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

Posts tagged ‘Clachan’

Conference Day 2

Day two was as interesting as the first with a slightly more local theme although the first day had every relevance to us as well. Due to a lot of late interest it was decided that we would move to Clachan for the last morning session. Made it up to the Hall to load up chairs and tables and another stop at the Inn for plates cups etc.. Screen set up a lot quicker each time we do it now and off we went again, but this time it was slightly less comfortable.


Bill Hall was up on Thursday and gave a chat to the Hall committee about the air to water heat pump and it went down well. It sounds like a no brainer where a company comes in and installs a system for free, resulting in saving a huge oil bill and qualifying for RHI. So not only does the Hall save money but it actually makes it and on top of that uses less carbon and we all benefit from a warmer hall. It is a pity that the advice for Clachan has not been followed and the bigger air source heat pumps were not installed. By the end of the morning we could not take any more of the cold and decamped to the Inn for the soup. It is a harsh damp cold and water running down the north wall. Not good for a recent refurbishment. The speakers however kept our attention away from the cold, firstly Alison told the group about the Company’s journey on the hydro road.


This was followed by a really interesting talk by Gordon on the history and language of fuel in Applecross. Peat and birch being a main source, interesting that the gaelic for fuel and birch is the same, connadh. Above Gordon on the wall is one of the air source cassette units.


Mick and Duncan from Highlandeco told us about the principles of hydro. As the Hill was closed it meant that Chris Cook was the last speaker of the day (and Scotland score a try!!!!) and it was a complex and really well thought out talk.


Confirms all the feelings about how things are so wrong in these islands, short termism rules,asset stripping, cashing in all seem to be given prominence rather than a long range strategy that is good both locally and nationally. Great slide from Chris showing how Denmark increased its GDP by 78% since 1980, kept it’s energy output the same and lowered its carbon output.


Another interesting fact coming from Mick, the obligation of Germany for them to take green energy on to the grid. Here we have Ofgen and SSE trying their hardest to put things in the way for us to raise an income for our community. Shareholders are far more important in this country than environment and communities. The reported alleged comment by Cameron, “we have to drop this green crap”. Another fact was the comparison from Wulf,in Germany they have far more local energy and local democracy and when they put up a turbine or photo voltaic it is via local revenue streams. Inspiring conversations about Radical Independence and the Common Weal over the last couple of days also trying hard to understand fully Chris’ prepaid ideas. Fully aware what is happening in the City is completely unsustainable and that is from a city financier. Interesting aside was about Howdens of Glasgow, at the time leading the world in wind turbine technology and the finance from the City pulled. The Danes buy it and are now leading the world with Vesta and with a six million population. Chris could not resist the analogy. (Scotland has just won a game of rugby). A special mention again to all who organised and ran fast over the last week to organise and run this special event, all the sponsors and also to say that this was done without much finance from outside agencies. Oh and it has been raining here for three days.


A quick note to finish this post, as it is Sunday morning, and after a shift at the Inn, a visit to Clachan last night, and a read of some emails this morning, it is full on for this week. The students are here for five weeks and there is a need to help them as much as possible to get the best from them for the community, also CBS are coming to discuss broadband and there is a social media course on Monday/Tuesday coming up There is no respite and that is before I have to go fishing to catch some prawns. Last night I met a girl from Stornoway who works as a tourist guide for four months in the Antarctic, now that’s “cool”. Yesterday morning, the walk with Dougal and Co going to the shop round the long way, listening to Easter Island by the Treacherous Orchestra, was a way to have a moment to think and take a little time out to wonder what an amazing place I live in, the people who live here and the events, get togethers, stories, the history of the place is so special it overwhelms. A phone call this morning about a little task turns into a ten minute conversation about second sight and Applecross in the 70s.

Talking of Dougal, came down yesterday morning and got round to doing a few things at the desk.


Not taking notice of what was going on but when I turned round and there he was not looking too distressed with what he was up to. Another dog’s bed bites the dust. This one had arrived about three weeks ago.


Flensburg University come to Applecross.

Lovely quiet but cold morning with the Cullin looking close today and bonny with her snow cap.


February is going to see an influx of post grad students from around the world who are going to carry out a study in Applecross.  Alison saw a request from CES that the university were looking for field studies in this area but Knoydart were quicker of the mark and they went there last year and now it is our turn. They will be staying at the Clachan Manse and Brambles and hopefully they will feel welcomed by the community. Almost as important as the work they will do for us. Co-ordinating with Community Energy Scotland and Applecross Community Company they are going to carry out field research to assess Sustainable Energy Development Opportunities. The group consists of twelve students and three professors from the Energy an Environmental Management Master Programme at the University of Flensburg, Germany. Looking at the group that are coming over it is going to be a multi cultural event for Applecross. The students are from Africa, Asia, and Latin America learning current topics such as environmental management, renewable energy and project management and energy efficiency. Ghana, Nepal, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Iran are but a few of the countries who are going to visit. The International Class” is intended to give the students an opportunity to collaborate and work in the field with a community. After five weeks of work the study results  will be presented to the community. Having just seen the programme of what they are going to look at it appears to be very practical and not just an an exercise in academia. Suggesting energy efficiency alternatives for households, the environmental impact and the cost of implementing the measures. Energy supply from renewable sources and an environmentally friendly transport system.

This is a continuation of the work being done by AEE is raising awareness of our carbon footprint and at the same time maybe improving people’s standard of living by reducing their energy bills. www.facebook.com/ApplecrossEnergyEfficiency There a number of conversions to wood burning over the last wee while as evidenced by the increasing number of wood shed being erected around the community. As well as burning wood there have little courses explaining the science of drying the wood to get the optimum energy from the fuel. This has been the push behind getting a wood fuel supply set up locally as it ensures a supply for the wood stoves. The 300 tons from the Gateway woodland is looking smaller and smaller by the month. The idea behind the wood fuel chain is to persuade even more people to change to a better system but will need a consistent supply. This does not touch existing supplies but the demand could possibly encourage some employment. Recently been looking at some photos of Colin Parson’s in Achmore, using old ways with new technology. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Colin-Parsons-ForestryHorse-Logging/610273509040324We have tried to go down the greener road, air source heat pump


and burning more wood


and are looking forward to seeing how the students look at older,harder to insulate houses to see if they can be improved. One of my few influences on the ALPS programme was suggesting air source heat pumps to be installed at Clachan Church and it was good to hear a few comments as to how it was not as cold as it used to be at Norman’s funeral. I do fancy some solar thermal panels this summer to use on our water heating system, like the one fitted on the Public Toilets.


We already have a source of community transport if only we were allowed to use it, very frustrating.


It was interesting to see a woodland being worked such as Sleat, a felling programme, wood fuel for local consumption and the community benefiting from the profits. Lessons to be learnt across Scotland.

Cracking shift to-day, expecting it to be really quiet until the Lochcarron guys came over in the afternoon but from 12 noon onwards it was pretty nippy. Mainly because of a visit from Elgol in the shape of Alastair “Elgol”, fisherman extraordinaire and now moving into the chartering business. The slightly weird thing was that I was talking to Ewen about Alastair last night and out of the blue he turns up not having seen him for about ten or so years. Good to catch up as we have a little history. I first bumped into him working on the Achmore to Auchtertyre road, then Kishorn was the next meeting and then the most important as I bought a 32 foot Cygnus fishing boat off him, the Emma Goody. Swapped a few stories and memories and shared a tale of a decline of a valuable fishery. The weather has hit them bad on the west side of Skye, he was out one day in the whole of December. So with Alastair and Mark having a couple of pints, chatting in front of me, there were quite a few customers coming and going, so the multi tasking skills were called into action. Turns out that Mark has been in Elgol for two or three years and is working with Ian from Rum and Hebnet to get his internet improved as his animation photographic business depends on good connections. https://www.facebook.comthecuillincollective Interesting to me that going from half a meg up to six is obviously a huge improvement where as some moving here coming from twenty and having to deal with six would be disappointing. Every thing has different perceptions.   Same with hot water coming to the Public toilets, accepted as the norm everywhere else but here it is a huge improvement, mind you that goes for the rest of the building as well. Music kicked in at 3.00pm and after a plate of plaice and chips it was home by six.

Two Days, two Funerals.

Friday evening;

Met lots of good and kind folk today who had all turned out to see Rossie off in Kyle. It was an earlier start than expected as the Bealach was still closed. Gates are working as I would have tried it and had to turn around, going by the evidence on the way back over in the evening.


As ever it always seems such a long way especially as you are travelling away from where you are going to for the first half hour. The journey back is full of memories of lots of conversations, chats and reminisces. Journey over involved dropping an Applecross regular, Immy, to catch the train at Strathcarron and a carton of cream at the Waterside. Forgot the drip trays that were to be delivered to Andy,s micro brewery in Plockton, but two out of three. I never know if it the fact that you go to some one’s send off and you are slightly more aware of your surroundings but the birch trees holding the last rain drops in the still air were some how poignant and I had to stop a couple of times to take a photo or two.


Did not do them justice as I was a little time limited.


Arriving with ten minutes to spare expected to be outside and that was the case, but moved up the brae to hear the speaker. Rossie as well as being a builder was also an undertaker, one of the best, and possibly his own circumstances enabled him to relate to other people’s tragedy. He was one of the good guys with or with out his own tragedies. Lovely story that made everyone laugh….bearing in mind he was a builder he took Ann out to the garage, one year, to give her a Christmas present, already a little confused she was even more so when she saw the cement mixer all wrapped up and with a bow around it. She duly unwrapped the mixer to find a nice bottle of perfume in its depths, but still curious she then asked Rossie what’s with the mixer. To which he replied that he could not resist buying it as it was such a bargain and that when she was not using it he could use it himself!! Out to Balmacara for the interment and there was a lovely touch with the Portree lifeboat steaming up to sit in the Bay, a tribute to all his work for the RNLI, as Rossie was laid to rest. I went back into Kyle to the RNLI centre where there was a spread and a farewell of epic proportions. Stayed for over an hour with lots of good company and community chat, you realise living over here that one does become a little remote….if there was only a way for communities to come together like today with out the grief of some passing on. The little I knew of Rossie I am sure he would have loved some of the conversations that took place. It is difficult to express one’s feelings when you drive home after a gathering such this, a situation when you give and receive a hug where no words can communicate the feeling, handshakes and eye contact exchanged, all far more valuable than any thing. If I have a new year resolution it would be to remember the pure kindness and oneness displayed today. Managed to come back over the Hill and it was a remarkably short journey….always is when you head is so full of thoughts. Wrote this maybe a bit too soon after the events of the day so will see what happens tomorrow when I read back after yet another funeral, Norman’s.

Saturday afternoon;

Every one was sitting in Clachan and Bread of Heaven was on the sound system as around a third of the community had come out to see Norman off. Again thoughts of a strong community came to the fore as over seventy people attended the service. He got some gentle ribbing which I sure he would have enjoyed and answered back to. I think that it is good to hear some one’s life story as that is what it is about. Remember Son no3’s strong eulogy of his granny while at my Dad’s there were a couple of mates coming out of the church jokingly asking each other who was it that was being buried today. The traditions are different here but are slowly changing, focusing on the person who has passed on rather than delivering a sermon to those who are attending. After organising the carry to the grave side, with a near mishap, and may have heard a wee chuckle from the little Welshman, it was down to the Inn for a soup and fish a chips. He had a few hundred of these delivered by the staff over the years. Was the recipient of a personal tale of tragedy, possibly sparked off by the days events and found it quite emotional. I knew the circumstances, but hearing the detail of a series of unbelievable misfortune from some directly involved was quite a heavy task. I suppose one way to look at it is that I was honoured that he should tell me his story and if it helped him on his journey it was worth it. Talking of cheerios, there was a better one last night as Matthias and Roseanne were leaving for Germany having spent their Christmas in Applecross, two very special and gentle people who will be back in May. So two funerals in two days and now after a wee snooze it will be down to the Inn to serve the hordes again.


After which there was little to report

Risk Champion of Applecross.

Sitting by a Highland fire looking out on to a breezy Bay. Not a customer in sight, not many expected, and last nights residents already on the road home. Interesting family stayed over two days having moved from Brixton to Glendale and they seem to be enjoying it. Blast from the past for Alison last night as she came out to see Rona man Ricky and Margaret. Used to be a claim to fame going to work on a helicopter when she worked on the island. It was so quiet that four members of staff and Jack ended up playing Risk, me for the first time. Clever and very intelligent game, but I would say that as I, at the moment am undisputed Risk champion of Applecross. Actually thinking of going into retirement undefeated, Chris. Nice to see some of the old competitive elements are still there.


First customer, today, was Baxter, in for a vodie and a bottle of vodie. Happy chappie today. Saying what a wonderful move his Dad made in coming to Applecross. In fact he was extra ordinarily enthusiastic, which for those of you know Baxter, is not always the case. It is now dark and just after 4pm, it did not lighten up much today at all but there were some people passing through, made it into double figures before the shift finished with a wonderful sunday roast put together by Kenny and Dave. Almost left the bike and came back home in the car but managed to resist and to be quite honest it was a nice cycle back.

The production levels have not risen any towards the end of the week with only a little dog walking and wood cutting featuring in any activity. Although he has now forgiven me, sort of, Dougal managed to find the foulest mess on Friday and roll on it. Straight into the shower with not too much fuss as most of it came off really easily being fresh on.


Of course next time he went out, away for five minutes and clarted up again. The next shower was not so quiet.


The northerly wind now a lot quieter and back round to the south west, the light fall of snow did not stay around but it did freshen the place up for the morning after.




Taking Dougal and Co up the road and combining it with seaweed gathering was about it for the Friday shift.




There does not appear to be any let up in the weather for the week with another stormy forecast for the end of the week. Often changes but the dark red is back up on the xc website for next Friday.

Bees and politics.

A day off which meant finishing of clearing the croft. Left it the other day thinking it was a half hour but three hours later….


Have another pile of wood for burning and then it was down to Lower Toscaig with Dougal and Co. There was a carpet of sea thrift down on the shore, seems to be a burst of flowers around.


Maybe due to the late spring followed by this warm spell and everything is under way at the same time.  Sometimes I think Dougal’s main aim on walks is to get as dirty as possible, unlike his serenity the evening before in the late sunshine.


He looks so innocent but seems he is a good traffic calming influence for cars passing the school, at least with local drivers.



He does let his image slip a little sometimes.Some good summer rain today and it is supposed to be heavy tonight, the garden does need it, but no wind forecast so a day at sea planned for tomorrow.

The Community Council AGM was on tonight with an ordinary meeting to follow. This time the audience was treated to a Chair’s report, a little unfair saying this but there was a previous one that has stuck in a few people’s minds. This involved not using the toilets during high tide…leave the rest to the imagination. A reasonably positive list over the year, weekly food waste collections over the summer,playground equipment installed, ACC taking forward transfer of pier, toilets, installing broadband and hydro scheme, securing graveyard fence from deer intrusion, and ongoing matters such as looking at snowblower replacement and setting up a first responders unit. So this balanced up against the negatives of the continuing doctor/gp recruitment and having to deal with a very unusual petition last autumn as a result of the LAS campaign against the Trust. A fairly positive year looking back. despite often wondering at the time is it worth it.

As a day’s fishing planned tomorrow a “meet the Trustees” days will probably pass me by. This is as a result of last years campaign where the Trustees are trying to make themselves more visible to the community. It would have been better to have maybe held it in the evening and possibly in the Community Hall instead of during the day and at Clachan.This knocks out the younger/working part of the community….the future. But the fact there is a meeting at all is an improvement.

Chatted with Audrey about bees and their health and she said she had lost two of her three hives this spring and the tricky local subject of varroa came up. So my next job is to sprinkle some castor sugar on the bees soon as they groom the sugar off themselves and knock some of the mites off as well. I still have not seen any mites but better safe than sorry.

Friendly Day

In the Western Capitalist world I had a useless day, Did not work,  produce or make anything. I did not contribute to growing our GDP but in my little world I had a great day. Started of quite slowly and after checking up that the fuel was coming to the Filling Station today I headed up the road to the Inn to wait for our unhealthy kayaker. He turned up early and after a couple of phone calls to change the order of the day it was off to Kyle. I got a message before we left saying that my clutch was in town so things were looking up. Turned out that we were in Kyle before we knew it and had chatted the whole way about communities, horticulture, Andy Wightman, land reform, bad landlordism, local disputes and other fascinating topics. It is amazing how much you can talk when you stop and listen to the other person talking as well. Recently learned to listen more to what the person speaking to me is saying rather than thinking of the reply first. That way you do not assume what is being said. Turned out my passenger lived in Bute, both “charitable landlords” “picked on” by Andy Wightman trying to show the paucity of charity involved in both places. Arrived in Kyle


only to be told that he did not recognise the car park, five minutes later in Kyleakin we found his car. As he reached to pay me I told him politely that I believe in the  continuous cycle of people helping people. He immediately understood and did not try to force anything on me and called it the Buddhist Circle of Life.  On the way across the Bridge the Heb passed under on her way to Plockton. Could not change the lens as I was parked on the main road.


Called in to the Co-op for some Fair trade tea and coffee and sugar for the combined launch on Tuesday of the Energy Efficiency project,Gaelic place names and the mapping of Clachan graveyard. Plan to go out early that day as it will to be a very illuminating day at the Community Hall. I will be learning facts about Applecross that will have been passed down for many generations. This is one of the true legacies of the ALPS program. Intending to get ideas for insulating the Schoolhouse over the next year or so as well as putting in some thermal panels, trying to cut down the heating bills and reduce our carbon footprint at the same time. From the Co-op, after a chance meeting it was up the road for a cup of tea with Sandy and Sheena and when time flies like it did you know you are enjoying the craic and company. Another couple of phone calls needed to update my lateness!! Outside Kyle on the way back to Balmacara noticed the bluebells were out in carpets, especially just before Kirkton.


Picked up a French hiker at the turn off to the North and a very similar conversation took place. A very perceptive young lady with views I have taken a life time to formulate. She had spent a couple of days in Glasgow and then Skye. It was nice to find her view of us as Scots was very complimentary and it was nice to bask in a reflected glow of the nation. Don’t worry, I know Ferguslie Park still exists but what she said was good to hear and she left an email address which my busking son No3 may use if he ever finds himself passing through Toulouse. All good as was the massage and the drive home, picking up my clutch on the way . So yes nothing done but lots achieved, making, keeping and being with friends. Two posts in one day but tonight’s was to try to reflect on the highs of meeting and just connecting with people.

Applecross Visitor Advert.

Energy levels being well down just going to post the article I was asked to write for the tourist magazine suggesting a few reasons why you would want to visit Applecross. The quality of writing is far greater than the normal due to it being proof read by Sara. Be interesting to see how much the article is edited. It is impossible to capture Applecross in one photo so I’ve put this one in because I like it so much and it is just about the opposite of today’s weather and sentiment. Ruairidh took this three years ago with his Sony, the one I dropped in the Sound. Nice to have a couple of weeks like this.


Whether you come in for a day or spend a week here you will find a timeless quality about Applecross. Often people forget what time of day it is or even what day of the week. It is a place for de-stressing and finding out what is important in life.

Driving into Applecross over the spectacular Bealach na Ba, an old cattle-droving pass that crosses the mountain, you realise you are somewhere just a little different. If you stay a while you will come to know the meaning of the old Gaelic place name, A’Chomraich, The Sanctuary. In times long gone there was a six-mile circle of stones marking a safe haven for miscreants who needed to escape the unruly world outside. That is not to say that it was peaceful here, going by the mix of Gaelic and Norse place names scattered around the peninsula, there were a fair few visitors, not all of them welcome. The view-point on top of the Bealach – of the Inner Sound through the Blind Sound past the cliffs of Staffin and beyond, where you can see the hills of Harris – is a fine introduction to your stay here. Although Shore Street can be described as the “centre”, the crofting townships are spread over a thirty-mile car journey from Toscaig to Inverbain in little five- to ten-house hamlets.

Once in Applecross, you are welcomed with an array of wildlife, eating establishments, outdoor activities on land and sea that could keep you occupied for a couple of weeks. There are several establishments providing accommodation from camping and cabins to self-catering and ensuite bed-and-breakfast and hotel rooms. Through out your stay you will be struck by the warmth of the community.

The bird life is prolific: resident golden eagles and the visiting sea eagles from Raasay and Shieldaig, divers − black- and red-throated, as well as the rarer northern − cormorants, oystercatchers and curlew on the shore, mute and whooper swans on Milton Loch. The flora and fauna around the lochside and through Carnach Woodland are of particular interest; for example, 140 species of lichen have been documented from the woodland, of which four are nationally scarce. On the way out fishing I often pass twenty to thirty seals on the rocks of Culduie, and there is a healthy sea otter population from Toscaig to the Bay.

Around the Bay, a well-established path network stretches from Clachan round Applecross House, known locally as “the Big House” back to the Coal Shed. These include an archaeological trail, the “Lost Path” and a quiet stroll through Carnach Woodland, one of the oldest hazel woods in Scotland. On these walks red deer, fox, pine marten, and the occasional badger can be spotted. For those who prefer a longer walk, the old coast road to Sand has stunning sea views and the path through the Glen to Kenmore takes you over heather moorland. To the south, the walk to Airigh Drishaig from Upper Toscaig gives brings you to a different view over to the little harbour of Plockton and the Skye Bridge.

The beaches are also a feature of the area. The secluded beach of Cuaig is well worth the walk; the more popular beach of Sand – from where you can see the occasional Trident submarine! – is known for its shifting sand dune; the coral beach at Ardbain, made up of bleached maerl, is known as the “coral beach” because on a sunny day it has a hint of the Caribbean.

The history is present in the landscape, starting at the Mezzolithic midden above Sand beach. You can visit the Broch, an Iron Age fortification at the campsite, which was worked on as part of a Time Team dig. Behind the Broch, a Round House is being constructed by locals using Iron Age building techniques, and the Hebridean Barns are being renovated. Further up the path, there are the ruins of the townships at Torgarve, cleared to make way for the sheep farmers.

The Heritage Centre, just past Applecross Bay, by Clachan Church, covers the history of the peninsula in detail. There is a comprehensive genealogical archive at the Heritage Centre of particular interest to anyone with connections to the area. Next door is Clachan Church, where St Maelrubha, the Irish saint who landed here in 673 AD established a monastery, second only to Iona as an early Christian centre. The remains of a ruined cross stand at the entrance to the graveyard and the ancient chapel ruin is behind the main building. In the burial ground are skull-and-crossbones gravestones; one theory is that these are connected to the Knights Templars of the Wars of Independence.

For those looking for more strenuous activities, kayaking around the islands and mountain guiding in both summer and winter are available as is shore fishing for mackerel and pollock. The area is very popular for both pedal and motor bikes, there being the Bealach Beag and Mor cycle challenges which take place in May and September.

As for food, you are spoilt for choice. Enjoy the stone-baked pizzas at the campsite in the unique Flower Tunnel; or sample the local produce grown at the Walled Garden, a tranquil and idyllic place to wander; or the Applecross Inn, described in the Observer Magazine as “the ultimate wilderness inn in the Highlands”, with its stunning views across the bay. You can sample venison direct from the hill or the best, fresh shellfish from the Inner Sound, including langoustine, crab, scallops, lobster and squat lobsters. The Applecross Inn in particular is famous for its langoustine, known as Applecross Bay Prawns, which are creel-fished daily – I should know, I’m one of the fishermen! – and any “berried” prawns (those with eggs) go back into the sea, so it’s environmentally sustainable. You can finish your meal with a home-made ice cream, flavours ranging from golden syrup or apple & bramble to whisky & honey.

Annual events include the Applecross Games (generally on the third weekend in July), a raft race/barbecue and music night in August, and the new Applestock Festival on the 18th of May 2013. Also a Bardic School and Maelrubha Festival take place in the summer. Information about all these events can be found locally.

Applecross still supports a well-stocked village shop and post office in Camusteel, and a medical service as well as a community-owned filling station – visitors are encouraged to fill up with petrol, because all proceeds go into the community. If you would like to go on a shopping spree, that can be arranged as well – framed photography at the Applecross Inn; soaps and perfumes at the Visitor Centre; locally made jewellery, crafts and textiles at the Coal Shed; and along the coast road, woven goods, yarn and woolcrafts at Croft Wools in Cuaig; stained glass at Arrina; and yarns and knitwear at Angora Ecosse at Doire Aonar.

When you leave you will take a little of Applecross with you and you will want to come back again and again, as many people do.

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