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

Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Back after a Technical Break

Been a wee while since posting but there have been technical reasons for this and it feels good to be back. When I was preparing to post a couple of weeks or so ago my iMac bit the dust. I had been warned about a filling start-up disc and had tried to delete various files but to no avail. As I was enjoying an episode on 4oD everything went pear-shaped. Took it to a Dr and it came back, fixed only for a couple of hours, but minus all the files. So now owner of a MacBook and finally with a bit of technical help can post and with photos. Slowly getting used to it as there seems to be techniques to simple things such as scrolling down that I am only finding out on a suck it and see level.

Looking back it is extraordinary what we get up to on the peninsula. Daily life goes on and, although routine, it is never ever boring. Whether it is meeting people at the Inn or going fishing there are always lovely people to make contact with or wonderful things to see

and watch.

The banter with Geoff and Maureen over the last three weeks or meeting the family who just wandered in this morning are part of the daily tooing and froing. Certainly a bit of the English/Scottish involved but all at a banter level, not what I have been seeing on twitter this evening about Catalonians being beaten up by thugs for daring to vote for their Independence. As usual at the Inn we have a direct link to Barca and was told about the underlying current of fascism that exists in certain quarters of power in that country. Our source was quite definite about what has been known and talked about for years and now has been exposed on social media. I had to stop watching scenes of women being beaten up by men who were  wearing balaclavas and full riot gear. And they were the law of the land, makes you question how much you can take before standing up to authority that you believe to be wrong. Justice is an oft used word these days but there appears to be little on view. It was amazing seeing the restraint shown by the Catalonian populace in the face of such brutality.

The family in the morning hailed from Whitworth, N Yorkshire and I was treated to a wonderful word picture from an elderly gentleman who described a community of mills and workshops, neighbourliness and knowing everyone in the community. Very relevant in today’s world and how the Inn operates, unqualified help to anyone who needs it, whether it is simply finding visitors a bed to sleep in or sorting a breakdown. It is probably just me being in a positive frame of mind but for about ten minutes we had a lovely symbiotic and reminiscent conversation comparing the changes over the years in a Yorkshire mill town and a crofting township in Applecross. Sometimes a simple conversation can transport you across the moors to someones community that they are proud of and lets you in for a brief look.

Leaving the specifics aside for another post the fishing catches have remained very good

until the last week where there was a serious dip in the haul. This coupled with poor weather forecast for most of the week means langoustine availability is going to be stretched this week. Only a couple of portions left as I had an early finish today and likely not to be fishing until later in the week. Just being at sea keeps ones sanity in the increasingly crazy world we live in. Making the most of the quiet days

in-between the days of wind. There is a notable change in the air as it is now only after seven and it is wet, dark and windy outside.

Ashore and in tandem withe fishing there’s still plenty to do, cleaning the screen goes on,

sometimes in the dark as the day is shortening,

walking the dogs, although decided the Bay is a little too crowded with birds just now. some however do not seem to mind Dougal careering after them. The heron

has a disdainful look as he surveys the relentless dashing about. Eilidh dives into the river yipping away, unusual, but then I see an otter swimming out to sea. fortunately she comes back on command as she would have stood no chance if the otter had stood its ground. It’s a cliché but there is so much to do and so much to see and so little time to achieve this……..and that is just in Applecross. So I leave you with one of the sunsets of the last fortnight. Feels like a season away.

Dolphins,Spiders and Dogs.

Today in itself would take up a full post. Without looking for it, there are so many things to do, get involved in, favours, requests, work and just living, you have to limit oneself otherwise you go into a bit of a tailspin. Today will have to wait for the next post. Since coming back from Lismore it was straight back into catching langoustines. The Inn only ran out on the Thursday evening so not so bad and the Loch Ness Inn is fully stocked. It was a pretty long day on the Friday to catch up  but they are still coming on board despite the fact that more and more of the berried females are coming into the creels. I have been able to ignore the large numbers I am putting back as there are a healthy number of bigger males and females about. I am probably returning around 15/20 kilos on a full days fishing, but knowing the vast majority of them survive it feels as though you are doing the right thing and possibly stopping the decline of the stock even if by a small fraction.

Every now and again a creel comes up and takes you back to when this amount of langoustines in each creel was normal,

 

whether is it is just part of a natural cycle the fishing has been pretty good this year. It may be down to a little less pressure on some parts of the Inner Sound where a fair bit of breeding takes place, I have not seen a prawn trawler this year so a lot less pressure from that direction. The enlarging of the Range will not have kicked in yet so any changes in catch quantities will not be attributed in that direction. Saturday I do not usually go out in a breeze but saw the forecast for the following few days and it was decidedly autumnal so knew that langoustines would be scarce. lovely day ashore but rather up and down at sea. Bright sunshine does not help the staggering across the deck for most of the day. Managed a couple of hundred plus before heading in with enough for the weekend and into next week. Highlight of the day and it was only for a few seconds was on the way in splashing into a southerly force 4/5

a family of dolphins came across for a wee visit. the baby came out of the water several times and spun in the air before swimming off leaving me feeling blessed.

There are little things like these visitations that let me know that what I do is a way of life worth having and, although tiring, it is not what most people call work.

The Inn, no matter what the weather, keeps going and even if the schools are all back there are plenty people around for it still to be termed busy. It is what you are used to….. if all the tables are used and no one is waiting that is not too busy. What is busy is if all the tables are used, the weather is good and twenty people are eating outside, and twenty more are waiting for tables,…..Last night I was quite tense as I could see we were going to have a logjam around 7.30/8pm and sure enough with the 14 booked taking out a quarter of the bar, most of the residents appearing at that time, ten walking in and the regulars that are up this week meant a stressful hour. And the Boss was having a day off so you just got on with it and as usual it happens like magic, all the prep work pays off again. A weird little side-show was the request to sign one of the calendars which, if not mistaken, was going to be auctioned off. We are definitely in the hunting season as more and more of the tables are being taken up by shooters and fishers. We had a trustee table in and despite what a lot of people misconstrue we get on find with them, they leaving with compliments and calendars.

This week the weather was as expected and although no gales I waited until I had to go out for the Inn as it would have been seriously awkward to work in all week. Yesterday was heavy going and the thought of doing that all week did not appeal. There was plenty to occupy as we had a new customer for diesel at the Pier, the hard grafting Michael from Shieldaig.

Good income for the Pier as the number of diesel users have dropped off. Then it was up to see the Hydro with investors from the community hydro scheme at Balerno

on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Good walk up with the usual interested chat about how we got to where we are and a good exchange of information. The weather this summer has been perfect for the Hydro with it running at almost full capacity for the last two months after a dry Spring.

Dougal enjoying his customary dip,

watch a high altitude spider have a meal,

take a look at the view

and clean the screen after a barefoot slip on the pipe.

Then a day and a half dip, doing nothing and not enjoying it, before kicking into gear again on Wednesday with a badly needed massage and Inn shift. And so it goes on.

Community Audit.

A day ashore due to a breeze from the south so a catch up with a fuel dip and a screen clean

up at the Head of the Hydro. Interesting that it was only ten days since going up and the screen had a skim of green algae on it. With the rain we have had over the last few days there is a spate running so there is no effect on the power out put, it running at 90kWhs for the last week. It was shoes off and trousers rolled up and even then getting pretty wet on cleaning.

Good to see the monitor reading at 7000 kWhs more than the whole of last year with just over three months to go. Called in to grease the generator shaft, Dougal seems to have mastered photo bombing now.

This despite being the subject of many himself, this checking out the dam at the Head.

You would think he would be happy with all the ones I take of him. Have to say he gives me hours of pleasure and entertainment.

At the moment the community audit is well, with everything up to date, the Hydro running well, the Filling Station has 7000+ litres in each tank and, dare I say it, the broadband is going like a train, at least in the schoolhouse. There has been a dramatic improvement around a week ago with download and upload speeds both good, certainly relatively, hopefully across the community. The fact it is quiet is a good sign. There is always some sights on the way

(Friday evening) Starting to think I should not be saying anything about broadband these days. This morning it had to be kicked started and also hear that the improvement is not universal throughout the community, frustrating. Even since writing the above a couple of days ago we are now taking in fibre optic from Broadford by radio. All the rest is as stands as there seems to be only two cabinets. There is supposed to be a big push in Applecross, something we are very sceptical about, opinion says that someone “important” has been pushing for us, I suspect it is because AppleNet exists and is a tiny wee threat to current monopolies.

On the water today with nothing but tangles due to the strong tides, rain and a few ships of interest,

and a couple of small foul ups as the creels went out earlier in the week. Still, managed a good fishing despite feeling very tired after sorting out the tangles. Trying to get a stock in for a couple of days off next week with a trip to Lismore planned. Attention caught by hearing familiar voices on the radio. Mark Stevens interviewing Jimmy up at the farm chatting about Angus the stag he is feeding by hand. Just so happens I caught Jimmy in the Inn having a blether with the twins, Phammie and John

while Angus was causally  looking at Dougal, having just come down from the screen, who decided that he was a bit too big and close to chase. He does look well fed.

Although the rain here is not at as heavy as places further east with word that the road to Inverness is closed due to flooding and part of it washed away west of Garve there was a litre break and the sunset came through again, different but always worth a look.

 

“Media Tart”

I honestly do not go looking for things to do or get involved in, I have a wee problem with saying “no”, especially if it helps a cause I believe in and round Applecross there are plenty of them to be active in. Sunday evening found me down at the Pier, mainly as a result of a contact that involved Paul, a Reuters photographer coming out on the Varuna on Monday. Rather than have a pile of rope on the stern I roped up the last fleet to be washed this year, managed all but the last twelve, leaving them for the way out in the morning. I ended up switching off the music and listened to the nature flying round Pol Creadh, the grumpy calls of the herons, the occasional honk of the cormorant, the high-pitched but short call of the small gull and all accompanied by a cacophony of a flock of birds settling into the trees on the Culduie side of the Bay. This done, I had promised myself that a trip up to the Hydro screen was needed and duly set off with the dogs at the back of nine. Fading light but an enjoyable and rapid hike up the track. Not before losing the dogs for a couple of minutes, then hearing a series of excited barks coming towards me I thought a hind would appear soon but was slightly taken aback by a badger tearing across the path in front of me with a Dougal in hot pursuit about 5 yards behind, both going at a serious rate of knots. Dougal, fortunately, responds to shouted requests and immediately came to a muddy halt, not realising that tackling a badger would have been out of his league and would probably ended up with a visit to the vet. Screen cleaned, Dougal double checking it,

mainly to get rid of the mud, power increased back up to 90Kwhs and a welcome couple of Crabbies to finish a very long day.

Not before getting my hand crushed by a Bantry Bay Irishman saying keep up all your campaigning, it will come good. Seems he is battling his government over their attempt to harvest seaweed in Bantry Bay on an industrial scale. Why do authorities keep expanding industries that outgrow their environments, our salmon farming comes to mind. Export figures come before longterm sustainability.

The Inn has been full to overflowing the last few visits,

doing the door most nights now to give the Boss a well-earned break.

For me it is a lot easier coming from home or the sea to organise front of house. Would not be quite so keen if I was there day and night. Wednesday evening was finished of with some fine box playing by Ali from Inverness, originally Caithness. He has and is still playing with Addie Harper, both Senior and Junior. Thursday evening saw another visit from Tarnybackle and they went down a storm, always good to get a wee catchup with John’s fine version of Caledonia, our version of the Irish Spancil Hill.The Inn that night was full all night, example being the seventeen geographers from Hamburg University. They loved the Inn, the music and everything about the night. Hug from the organiser, reminding me of the many compliments and even more hugs from customers who leave after saying what a friendly place it is, the food amazing and the atmosphere second to none. The Catalonians who have visited could not be more friendly, especially when we talk nationhood, resulting in yet another leaving hug, Karen’s German Mum completing a fine warm series of shifts. So satisfying when customers leave with such a strongly felt welcome that they come up to you to shake hands or give you a hug, it is a testament to every one who works at the Inn. The previous Thursday it was a bunch of HillBillies playing and again busy night.

Feeling like the media tart from Toscaig at the moment. It all started on Tuesday with Olivia who was travelling with a group of 21, mainly, landscape architects from across Europe with a Prof from Edinburgh.

They were doing an alternative view of the NC500, pouring wax into the waters of the Rogie Falls does sound alternative. She had come across the SCFF report on sustainable creel fishing on the Net and was after an interview with a fisher chappie. My name was suggested and I rarely miss chance to put forward the long-term sustainable practice of creel fishing so agreed to meet up. Beautiful evening and we sat outside the Inn in the evening sun

talking fishing and trying to talk her through why the establishment allows our waters to be degraded so much by the trawl and dredge. A view from the outside and she just could not understand why we have allowed ourselves to be dictated to by such a small group of fishers. Unfortunately due to Brexit one of the principles the Federation used up till now, Article 17, will now fall by the wayside, which is a fairer distribution of wealth amongst fishermen. Chatted about the NEF New Deal and the No Growth economy. I do not want to keep growing, I am happy to stay small to work within the environment I am fortunate to live in. From then it was on to Paul, working up a photographic essay for Reuters News Agency who came out on Monday on a rainy and breezy day.

Hauled a couple of fleets of creels that was pure pleasure on seeing the quantity and quality of langoustines in them. Although the female egg carriers are appearing more and more in the creels the landed catch is still looking as good as it has done over the last 15 years. He did seem to enjoy himself and said he found it all very interesting, especially the sustainable side to the job. Lots of photos taken and I saw him in the Inn enjoying a fish pie before heading off to photograph Ewen and head up to Assynt and some gamekeepers. From there it was at the Inn and an interview with the BBC Travel Show about the effects of the NC500.

And Applecross Ices got a mention as well.

Here is what you don’t see below the counter

but luckily inside has Jolene.

More and more the different angles to the NC500 are coming to the fore, having turned into a road trip is proving, I think a mistake. There is so much more to the Highlands than this mad scramble to do 500 miles in a week or in some daft cases a day. The last media event of the day was being interviewed by the BBC Travel Show, an interview that, ironically was stopped several times by a five car convoy, two camper vans and a screaming toddler in a push chair. I may not have said what the anti NC500 folk wanted to hear but pointed out that although Applecross has changed it is not all bad…..in fact I find little that is. Standing outside the Inn looking across the Bay I saw the Sand track and was reminded of my mother on a BSA250 going along it carrying out her district nursing duties post war. Yes, you can argue everything has changed here beyond recognition, but I can still walk up that track and meet no one, take time out and draw in the awesome scenery from miles around. Maybe the change is that the folks had little opportunity to take that time out as they were closer to subsistence living. I know that things were not easy when my Dad grew up here and he regarded me coming back as a failure as he was unable to achieve his ambitions due to family loyalties. The NC500 has turned Applecross into a pit stop on a track, but over time those who follow TV and Ad campaigns and tick boxes may find a new box to tick and those who have taken time to find the real Applecross will come to further explore its Spiritual qualities that I come across every day.

Rain at Last

(Tuesday) Given the choice between a 33C urban office job or a grey still morning with soft falling Highland rain on a glass sea,

well there isn’t really any way I could do the 33C one.

Took a couple of hours to get on the water on Monday morning. A longish, felt longer than it was, shift at the Inn. Occasionally the odd shift drags and looking at the clock becomes a regular glance every twenty minutes. Plenty of people through and no one knows you are a bit out of sorts. Headache kicks in properly mid afternoon despite lots of painkillers. They still came from as far afield as Hawaii and Sardinia. Home via the Chalet internet and bed by ten. Although it is still busy it feels a lot quieter at the Inn. Still no tables but at least the residents are not waiting for their’s and there is not a queue of twenty.

(Friday evening) you could say it is a bit of a recovery day. Needed a long sleep and even with that behind me there is a pretty constant tiredness in the old legs. With the week almost done it is not that surprising as most days it has been pretty physical. Today’s recovery day involved a bit of a catch up at the Chalet, hoping not for much longer as Alison is taking our broadband contact home from Inverness to work on our switch over. We and others have been off for four weeks now, too long. Had a conversation about it today and it feels like a rerun of the Filling Station problems. Crashing every day, rebooting, late billing and general stress. The fact that fuel is no longer is not a topic of anyone’s chat is testimony to how well it is being run by the Trading Company now. I am hoping this will be the case with our broadband in the months to come.

So a visit to the Community Hall where the School entertained us by running a French Cafe lunch, with Thor, Mason and Lily attending our table, in French no less. Lots of Potential for front of house at the Inn. The onion soup and chocolate cake were pretty good as well. Sam and Caroline are up from deep Deep South and arranged for Sam to come up to the Hydro screen checking it over for a clean. After Mick’s visit last week was thinking all was not quite as it should be with a fair bit of rain it was only running at 54 kWhs this morning. Looking at local streams I reckoned there should be more power being produced. After a wander through Carnoch, with Sam, visiting his favourite birch tree,

we made it to the top via the Archeological Trail.. By the time we came back down to the Turbine House there were 84kWhs being produced.  via the Archeological Trail. Lots of chat about land, sea and everything else, and a lesson learned about cleaning the screen

more regularly in the summer.

Better to have wet feet rather than wet shoes. You can see half the screen clean and the water going through while most is running over the dirty half.

Does not matter what the weather the view is always worth a stop and look.

Came back down through the coppicing part of Carnoch after Sam stopping to admire the Hebridean Barns, resuscitated through the ALPs project and reverting to its original purpose of clothes dryer.

We were in good company as well.

Fishing has stayed at a very healthy level with only 250/300 creels hauled to get the requisite amount for the Inns and a decent wage. Although tired my extra wee trip out on the evening of the Solstice was not regretted. On the way when I was heading back to the lights of Applecross, the hum of the Diesel engine and the breaking of the water against the bow, I went back in time and thought of the fishermen of Applecross who spent a week at a time away from home and what they must have been thinking of when they saw the lights of home after their week away, in far harsher conditions than I usually experience. Apart from the many octopodes,

occasional gannet

and that sunset

it was the simple routine of hauling, emptying, rebaiting, stacking and reshooting the creels.

Often said and thought by me that these trips to sea keep my sanity intact after the frenzy of the Inn. This week has been a little easier, a little dip in the numbers to just being busy. That’s every table being full but not the twenty people waiting. There are a fair amount of workmen at Sand and the biggest problem they have is accommodation. Amusing as that was one of the selling points during discussions around the Range expansion, that the work would fill accommodation places in Applecross. My quiet protestations that this was not necessary fell on deaf ears but has proven to be true. The first visit of Tarneybackle took place last night and they went down a storm, especially as they did not sing Sam the Skull. There was dancing till late and a return visit in three weeks is on the cards so farewells were not too extreme.

And always a view to stop and see on the way to and from the Inn.

Seeing in the Solstice

Couple of days ago I had a strong urge to be on the water around the Summer Solstice. Yesterday as the sun set over the Staffin Cliffs I made it out to the Varuna and intended to fish into the Rising Sun.

Sunset was worth it in itself and although there was the remnants of the northerly breeze coming down the Sound on the way out.

I picked up the first fleet and began hauling. Feeling of aloneness in nature was strong but also an awareness of working just a little near the edge. Everything had to be thought through and the descending darkness meant that I could not really carry on as my fleets were too near the other boats working the Sound and I have put a couple of fleets over them in the last two hauls in broad daylight. Not enough light to see the bouts although to the North it never darkened at all.

Steaming in to the lights of Shore Street, Milton and Camusterrach listening to the bow wake and the steady hum of the engine may turn out to be one of my moments of the year. Earlier in the day it was relax time

for a couple of the Schoolhouse inhabitants.

The Parrot Visiting from Germany

It is beginning to seem that I could start any post with, “a bit of variety this week” and that was certainly the case this week. Going back into the time line of the last post to Tuesday, I had done a day’s fishing and came in to meet the ladies for a bit of filming on the Varuna.

They had come up on Sunday and I met them over the weekend when they had come down for a meal on the Sunday evening.

Seemed to go well enough on the day and I am pretty sure I will not be watching the programme just in case I am on it. The Bloody Project has struck again and it was good to see Graeme and to meet his partner, just finished his French detective mystery and good it was too. Interesting from the boat perspective as we could see Culduie, where the deed was done, scurrilous Ardhu, Camusterrach, the Big House and Shore Street which was Applecross village in the book.

So up to Friday and a day off. It began at 7.00am, selling langoustines to the Loch Ness Inn and ended at 1.30am on Saturday morning loading just short of a half ton of herring into the back of the van at Aird. The time in-between was the day off. We headed north after twelve, stopped for lunch at Gairloch and a trip down to the beach with the pups.

Then going further north we took a detour down the Inverasdale/Cove road, mainly because Gemma proclaims it is the only place she knows that is better than Applecross,

so it had to be seen.

It is truly a beautiful part of the Highlands and Dougal and Eilidh seemed to agree.

Another beach walk with Dougal having a discussion with the white cow, who seemed very disinterested in him.

Then off to Ullapool to an exhibition/private showing of how plastics are entering our world in not the best of ways, even becoming part of the geology. Not an edifying prospect but well underway and out fishing the next day I pick up a plastic bag floating by

just to reinforce the message of the way we live has to change. Met up with Sara, a contact from the Inshore Fishing Conference and the discussion about sustainable fishing carried on to the Ceilidh Place where we were treated to some awesome music by King Creosote and Mairead Greene. Time just flew by and it was an hour later than I thought before we were back on the road home. Me in the passenger seat after a couple of Thistly Cross ciders and just as well as we were met on the road just outside Shieldaig by our local custodian, Craig. Not knowing the van he rapidly turned round and followed us down the Coast Road to stop us enquiring as to our late travelling home. Think Alison was quite excited to be stopped by the bobbies with blue lights flashing and all. Mason and Thor would have been impressed as the last time I saw them they were in said car outside the Schoolhouse. So the last stop was for the bait and salt and home by 2.00am, asleep by 2.05am and up at 6.00am to go fishing. Not even enough time to take off the wrist band.

It was hard work leaving the house at that time in the morning and staying on the couch with these two was very tempting.

Days off are tiring but the sights, sounds and conversations were all so worth it. Maybe Dougal could have done with more than the Pinewood walk at Inverewe and the two beach walks but his form was still good and he enjoyed the trip down to the Ullapool Harbour, fishing boats

and tall ship included.

So from the fishing to the shower and straight to the Inn where we had a tricky evening dealing with many bikers, a closed Walled Garden for Calum’s wedding and lots of visitors wanting to eat good food. And again on Sunday, the full twelve-hour shift, with a half hour for a bit of food. Lots of good food, laughter, good craic and a parrot,

a German one at that.

Seemingly she stayed at the Inn couple of years ago and was back for a return visit. She came out briefly for a wee look around during the quiet spell in the afternoon. Busy but a well run if a times tense day and even the nine bikers who turned up at 8.55pm for a meal were happy to be served nine fish and chips. They had just rode down from Thurso, turned up late at the Campsite and came straight down to the Inn. You could not serve them so another group were treated to the Highland hospitality of the Applecross Inn. The visitors were from all over, Kazakstan to Holland and all parts in-between. Hope the two Dutch girls who were to be in Mallaig for 2.00pm on Monday made it. They were to drop a hired car in Portree  and make it down the road to Armadale to catch the ferry across Sleat Sound and I think it was going to involve some hitch hiking. Good “we are all European” chat with them and while acknowledging we all come from different parts they hoped we would finally have the nerve to become Scottish in our own rights. All the european visitors are really sad about Brexit and hope that Scotland will stay around. We shall see.

Finishing on a sad note though I heard off the sad passing of John, who used to live in Applecross and worked and inspired many troubled youngsters. He also had a pretty troubled past which unfortunately caught up with him. I only have good memories of John, taking me out with No 3 and doing a spot of sea rescue before my trip to Canada with the kayak. So there was an appropriate sunset to finish off a memorable weekend and to remember him by.

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