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

Archive for the ‘Land’ Category

A Grumpy One

Although we are in for a busy weekend there is a definite end of season feel in the air. Maybe not helped by it being Friday and the first day on the water this week and even then it involved a northerly swell and a breeze from the south. By mid afternoon the breeze had developed into a wind, fortunately the fishing had improved from the morning although being in gear you have to watch when you steam past the south end you don’t get the tailing in the prop. Well more than once anyway. This coupled with noticing some spotlets of emulsified oil coming through my wet exhaust adds up to a bit of a grumpy feel to the day. I could have done with a longer visit from the dolphins. They came up very quickly, pirroeted a full 180 degrees out of the water alongside the boat and swam off. The oil problem is a heat exchanger and I have to find out if it is the gearbox or the engine oil I will be losing. It is never all joy and happiness in any job but at this time of year after a full on and busy summer these little things get blown up and exaggerated in the mind. Western world issues so in the grand scheme of life they will be trivial.

Good mood to have a mini rant about how the community is impacted by outside decisions and the little we can do about it. There is a theme across the Highlands that Community Councils are of little import and to some extent I would have to agree. As a region and country our local democracy is in pretty poor shape and to some degree unrepresentative. This is mainly due to most people’s perception that there is little the Council can do other than voice a community opinion. I do not usually post on individuals but the fact that the Inn Chef, Robert, and the School and Fire person, Marion, have to deal with a planning decision that stops their plans in progressing their presence on the Applecross peninsula is frankly incomprehensible. Robert and Marion, holding three jobs down between them, one young un and another imminent, working crofters cannot get planning permission to build a croft house near their croft. They are refused on the grounds that it is not in keeping with the surroundings environs and is too far from other habitations. I find it hard to put into words what I think of these decisions taken on the east coast by people who have no conception of what living on the fragile west is like. Apart from the ludicrous reasons for refusal, I can take you round Applecross and show you houses that have been built with no other houses near them, so as well as being a negative decision in the first place it has no place with any precedence. Ridiculous from which any angle you look at. It is easy to criticise but this and other decisions have little basis in a community’s growing it’s capacity and resilience. Another decision on the Street has been negative on the grounds the living quarters are upstairs. Considering that already happens in Holiday Houses three or four doors along it holds no water anywhere else but the east. You couple this with no land being released for affordable houses you can see we. are going to have problems in the very near future. Do people think it is ok for workers to live in multiple occupancy and caravans, in poor housing where do these issues come into the planning process. I leave the argument that everything is fine and should be left as it is to discuss, that is the rewilding argument in a way, saying that people should not and have not lived here for generations, which is patently untrue. Always change, sometimes the change is rather quick but you have to deal with it as it will not go away.

When, we as a community, are faced with an absentee landlord saying that a site is unsuitable because you can see it from the road you can only shake your head in disbelief. Drive down the road from Ardeslaig to Toscaig and you see every single house, holiday house and empty house from the road. Mind you I have been told of two other reasons for that site, the first being the presence of sink holes, not a good excuse due to the Turbine House being built there, and finally an agricultural reason just to make sure the site will not become available. You get the idea that releasing land is  not on the absentee landlord’s agenda, frustrating when you look at Achintrad, Sheildaig, Lochcarron, Balmacara, where affordable houses are being built and lived in by young folk who send kids to local schools and have employment in their locales. So individual planning decisions taken against this background feel so negative.

I have been to some positive and not so positive meetings lately, great to hear ideas put forward about a Community Hub, increased employment, housing from people who understand the fragility of the community and have  thoughts and plans to reverse the almost imperceptible decline. On the positive side there are more crofts being used now, the decline seems to have bottomed out and younger folk are growing and producing more food locally, building the resilience of the place, it’s a good year for wee ones being born, would be great if this was the norm rather than being unusual and employment must be 120%, more to do than the people living here can cope with. In a way it is a sort of curse when asked what is one’s agenda for the community. I can state that nothing is personal in that my living and employment prospects do not need to be improved so it is purely on a community level. Of course I may be wrong but I can see how a fine community can work in difficult circumstances and that is the one at the Inn. Great team and generally a happy place, building under pressure, workers not in ideal housing, but despite all the problems a fine example how a community can work.

So the consultations go on, there is the launching of a proper community consultation run by the Community Company, while the Trust Working Group continues. I feel I have made the right decision not to keep putting time into this and leave it to more positive minded people. I see no change in the direction the Trust is going in despite different personnel  on the Board. The suggested Chair of the Working Group, someone who is not only not local but is also not “independent”, confirms my decision to spend my time more usefully. I sincerely hope the Group is able to influence Trust policy for the future before more and more people think the  development of Applecross will have to go through new powers of the Community Empowerment Act.

Another meeting attended this week concerned the laying of fibre optic cable from Sheildaig to Lochcarron. Wonderful one may think but we came away from the meeting thinking little or no benefit to the community. There will be empty chambers for a licensed provider to build cabinets to deliver superfast broadband but that is unlikely to happen as cabinets cost around £65,000 and does not make economic sense to supply to a half-dozen houses. There was more unsaid than we were told, i.e. the contractor, the huge expense of laying a cable that is not going to be used locally. SSE backhaul does not really hold water and we all came away with the strong suspicion that the customer is based on the North Coast and has little to do with the local community and decisions are taken far far away. Meanwhile some residents are being promised 50/70 meg speeds from BT as they take in broadband by radio. Very puzzling and can only wait and see if this is true.

Now that feels better and life goes on. As said before the fishing was better than expected and the tea was good, it being these shrimps, all eyes

trying to make me feel guilty, some squats in mayo, and mussels increase,garlic and wine sauce, good accompaniments to baked Tatties.  This chappie was released after the photo and swam away happily in a flash of colour.

In-between the grumps the dolphin visits, they were too quick for me,

and the occasional calm days with lots of activities on and in the water,

a Thai massage and good chats with good people keeps you on a level, although maybe reading this I may need a lot more therapy.And to finish with a light show

or two.


Lois Mor and John “Balure”.

Although we are now into the next week, rain is torrential, which means the hydro power chart is on a vertical climb from the falling down to 40 kWhs over the last wee dry spell, the resonance of Lismore is still strong. Again a powerful meditation starts off day 2 before a walk up to one of the high points of the island with views across to Glensanda on Morvern.

An obvious lead in to the Lingerbay Quarry proposal and Alistair Macintosh, Isle of Eigg and Soil And Soul. Then before you know it we are back at the present day’s living, crafting and building. Yorick is putting together another window frame while Sarah is dehorning a ewe and treating another of her Shetland sheep, graphic descriptions of maggot eruptions. We had approached the house from a different angle and saw the astonishing stone work,

the skill and pride of a craftsman in full view. Who said crofting is romantic, hard graft but fulfilling. And then it was onto a visit to the Broch,

with Mairi intending to pay her respects at Balure. On the way we stopped to sample a rest on St Moluag’s Chair, a rock hewn out by the Saint himself. The Broch is set on a high point commanding the western approaches and is said to have been built around 2000 years ago and was continually occupied up till the 12th century before the MacDougalls built their own castle. Photos taken, chat and reminisces over

we headed down to call in to Balure to pick up Mairi.

We were immediately invited into the house by John’s son Ian, where we were offered a dram of Balvennie Doublewood and a cup of tea. Again a strong connection was felt and we toasted the passing of John “Balure” and Mairi added a story of her wedding to Dave which involved John. They had organised a Grand March for their evening part of the wedding and as usual the bride and grooms families were at the head but Mairi’s folks were late so John and Dorothy of Balure took their place with John leaning into Mairi telling her to “Ca canny lass, ca canny” before leading off with her to the tune Mairi’s Wedding. We keep these people with us by telling and retelling their stories. I felt it was a privilege to be asked in and invited to honour this well-loved man of their community and hope we did him justice.

Maybe it was through meditating with old friends and visiting the brooch and hearing tales of times ancient and not long past but you felt at one with the island and its community with its thread, unbroken and strong through timeless ages. The chat continued as we walked through time

and emerged at the Heritage Centre, for Mairi to meet up with her co organisers for the Tap Roots Festival, and for us to wander up the road back to Carnie Cottage. All these walks have a micro aspect to them as well seeing the late autumn flowers

and the small gardens on top of fence posts

make the walks longer. Lois Mor is the great garden so it is fitting here is Lois Beag

I wanted to go down to Salen as the island’s sole fishing boat was anchored there

and so leaving Martin to concoct his plate of potatoes and seafood chowder I was back on the bike to cycle down to the sea’s edge and take in the late evening’s sun sinking down behind the Morvern peninsula.

A truly beautiful evening and some very interesting sights to see

which on further investigation turned out to be lime stone kilns.

Yet another connection to the homeland, there are lime stone kilns in Applecross, like Lismore the lands are controlled by absentees, we both have Irish saints and going by some of the tales of Lismore we both scrap well amongst ourselves.

After yet another fine tea, the cooking has been the finest from Applecross seafood, Mairi’s Dalh and Ian’s seafood pasta, we set up for a bunting ritual trying to rid ourselves and places of negativity in all forms. Mairi then sang her song which stopped our concept of time for its content and beauty. Fire is a useful tool for more than giving warmth and so ended a long and fulfilled day, heading for the stairs exhausted but content in the knowledge of a strong sense of belonging.

A Lismore Ceilidh

This is a wonderful way to visit an island, you immediately feel that you are not a tourist and are being allowed to interact with island life, chatting to residents and finding out what they do and how they do it. As well as that, our own connections are coming up again and again and we are finding we know the same people but under different circumstances. After a strong meditation, a cycle down to the south end of the island,

passing the small but well-kept village hall,

a visit to the Heritage Center, not quite long enough, and then on to Mairi’s sister and brother-in-law who are building a fantastic new house with ongoing legal access problems hopefully coming to a conclusion. Confirms my bus theory that a few decades ago a bus toured through the Highlands and Islands and dropped off awkward customers in every community. Awkward is a pejorative term as other words spring to mind. Sarah and Yorick are coming to the end of a long and protracted access dispute with a neighbour. A strainer placed in front of an access point with no other purpose than to prevent access.

They had managed to buy a croft of an elderly couple and proceeded to self build a fantastic looking house themselves while working the croft, Sarah building up a textile business

while Yorick puts the house together. Amazing workmanship and dedication while having to go to court with the neighbour. As it is still going on I better not say too much other than wonder why people go down that road which seems to be based in such awkward bad neighbourliness.

Another fine evening’s worth of Applecross seafood was produced and an evening of music was in the air. Being part of the community was apparent from early on when Eric dropped in and added to the “Big Archie” story. He certainly seems to be a colourful character. Calling in to the Heritage Centre where we met Murray, who turned up for the music session later, and then on down to Mairi’s relatives. It all appears that we are making contact with the community rather than a fleeting sightseeing visit. Maybe I am too aware of the numbers that come through Applecross and just stop at the Inn before hurriedly going on their way. Having Mairi chat away about who everyone was gives a more substantive view of the island. The visitors here do not seem to be out of keeping with the numbers living in the community and I only met two groups of tourists on bikes when I travelled down to the south end. Distinct similarities to Applecross emerge all the time. The land is very similar although there is none of the regimented plantations, there are lovely native tree groves that are abundant with bird life. There are far more cattle and sheep on the ground, although sheep do seem to dominate the landscape. The population does seem to be slightly younger but some do need help in the sheep gathering and keeps the younger members of the community very active. The west theme of having several jobs is manifest here on the island.

After our meal of Applecross seafood, which it was nice to share with a couple of the arriving musicians we went through to be entertained by several locals who turned up as preparation for the Tap Root Festival in a couple of weeks time. Accordion,


whistles, piano, a couple of songs and a bit of craic. Could not help thinking of ancient times, of many ceilidhs, of tales told, songs sung and tunes played. No one taking the lead but a natural flow and rhythm to the evening. It was only till later I discovered that Big Archie dropped in for a wee dram. He caught up with Mairi in the kitchen before taking his leave. So much packed into just one day.

In the News

Sometimes there is just a wee bit too much going on. Feels like we are not really living at home just now as our internet is not functioning and sounds like another week is on the cards. We are switching over from ADSL to fibre optic and involves IP addresses and there has not been smooth changeover in any of the community Broadlands up and down the west coast. This is the fundamental problem with the rural economy, there are not enough people living on the lands that the community does not own. We just do not have the numbers to take on all the services that other places take for granted and used to be carried out by the Local Councils. The view from the temporary office is not too bad though.

The consultation that is going on just now is extremely frustrating in that it is a visionary/wish list but if things went ahead my question is who is going to run all the ideas. Keep saying it but we need 100 more people who want this life style to live here. It is hard work doing one, two or even three jobs, raise a family and then volunteer to keep essential services going. It is the nature of the modern world that consultations have to take place at all but for funding applications one does need to show community support of some kind, but there is always a danger of misuse of these for ulterior purposes. Can only hope that this one is not one of these. I have hung in but find doing practical stuff, Filling Station, Hydro etc is more rewarding than a talk shop and have dropped out. I can go to the Inn for that.

So on Monday last it was a 3.50am start as I was told the Beeb were coming in to do a wee news item on creel fishing and the obvious benefits as opposed to the prawn trawl but more of that later. Fished well and spent a couple of hours trying to retrieve one of my lost fleets with no success. Was alongside the pier by 1.00pm but camera did not turn up on time and it was 3.30pm before I was cycling up the road with the catch to the Inn. What I did not know and often happens when the routine is broken and just a little bit more tired I headed ashore leaving all the electronics switched on. So Thursday morning saw us back out but nought in the batteries so no fish. Two day trickle charge but weather poor on Saturday so lucky with good fishing the langoustines lasted until Sunday lunch. The Inn was a little strange in that Friday and Saturday evenings were a wee bit quieter than normal but both Thursday and Sunday certainly made up for it. Long long and very busy shifts with lots of people stories and great comments from happy people heading off north. Back on the horse this week and it is a hard week working this weather on your own. It is not settled but not too windy, Took today off mind you as it was a 5/7 southerly forecast and it turned out to be a white horse day. Managed a bit of work considering it was my “hit the wall” day. The night at the Inn was full on again and still here as the boss is away having a curry next door to the schoolhouse.

So in between the work and the Beeb there was a wee gathering of greens at Achnasheen where a lot of interest was shown about sustainable fishing. Very direct questioning and a good receptive audience. Fine lunch and company and as usual the connections are everywhere when I met one of the group. Plan B were in Applecross many years ago and at the end of the summer put on a play/music involving some fine musicians and acting. Anne Woods was on the fiddle and here she was, only just recognised her but good to meet up again after so long. Really sorry to see Topher not making it through to the HC, he would have been a good councillor. I never miss a chance to describe the fishery and compare how it was to how it is now to show that although we can make a good living still we should have a far healthier sea than we have. And then it was the Community Council AGM and a Chair Report to do. It is only when you look back over the year you realise all the things that have gone on, from defribulators to keeping the HC up to date on the hammering the Bealach is getting because of the NC500. There are now a couple of places where it will be dangerous soon. One wonders what a Bealach closure will do to the local economy, but if we do not get some remedial work on the Hill then this is bound to happen.

Fishing this week continues to produce plenty of langoustines, no squats but one cannot have everything. Interesting day yesterday when we hauled the three fleets and then went to see if I could recover the missing one. Had an older fleet shot where I had lost it and picked up the creels in almost the perfect position, the third last creel picked up the last creel of the missing fleet. Only problem was I now had two ends wrapped round the south-east can and after buoying off the missing fleet I managed to get a finger trapped under a bar tight rope. Possibly cracking a bone going by the size of ring finger today. But all is well as after a bit of organising I have more creels to catch langoustines again. All with the loss of one old creel and 50 metres of rope. Ended up a little too close to the can

and it’s resident who was using it as a fishing post was getting a little nervous too.

The news item has been broadcast and generally well received by the public with the inevitable backlash from the trawl sector, but more of that next time.

The weather over the last week and a half has been mixed

but summer is showing its full green coat

with the sea scenes more changeable, greyer

and more in tune for sail boats.

A few less photos about just now as one of my lenses has made its way to Edinburgh for a revamp due mainly to the harsh conditions on board. The contact between body and lens seems to have given up. Thinking of treating myself to a shore camera.

As well as Broadband the Hydro has been acting up a little. Remote access has kept it going but a visit from Mick was required this week and the classic IT solution was carried out to over ride a software glitch and with the more unpredictable weather it is back up to maximum out put after our very dry spell. A bit more investigation is going to be carried out to find initial cause.As a whole it is going really well and after rents, investor interest payments and building up capital reserves there should be monies coming to the Community soon.

A JCB on the School Run.

Not entirely sure how to deal with the latest from America. Had the radio on all night and woke up around the time it was all over for Clinton. We live in a strange, strange world where everyone else is to blame. The same in this country, poor, out of work or immigrants. Some of the aftermath is quite chilling and there is so much in history that has gone before that should prevent past insanities repeating itself. Racism is very simple and breaks down any empathy we have for our fellow beings. It is even more poignant today as it is the 11th of November and  the”Lest we forget” seems to be losing its message. Reading Edmund Blunden just now and feel very conflicted and pressured into the wearing of symbols. The reasons why people have voted the way they had on Tuesday have been analysed to death, it is the result of those votes that is so worrying. Have always thought the use of nuclear weapons would be insane……….first strike insanity and second strike pointless. Empathy and sanity go together so now we have, admittedly only through the filter of media, someone ,who may fit some of these behavioural traits in charge of the biggest nuclear depot in Western Europe which is just down the road. Applecross does not feel very remote at the moment.

It was a struggle not to be pulled into a despairing train of thought and eventually made it out onto the water the morning after. It turned out to be a pretty poor day, more wind from the south than forecast and cold with not too many langoustines, but the forecast was for even more wind, so stayed out until a fleet that was shot over sent me in, being too hard to free.

Going back to last week fishing and Inn have to be served and we were back out on Friday with a decent catch. Seven fleets hauled and two good ones providing the bread on the table. The catches are very unpredictable and you just go to the next fleet hoping. It was the same yesterday but down to one good fleet. Cold gradually seeps into you by the end of the day. Have to keep moving on the way in, as soon as you stop you realise how chilled it is at this time of year. Like it when the pressure is off with not so many people around but enough to earn a pound or two. Bit different for me as I am not involved in the mad Christmas dash for the hiked prices paid on the Continent. A first fall of snow on the 3000 feet tops


and then further down over the weekend. Reports of the snow falling on the Bealach.The weather has not been too inclement with some nice views off to the west.



The Inn was busy enough over the weekend. Was there since Thursday as swopped Wed for Fri. Handy for the Boss as she was away with the Ice cream Man and others to see if they could win yet another award at the Highland Tourism Awards.This time it was for the informal eatery category. Although shortlisted, no mean feat in itself, the award went to Canna. We thought the omens were good.



An excited phone call was received at the Inn when Applecross Inn got a mention from the stage and a cheer from the floor. Fergus was on the podium and mentioned the Tuesday meeting so there is hope. It is because I creel fish I come across sea pens with attendant symbiotic starfish attached


and boar fish


and are able to put them back alive.


Thursday evening at the Inn and there were more staff than customers, it just felt that way, I only stayed on to get update from the Community Company Meeting. Could have been better, but volunteering is not easy, and if one has stresses in our own lives it is really difficult not to bring these to Meetings. These ups and downs are cyclical but do take their toll on people who care. Friday through to Sunday at the Inn was pretty busy, shifts that pass quickly with plenty to do especially as groups of 10, 11 and 14 book in alongside a full accommodation and several “walk ins”. We counted 46 meals on Friday evening. Met my first Saudi visitor and a pleasant couple from Norway, he was doing a Divinity degree at Edinburgh, a couple of gardening/farming sisters from Stranraer, the yurt lady from Cornwall…..the list goes on with Applecross at the centre, never remote. This week it was a Para-Olympic coach who casually talks about flying around the world, last trip coming back from Rio. Empathizing with fellow humans being is so easy, losing sight of that and you are in or making trouble.

Local politics are cracking on as well. The Trust consultation hit a bit of a rock in September when a very confused and directionless public meeting took place in spite of advice to the contrary. This consult is threatening to be one of the longest in our time and as a result, like referendums, people are tiring. And this was evident from the few numbers out on Tuesday evening when the consultation took off again. Thirteen people out, the Trustees we are told, are shocked by the community comments. They did not realise that they are not universally loved by all and do not understand why. Remember a similar reaction when the LAS campaign hit the headlines. We keep hearing about a shared vision but for a vision to be shared we have to have some idea what the Trust’s is. Maybe one day. Little surprised how shocked the trustees seem to have been, I am well aware how a part of the community think ill of the Community Company despite, fuel, toilets, broadband and hydro, but never shocked just disappointed. Maybe when one is so remote from life here it is hard to judge views. A visit on Wednesday afternoon on the way to the Inn for another wee chat. Agreement that the Trustees do not seem to know about the workings of the community and still rely on patronage and favours. The consultants acknowledge that it would take so little to dissolve the distrust of decades. We are still reduced to looking around for wee scraps of land for affordable  house sites, and not getting them.

School taxi on the agenda for the Community Council meeting that followed on immediately. Seems to be a target for HC cuts but as they are obliged to transport the wee ones to and from school and there seems to be little other options. Seconding council vehicles was suggested, humourous to the community as there would only be a JCB or snow plough available in Aplecross. The wee fellow up the Glen would probably love the ride to school on Finky’s digger. Shows up the deficit of local government, officials taking decisions from 85 miles away. With the intervention of officials and the total lack of alternatives a favourable outcome is expected. On the good news front there may be a bit of movement on the road front concerning the deteriorating Bealach. A few well-directed photos showing how bad the road edges are is registering at base. With all the NC 500 publicity the HC is between a rock and a hard place, even more cars and more deteriorating roads. Just a rumour to finish on, but a good one, we may be getting a snowblower back for the Bealach.

Thursday and it was up to the Hydro to check the screen and although needed a brush did not seem too bad. Wet feet when running so full. The river was in spate


and for most of the last twelve days the turbine has been working at 100%. Looks and feels good to see it churning out the kWhs.


Uair Eile….Another Time Another Place.

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.

Summer is Taking its Toll.

(Friday evening) Missing out on the Raft Race this evening, the weather, the phone call reporting chaos at the Inn and cooking tea with washing a fleet of creels this evening all mount to too much on. (PS didn’t find energy to wash creels) It is a fine event, along with the Fishing Competition tomorrow, is a lucrative fund-raiser for the RNLI and other local Charities and is held each year. Fishing trips for langoustine this week have had a fair bit of variety both with weather variations and people out on board.


On Tuesday we had a very interested German on board and he was fascinated by the day’s activities. Got chatting to him and it turns out he had a couple of companies, a security and another one which was involved in industrial cleaning. He had an air of German wealth about him and was good company. On Wednesday his partner had bought him a days grouse shooting near Inverness. A topic that is hitting the headlines these days with the “mysterious” disappearance of raptors, hen harriers and eagles, in the vicinity of grouse moors. The numbers of disappearing tagged birds are rising but no proof is available yet which can confirm the strong suspicions that some grouse moor managers are culpable. Interesting to hear his view of the size of the Applecross Estate. He told me that in Germany a big estate would amount to 500 or the larger ones a thousand hectares. He shook his head at the size of “ours”, a huge 65,000 acres under the sway of one man. Interesting in that here was a man obviously comfortable in hunting/fishing/shooting circles shaking his head at our antiquated land ownership. A successful day at sea, as he said at the end of it that it was an experience he would never forget. Tuesday’s fishing routine although sorting out a fleet that did not self shoot in the required order did take a bit of sorting out.


On Thursday it was Peter and Daniel. Peter is connected to MCS, a charity involved in sustainable marine usage. Peter’s son was out as well and they seemed to enjoy the day, probably more than I did due to the foul ups and the breeze from the north-west. It was a strange morning as it started bright and then the mist rolled in from the north.


From then on the fog bank moved in and back out to and from the west.


Although the amount of langoustine landed has dropped by a good bit, due to the large amount of smaller berried females in the creels, the quality is still good. But the squats, they just kept coming and coming, all 14 kilos of tails. Every second between fleets we were tailing but when you have them for tea you know they are so worth it, a great by catch. One of the few days I left my camera ashore so no photos of the guys tailing without the gloves. Bit of filming went on during the day, sustainable, and good to show how everything that was not sold was put back alive. Today and Wednesday morning on the way out, and between work on deck getting the Varuna ready for the day, look up and watch a gannet gliding just above the rippling water, keeping her distance but a timeless moment in nature. Just like the family of porpoises surfacing on the smooth sea, always on the move but sedately, don’t seem stressed but alive and in their element. Bar Thursday the weather has been bright


and quiet



all week with the passing traffic creating the bigger waves.


(Sunday evening) Talking about stress, it is a whole week since posting and home late last night, going through the photos in the file puts the fishing week in sequence.


Sometimes not noting anything down you move away from the immediacy of events like last Saturday. It was a “learning on the job” night for me. I was on the door and doing the seating for the evening as Boss was tired. No one can do this job day after day, not even her. It was the usual hectic night, weather rubbishy so every one inside. They just kept coming and meals kept going out. Seats still to find and although I knew what to do, that is gather all orders of people waiting for tables and give the kitchen a heads up, I was still putting in orders at 9.15. Steaks, gammon and all the usual fish and shellfish. So the achievement of doing another impossibly busy evening at the Inn was tempered somewhat by giving the kitchen so much to do so late in the evening. Learnt a way round it but the kitchen had to suffer from the lesson.

Thursday was similar but was a bit more controlled and all the orders were in before 9.00pm. Again doing the door and checking that no one slips through the system and is waiting too long is a stressed job.We had three groups of ten in on the night along with the usual busy crowds. Boss was enjoying a well deserved night off on Loch Ness enjoying Loch Ness gin. The night goes on and you are very aware who is waiting too long for tables, ie residents, but you have to keep reassuring them and they seemed unconcerned. Amongst all this there was an Italian lady, very pleasant, who wanted a tomato salad but not dressing. Andy immediately went on the case, a Mediterranean salad quickly conjured up. Taken out but was rejected, I thought due to the dressing, so, back to kitchen where I was told it was just olive oil. Back out I went but no it was the shallots that knocked it back. The tomato salad, which I then made up, was a bowl of cherry tomatoes. They were accepted with mucho gratias and all was well. Two minutes later I was back at the table, but only because her partner also wanted the tomato salad with his steak. It was a long and round about way of getting there but there we did. This all happens as a sub plot on a night of general organised chaos. At the end of service the front of house do five highs, I think in relief of getting to the end of another service unscathed.

Wednesday evening was notable for getting to meet a couple of folk, a couple of friends, one from Portugal, living in London and her friend a New Yorker, financial manager. Chatting to them, organising their meal, taking a photo memento but on reflection always interesting to hear reactions. After telling her about the German economist closing his Deutchebank account she asked where he went next. She was already thinking about the next good place when I was thinking about the trauma of a major European bank in trouble and how that would affect us all. Two people looking at the same thing but seeing it different keeps your mind open. Anyway back to yesterday and an early start with a bad back and shoulder. Sleeping badly this week, I think because of a strong moon, woke up in fair bit of pain. Best thing to do is keep going and go out and catch langoustine, trying not to seize up. These days the catch is well down although by the end of the day it is still decent and landing some of the bigger sizes on the day keeps the supply going. At the back of nine, on my second fleet, I look up and Ewen steams past at speed with his load of fishermen. Perfect day for them and me. In the good weather and the company of the bonxies feeding up for their migration in the next few weeks eases the painful muscles.




In early enough to get a deep sleep for a half hour in the afternoon before making my way up to yet another full on shift. Up till eight it went well and then the heavens opened above Applecross while there was a glorious sunset over Raasay. Everyone piled into the bar from outside. Worked out okay as we were helped by the non appearance of a group of six. Late shift as all the staff wanted down to Hall for the Fishing Competition dance. After a few chats with late drinkers I made an appearance after twelve. Stayed and had a yarn or two while the auction went on. Raised a great amount of £6,000. A very fine effort. Made it home by 1.45am and sober.  Today was mainly about survival and a copious amount of painkillers helped through the morning bottle up. Turn your back and the bar fills up and stays like this all day. Food piles out, dishes pile up in the prep room and glasses pile up on the bar. A day to get through for most of the staff as several did not finish the night before as sober as I did. Taking the painkillers for the head had a side effect and the shoulder and back eased somewhat but the legs from walking the miles front of house were tiring by six, so a beef burger and home on the bike by seven. Good news for tomorrow is a visit to Shieldaig for a long over due massage. So I will finish up with a sunset from earlier this week.



Inversion,Awards and Protest Walk.

(Saturday morn) Sitting in the Bon Papillon having had a fine ciabatta bacon roll, when in Edinburgh…….has n’t the same ring as Rome but you know what I mean. Early, as have not translated the walking times from Google Maps yet and Stewart will soon be arriving to take the photos and titles for next years calendar. Sounds so organised but does not feel it. Set off with Annie roughly on time and started up over the Hill.


Interesting weather in that it was foggy


but not so much so that the scene at the top of the Bealach


merited a couple of stops.


The Cullin looked spectacular in the inversion


as did all the directions.



A bank stop and on to Inverness. Uneventful train journey down although the tickets bought needed proof of over fifty fives which caused a little consternation as we all looked under forty-five. As Caroline decided not to go down and we were sitting with some one we established had Lewis predecessors offered him a night out in Edinburgh. We were not sure if he really was a Fifer or got off the train a couple of stops early to get away from us.

To the Exibition Centre and what turned into a night to remember. Although it went on a little long, the food and company were excellent as were the entertainment with Fred Macaulay and mind reader Colin Cloud. Starting with pre meal drinks


…non alcoholic cocktail for me and a burst of pipes and drums,


the meal and then the awards. Highlands and especially the west did so well. So good to see the Kylesku Hotel with Sonya and Tanya doing the ticket and winning their award, most hospitable hotel. Still slightly shocked to have won the Friendliest Pub in Scotland but we did. After photos


it was off to the Sheraton for a glass of champers with Sonya and Tanya


and an early night.


Before I turned in it was lovely to hear Sonya quietly explain that when they bought the Kylesku they were in Applecross during their first year and saw what Judith had done here and she said that they were inspired by what they saw and went home to their place and worked to make the Kylesku Hotel what it is now.


Earlyish start and we are at the Bon Papillon, a small and quirky wee cafe encapsulating beautiful baking and a gentle atmosphere, with Stewart for some fine coffee and scones which followed the bacon roll. And then to Inverleith for a lift out to Dalkeith. Andy Wightman and Sara Beattie-Smith alongside Denis Canavan….exalted company whether they think it or not.


Every now and again you take a step back and wonder at the variety of activities you get involved in. Last night emersed in Tourism Awards and keeping a strict eye on the alcohol levels to make it out to Dalkeith Park to take part in a protest walk (my first ever). Lots of photos taken and Applecross Trust did come up in one or two of the conversations.


The issue was about a Laird, with lots of offshore tax avoiding companies charging the public £10/20 for access to his land. There is a grey area in law as there has always been a charge of a £1 to enter the Park, meaning that the charge can be levied. If one refuses to pay can access be denied? There was no attempt to charge us for our wander around the Park, taking the decision that the publicity would not help their case in todays political climate.


As ever there is usually an Applecross connection and in this case a direct one, a second home to Buccleuch Properties Ltd, such a small world. Good to meet people, craic with “John” second name undisclosed due to past histories with banks, casinos and exs’s. The freedom to roam is enshrined in Scot’s law as long as privacy is protected and no vandalism carried out. Always a contention in such areas as Applecross Bay where it is discouraged to camp. If left as you find it, as far as I understand then no one is breaking any law. Really interesting conversations, especially on the way back. German housing, I am sure not perfect, but sounded so much better than our daft system. The local Landers buy the land and do not have to pay development value, put services in and then sell on to some one who then proceeds to build their house. The land is sold at a small profit while recovering the cost of putting the services in. You then proceed to contract a builder to erect your house which is then better built than over here due to the extortionate cost of land under development. The profit the builder makes in this country is capped by how much he has to pay for the land so profit has to come out of the build leading to a much lesser standard of housing. Only expected to last 60 years….crazy. But his life now involved walking twenty miles a day, and a reassessment that involved him doing something useful and joining the Scottish Greens. Interesting that the day produced a full-page article in the Sunday press which said very little about the day but instead concentrated on the Greens proposal to use existing legislation in the Settlement Act of 1919 where land was compulsorily purchased for use, in the original case of making small holdings and housing for returning soldiers. An interesting side-show was two locals asked about the walk and were very interested in what they were told about the imminent charges and expressed ignorance and thanked the walkers for the information. Long walk back from Leith where Andy was heading to see tenants who were going to be made homeless by a charity which was selling the properties. A charity that had previously donated profits to homeless charities. I do not envy the politicians with conscience who are going to try to correct anomalies and grey area abuses of the laws of the land. One very important conversation with Andy stuck in the mind and it was followed up with examples, try never to make any political enemies unnecessarily. Good to remember that the 2003 Reform Act was passed by a Lab/LibDem coalition. SNP have passed a Community Empowerment Act, a little weaker than some would have hoped and the Greens are carrying on the struggle and need cross/party allies. I have never been held to party lines. Inevitably one picks up enemies and some are very locally based but that is more the other person’s problem….Sound advice.

Interesting to see a new strand emerging on social media where those who want land reform and a bit more conservative management of the land are now called a “very vocal minority”, which is strange as it is exactly that which is calling it out, Pot/Kettle and Black springs to mind. Saturday evening after a brave but fruitless effort on the rugby field, a solitary evening eating a fine indian meal on Rose Street. An early night beckoned and this must be a sign of the ageing process. It did mean a fresh start today and a fine trip up to Inverness via the Garden Centre for compost and seed tatties. Back home and ready for snooze on couch before plodding photos and posting. And you know you are back home when you take a dozen or so ticks out of Dougal.

Frustrated Community Ambitions.

Northerly winds have set in but plenty going on although at a tempered pace. Spent a few hours at the Inn over the weekend with Saturday night catering for birthdays from thirty-five to sixty and all the other tables in use. Busy but not over the top. As well as the birthdays there was a revolution being planned below the menu boards, involving land reform and communities having more say in their communities. hardly something you would think needs a revolution but this is antiquated Scotland. Also good to see Stewart and Margaret up for the week. Stewart, as I have said before, is a really good friend of Applecross Community Company and prints our calendars at cost price thus making more money for the Company. Building these new community networks is essential for our survival as other very powerful networks are already in place , established over centuries. Saturday morning involved a really interesting workshop set up by the consultants and we were split into two groups. Ours was fairly like minded and similar frustrations and hopes were expressed. I know that several people when they talked about life here have become quite depressed when they put forward the opposition to any of their hopes. “Pie in the sky” is not any an optimistic views in what a lot of younger people hope for. I think more people are going to have to speak out and not be so afraid of this psychological feudalism that still abounds here.

Sunday saw a long shift, beginning after breakfast, stretching into the early hours. A quiet day due to the Hill being closed due to the snow conditions. not so many people make it round the coast. Plenty to do with just the two of us on most of the day before recruitments came at six in the form of Jack. Regular guests appeared in the afternoon in the form of Steve and Di and we quickly got down to the politics on the condition Steve’s England flag key ring was covered up. You can talk politics at the Inn with people you know despite them being almost on the other end of the spectrum. Always good to know people who are people first and then people with very different views second. A brief moment before closing when the hand bag went missing for five minutes before turning up in the bedroom wardrobe. All part of the service.

North winds are blowing this week although the forecast is fine towards the weekend. Means the Spring clean up has started when the last of the wood is getting stacked away in the back and the garden is receiving a badly needed shake down. Starting at the back door and working out and it is going to be a huge job, this along with the croft are this years projects, alongside the Filling Station/Hydro etc. Looking forward to the seasons work and events, the winter blue period seems to be slipping by although I am sure there will be days of inactivity ahead before the midges kick in.

In between the showers on Monday it was up to the Intake with Stewart and Margaret who were very interested in seeing the Hydro in all its glory.


Must be getting slightly fitter as it was the easiest trip up the path yet, although the company and light helped.


It is always nice to  hear the appreciation from outside the community, knowing the effort that went into the scheme, but seeing the impact on people who are interested and who realise the work that went into it. The turbine house and the heat dump were also in the tour. The meter showing the totals are climbing by the day. This was Monday’s reading.


Tuesday and more of the same but the added meetings, the first one for AppleJuice, and followed by a Community Company one. Over two hours for that one, the AppleJuice one is a very routine affair as it will just be a vehicle to channel profits into the community. Felt like a new start but it really is just a continuation of what the Company is doing. Governance, hydro, broadband, and toilets all on the agenda along with two new applications for funding. Looking to build easy to live in and affordable housing at the Surgery for older folks. forced to look at scraps of land like this due to lack of availability elsewhere. Hoping this may free up some housing for younger folks. Meanwhile the school roll falls, despite all the good intentions of the community. Hoping enough people have put their heads above the parapet to tell the consultants that we are approaching the point where the community becomes unsustainable….not enough people living here to meet the needs of the community. Never going to give up.

Same theme today when I showed an investor round the turbine house and heat dump and very similar views. If only we could get access to land to develop a community hub, produce more cheap,local, green energy to supply it, generate employment and have more people living in Applecross. Fine free ranging conversation and dipped into stories about the problems of medical services in a tourist hot spot. One GP having to deal with thirty-six incidents, twenty-two of which were fractures on a Sunday during the skiing season. A constant battle with the powers that be to maintain a decent service…..and we chatted about our own local restrictions and how the potential is constantly being depressed.

The weather although not too pleasant at sea is good for the dog walks both by the shore


and up the Glen.


New Alongside Old (Applecross Hydro Has Started)


Although continuing all the time through emails, paperwork, phone conferences and meeting and despite the lease not being signed, although now agreed and in place, the Hydro has waited for no man. Not quite true as it is around eight years since we commissioned a desk top survey which revealed that Applecross is rich in Green Renewable Hydro Energy. Little did we know what a long and difficult road we were going to travel and by no means have we reached the end. There are still big obstacles to overcome but Government should use our Scheme as a case study to help other communities on their way. Unfortunately the fact that the current Government further south is more concerned in giving nuclear and fracking a helping hand rather than investing in communities to invest in themselves by building low impact environmental schemes that will enable these communities see a way into the future. A lot of people complain about the green/carbon tax as though it is drain on their wallets. Destroying the environment they live in will make a far bigger dent in the future. Of course there is going to be a carbon cost on our build but that will be reclaimed once up and running.

Mixed feelings while walking up the track being built up to the Penstock, excited that it underway, grateful to play a small part in it, but feel a little sad that it may be too late to halt our slow decline. May surprise a few people to read this and those who visit the Inn think we live in a thriving and vibrant community. Parts of it are but when you hear a young couple are planning to leave because there is no land available to them to grow an established business and another two couples with children are looking elsewhere raising doubts for some of the remaining families about who their kids going to have as friends. We do go in cycles but the cycles seem to be in a recurring decline and some how we have to break the yoke holding us in check stopping people who care about this community doing something about it. One of the reasons I am putting so many hours in at the Inn is there are not enough people living here to service the numbers of visitors. That is why the Boss is slightly desperate, trolling the internet for any one who will come from anywhere to help out, another sign of a shrinking community. I do not think I am being pessimistic but realistic. If I was pessimistic in my outlook I would have walked away from the Hydro Scheme years ago. The belief that it was the right thing to do has held strong. Maybe it will be the turning point and possibly change people’s attitudes on what is best for the community.

House below us sold as a holiday house, house above us for sale way outside local purchase and the house beside us being sold for around 400% of what it was bought for a mere 15 years ago. Must keep trying but it going to be a big ask. On a personal note taking the morning off and hiking up to the top of the track


with the dogs may not have been the most relaxing way to go about some time off


especially following it up with a 9 hour shift at the Inn.


Honestly I really am excited by our Hydro Scheme and now away to wash some more creels.

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