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.