Inn and stopping off for a late night dram with Angus and Jessie on the way home. Usual chat about fishing from Angus, he first went to sea on the Truelove with my own Dad and I think stayed at sea his whole life. Jessie kept our glasses full and maybe tried to keep us in better shape for the short drive home in the early hours with offers of tea/coffee while Angus gave another rendition of the beautiful Eilidh.. Happy memories. After the internment I went down to the shore to give the dogs a run out and run they did.


This was after watching the rescue of an Inverness taxi of the now not so immaculate verge at the entrance to the VT.  The afternoon was taken up with rugby and as a Scotland supporter found myself in the unusual position of being relatively relaxed during the final ten minutes of the match, having a cushion of two scores ahead. Kept the volume down for Eilidh and she only became concerned hearing me crossing the room when Scotland scored their last try. On Friday evening I was in two minds whether to go out to yet another meeting, this time a continuance of the Trust led “community” consultation. Decided that it was better to go in order to appreciate things first hand. I have spoken to a number of people who were at the meeting since and there is quite frankly a lot of head scratching going on in the community. No one is saying that consulting about the aspirations of the community is a bad thing but honestly spending 45 minutes discussing the minutiae of the process that has been slumbering on for over a year now had people wondering why they had given up their Friday evening. We still have not even finalised setting up a steering group to set up a Forum, which seems to be a direction we are going come hell or High Water. Interestingly if you have a contrary opinion of direction or of outcomes then you are shown to be against the process. There is a very fine line to be walked by the numerous people in the community who are unhappy with the process. One puts one hand up to be part of a process you can hardly be enthusiastic about as if you don’t you are painted into an anti corner. I believe this whole process depends on one factor and only one. Have the Trustees of the Applecross Trust had a change of mind or direction in running the Applecross Estate that is inclusive or is this just a tick box exercise to counter new Community Powers that will enable us to strengthen our capacity showing that the Trust by its actions and obstruction is working against the sustainable development of the Community. We have heard about “The Shared Vision” ad nauseam but it is only “shared” one way. There has not been one iota from the Trust. I have to agree to a certain extent that the running of the Trust is entirely the duty and work of the Trustees but when it becomes a barrier to the survival of the community I live in that is when I have to quell a certain amount of anger, anger I found reciprocated in conversations the following day. Several questions were asked directly of the Trust and several opinions offered from the floor that showed a level of scepticism regarding any change of direction from the Trustees. I specifically asked for any examples of evidence of a change of heart and received absolutely nothing positive in the response. In fact I was told that a couple of people were worried by my reaction to the answer or lack off offered. I no longer react in such a way any more that would cause any discomfort to the room and still wait for any sign of any change of direction from the Trustees. On Saturday I was given the quote of the decade. “Nothing in Applecross has changed since “The Bloody Project”” A “talk shop” changes nothing here, it will keep open communications, but only if we have at least one Trustee on the Forum and even that has been resisted so far. It is a “shared vision” after all. So next Friday and the next and the next and the next we are as a community supposed to turn up to the Hall to form a Forum which may or may not be constituted, have no powers or objectives other than to discuss. One really annoying part to all this process is that any disagreement is used against the Community to show up its divisions. A tactic that is used all the way up to National Politics level these days. I can easily disagree with many members of our community but am actually finding that I am coming across far more agreement than division. It was quite revealing that a member of the community suggested that the Trustees should take part in a “quiz” about Applecross and see the extent of their knowledge of the community that is so affected by their decisions on running the Trust. I will leave you a quote from this year’s accounts, late by the way but not important for some, stating that the Trustees are maintaining the traditional enterprises,buildings and infrastructure of the Estate “as a place of inspiration for the general public and THOSE WHO LIVE AND WORK THERE”.

Extraordinarily who should be staying in Applecross this weekend but Graeme Macrae Burnet, the author of The Bloody Project. For the few of you who do not know this is a novel about a murder in Applecross in the 19th century and accurately putting forward a sense of what residents had to put up with from The Big House. It made the Man Booker Prize shortlist and Graeme was in town with German publisher and journalists to promote the publication of the Bloody Project in German. They had a great time and left extolling the warmth of the welcome from the Inn, the food and the Applecross experience. It is not all sweetness and light here, as last week, watching from the Inn some visitors being admonished by a resident on their driving. Always gets me going as I think the least we can do is welcome those wishing to visit….it is traditional hospitality. We had a bit of banter when they came in and it turns out they were from Tyrone and were not in the least phased by the rudeness, their words, of an individual after spending 40 years living in a war zone. They left after a proper welcome.

A little break in the weather meant the langoustines and squats are on the menu with more prospects this week. Another funeral planned next week with a busy day thrown in but with weather settling down mid-week we should keep the visitors well fed. There is still always time to appreciate the beauty of the place both on the sea,





the rivers


and streams,


the company,



wild life



and scenery


watching other people work to keep the community going,






and this makes things so much better.


I am fighting for the place where I live, many may not agree with a lot of what I say but generally I have not found any other alternative for this community. Leave you with these stats I stated on Friday night. 8 primary school children, 10 people in their 20s and 40% of the population over 60 years of age. If the Trustees are going to engage with the community they are going to have help solve our housing crisis instead of putting up more and different reasons why we cannot have more affordable housing in Applecross and far more people living here.

Comments on: "“Nothing has changed in Applecross since “The Bloody Project””" (9)

  1. For what it’s worth, here in France small, rural communities generally fight hard to make younger locals stay in their villages tec., by providing small parcels of land with CU/outline planning attached which can be developed over time to provide homes at a cost spread over the time finances permit. This helps keep schools, local business and infrastructure benefit in the long term. A sensible idea, I personally admire.. Sounds like it could work well in Applecross area, perhaps.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      Interesting and sounds a little similar to a small community in Canada which was advertising for young people into their community by offering land. The main problem is no access to land at the present time for most of the community.

  2. What is it that the Trust does (or not doesn’t do) that obstructs and works against the sustainable development of the Community?

  3. Rod Coldwell said:

    Excellent piece of writing Ali and it’s nice to see in the comments section that neil king is still keeping a “kindly” eye on your blog and our community. It obviously suits the Trust to live in the 19th and not the 21st century and, if only most of the residents were of the Daily Mail readership category, we could all live in complete harmony! Thankfully, however, keep heart because to quote the Dylan song – The Times They Are A-Changin’.

  4. Ali and Rod, what do these things like “access to land” and “living in the 19th century” actually mean in reality? For example, does the Trust refuse requests from housing associations for affordable house sites? Things like that?

    I know you probably think you shouldn’t dignify Daily Mail readers with answers to their questions but unless you tell us, we’ll never learn. In all honesty guys, is this what Referendum Scotland is like now? – Don’t tell him Pike! If you’re not with us, you’re against us! Whereas if you just patiently explain it like it is (tedious, I know), then you’re likely to get more people round to your point of view than just indulging in rhetoric and trying to bat away people you suspect aren’t already on side
    I genuinely don’t understand what’s different now compared with whenever it was (25 years ago??) when the Council and/or Housing Assoc (?) houses were built in Camusteel and Camusterach? Did the Trust give “access to land” back then but not now? If so, why the change of attitude? (Perhaps they were comfortable with the 20th century but couldn’t face the 21st so retreated into the 19th?) Maybe these houses weren’t built on Trust land?

    That’s the sort of thing I’m interested to learn about. Thanks.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      Just refer you to Alison’s comprehensive reply on the housing. I think you have to read the blog and think of it as my indulgence. I feel very privileged that people take time out to read it but at no time am I trying to educate, convert or preach to anyone far less Daily Mail readers. You will have to find other sources for that. This is just a snap shot, from my point of view, of life in a remote part of the world

  5. Alison Macleod said:

    The difference between now and twenty five years ago is that the need for affordable housing has increased hugely. 40% of the housing stock in Applecross is now holiday or second homes. The cost of houses has risen massively to the extent that very few locals could even consider buying a house here. Most local people are dependent on tourism for a living, this can be seasonal and is not particularly well-paid. Some are developing their own businesses and this eats up the capital they might otherwise have put into a house.

    Support for crofters to build their own houses on common grazing has reduced dramatically. Many of our younger people don’t have access to croft sites anyway. Years ago it was normal for locals to buy or build their own homes, probably after starting off in a rented house and saving for a number of years. It has never been easy, but it has been possible. We lived in an inherited croft house under a demolition order for 17 years, which wasn’t great especially once we had four children, but the fact that we were able to do this allowed us to establish our business and our family while we were still young. Eventually we bought a suitable house from good friends at a modest price, just a few years before house prices began to climb so steeply. This is now next to impossible for any local wanting to have a home of their own, or anyone of working age wanting to move into the community and reliant on what they could earn making a living here.

    No-one is suggesting that this is as a result of estate policy or indeed anything to do with them. However they can help find a solution because they have got land.
    The trust has not actually refused to sell housing sites to housing associations or the community company. Instead it has offered site after site which it is not possible for anyone to develop affordably. Housing professionals working with the community company come and look at the sites, explain in detail to the trust why they can’t be developed affordably and then ask if more suitable sites could be suggested. Then the trust suggests more unsuitable sites, or again suggests the sites that have already been turned down. Last year they paid an architect to design two houses on land that had been turned down as unsuitable; they even got outline planning permission for these houses. They suggested to the Community Council that the Community Company or Highland Small Communities Housing Trust might like to develop the site with outline planning, though they never asked either body directly. It’s impossible to understand why they did that work, considering their resources are already stretched.

    The community can now access funding through the Scottish Land Fund to buy land at market price and funding towards the costs of building houses through the Rural Housing Fund, subject to the provision of a robust business plan and demonstration of demand. We see that as a win/win, with the community getting access to land to build affordable housing and the trust getting income that they can invest in other parts of the estate, and the kudos of having been co-operative and supportive landlords. We’re waiting patiently for the trustees to see it that way too.

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