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

Posts tagged ‘Doune’

Knoydart Part 2, Visiting Inverie

Following the talk in the morning by Liz there were changes of plans that Davie had to cope with due to the weather. We were planning to go north to Airor to discuss forest crofts. This was going to involve a boat trip and a land rover preceded by a steep walk up the back of Doune. The weather was very unpredictable and was swinging around from the south-west to the north and combined with a lowish tide and a 3/4 foot swell Andy decided that it was too uncomfortable for those who would not care for the hill climb.IMG_2525

Instead we had a very good short discussion about broadband and with Elgar’s help I now have a little more understanding of the issues and being told that there is a 100% take up in Knoydart is comforting. They are on the JANet, over from the Gaelic College and superior to what we intend to put in but out of sight to what we have. Although broadband is a done deal in Koydart Davie realised that it is an issue for most of the communities up and down the coast and there seems to be a lot of movement and growing awareness that problems can be solved.

Lunch and then it was off to Inverie.


One or two decided not to hike up the hill to the road but it was well worth the effort. Even although the weather was still pretty poor the views over to Eigg were awesome. Lots of memories around the whole trip. I used to come down here fishing on the Dauntless Star and the Golden Rule and Peter Jan, up Loch Hourn, Sandaig, Marianne’s Point and Armadale Bay, staying at Isle Oronsay and Barrisdale overnight. In fact the last time I was in Mallaig by boat was with a not very sober Ali Rua on the mooch for bait. Happy days, I think. Jumped into Tommy’s landrover and it was off over the top to the “town”, Tommy being the local Ranger as well as the postie gave us a really interesting chat about the recent history of the land, who owned it and what they did not do with it. The story that stuck was the one of Lord Brocket who was a Nazi sympathiser, so much so that he was at Hitler’s 50th birthday celebrations in 1939. Much to his dismay The House and Knoydart was requisitioned for the SOE, fore runner of the SAS and after the war the first thing the “Lady” did was dump all cutlery, crockery and even toilets in Loch Nevis as they were “defiled” by the servicemen. Then they went on to sack most of the staff, employ their own toadies, shepherds were warned they could be shot for red deer, kids kept off the beaches, all quite extra ordinary. Finally it came to a head when the Seven Men of Knoydart staked out 65 acres of inbye and 10,000 acres of hill land and settled in.  They received huge popular support but poor legal advice and little political support. Although they ultimately failed Knoydart Foundation now exists for the people who live there. I used to think that The Clearances and the Land Raids were off  time and not to be constantly brought up but I am now full of admiration for these people who stood up to the establishment and with everything to lose. The little tiff we had in Applecross last year has brought this home to me. Remembering how stressful it was and that was with secure tenancies and accommodation they must have been living in awful conditions, both emotionally and physically to stand up for their justice and basic human rights.

First stop was a lovely wee tea room with a coffee and cake and a couple of presentations about the Foundation’s past present and future finances followed by a forestry talk and this was very specific to the Raasay contingent.


They seemed very pleased with what the got from it and probably over the next couple of days may realise that they have even more than they thought…it is the way it works. Chatting quite a bit to Andy and really interesting to get a very down to earth view on what goes on, more on the way back and good to get the history of the buy out and how at the start it was controlled by agencies and not the people themselves, that came later.

After afternoon tea it was off down to The Old Forge, via the little shop where I bought a calendar that you can use any year…..smart and maybe one for Applecross.


This is Andy with the Islay/Colonsay contingency getting ready for a pint.


After a pint of orange and lemonade I went for a wander round the head of the Bay while the guys slipped a couple of pints in.Distant memory for me and not missed. Sun popped out for a little while and showed off the place in its majestic glory.





And there was a bit of local character thrown in.


7.00pm and we were loaded up in the vehicles and driven back to tea at Doune. On the way back down the hill into Doune even in the now gloomy weather the views out west were magnificent with a clear sight of Eigg.


On time tonight  and prawns were promised….fresh and creel caught of course.

Knoydart Part 1

Too much to put down in one post to describe the last three days. The morning, teeming down with rain saw me knee-deep in sh**e but good sh**e. I was up at the farm bagging some rich, and mature cattle dung mixed with straw and ageing well. Some of it had almost returned to a rich dark loam. So a shower and a couple of paperwork jobs, visit to the bank in Kyle, and I was in Armadale,old pier, with 15 minutes to spare. Luckily some one else had some modern technology, a mobile phone, and Tekela discovered we were going to Doune in Knoydart via Mallaig as it was a bit rough for the Doune ferry.


Tekela and Ollie had come from Raasay and we headed back to the new pier and the coffee shop where we met up with Davie, Christine, Avril and Elgar. Soon on board the Mallaig ferry in the lashing rain. Weather had quietened down a bit by the time we got to Mallaig and we already had a good conversation about the sad state of the fishing in this area. There are a few prawn boats in the port just now but seems only for a few weeks when it will be scraped clean. Came up in several conversations, unprompted by me but certainly I contributed, and related to ex fishermen was whether in Mallaig or Islay there were former fishermen who were now unhappily working in cafes and distilleries. A fate for most of us if we do not get our act together soon.IMG_2504

It was straight onto the Mary Doune, Andy waiting on the other side of the pier, and on to the Knoydart peninsula.


The Mary Doune and the second boat Gripper II were both fitted out at Doune by the guys there. Honestly, I was genuinely excited to visit such an iconic part of Scotland, so near to me but never set foot on during the last half century.


And out of the mist the little habitation of Doune emerged. Ashore with no fuss and we were taken to our rooms. Built up over the years the group of buildings consist of a boatyard, three houses, a dining room, one wooden and two stone lodges, all within a ten-acre part of the area. The chairs faced the window. This was the telly, radio and internet for the next two days.


I don’t own a clock or watch so ended up being late for the first meal and was called to order by Davie. Food was amazing as was the atmosphere in the dining room. We have power till 11.30pm as Knoydart is off grid and Doune is powered by generators although I believe that had no effect whatsoever on the party in the wooden lodge. I had scored in that I had a lovely double at the end of the wooden lodges to myself as Alison was too much under the weather to make the journey and it was so quiet, falling asleep to another Anne Holt Nordic Noir. This meant I was in a lot better shape than some of the rest of the team and was up bright and early for breakfast on day one. The main thing I get from these gatherings is inspiration from a group of like-minded people who are all working within their own communities and coming across the same problems that we do in Applecross. I love all the connections that we have. I reckon two years ago I did not know a single resident in Mull, that has changed and Colonsay and Islay have now joined my growing list of contacts.


After a fine breakfast,where Donald from Colonsay had his first ever poached egg, and he was not the youngest chap in town !! we settled down to listen to the story of Doune. The site is possibly the oldest on the peninsula and is a Pictish vitrified fort of 3/4,000 years old. In 1853 the village was cleared, the largest village on Knoydart and by 1860 the population consisted of a shepherd’s family of 8 down from 130. Doune lay empty after many shepherds until 1982 when Alan and Mary came when they rebuilt the ruined white house, built a pier, slipway and a boat The Gripper. By ’92 Andy and Liz had joined and they had expanded and began rebuilding the Eda, a decommissioned Danish 60ft fishing boat. Disaster occurred when a fire struck and destroyed the boatshed and ruined the Eda. This is where Davie came to Knoydart answering a call for volunteers to help rebuild the Eda. This is one of the highlights of the couple of days when Davie recalled those days and suddenly became so emotional that he could not speak. Thinking back on those days and he is still here working away for his community, just a good guy. I found all this, the story and the place very moving and found myself agreeing whole heartedly with Davie that this business was not grown on any “known business model”. I found myself thinking about the Varuna and The Applecross Inn and similar “businesses” where making money is not the key aim but quality of life is more important. We had a discussion that it really was good business model but I for one could not put Doune on a spreadsheet. There was too much love and feeling put into the business to be able to do this. I found this thread ran through the whole time I stayed there.

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