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

Posts tagged ‘halibut’

Wagons Ho.

The evening shift went well out front although the kitchen is struggling as they are having extractor fan problems and the back up is not really working. Doors, windows open and praying for not too many steaks were the order of the night and they all came to pass. Still as you went from the prep to kitchen you entered a wall of heat. Although there were a few big groups booked they turned out to be well spaced out and it was an easy night as far as organising tables and seating. It has to be said that all the pre arranging and planning makes an evening run like clock work, it does not just happen. Tony was out on his holidays, something he always says when he has his plate of prawns.


At 11.15pm there is no one in the bar, everyone is aware of taking in the bells either at home or at the hall. the hall has been open for over ten years now and mainly for visitors. A while back the usual first footing was being a little disrupted by guys who did not really know the protocol and some of the older folk were getting a little nervous with their “open” houses being filled with strangers who did not realise it was not a city style party they were at. The community hall opened to give these people a taste of Hogmanay and keeping an Applecross welcome for them while giving the elders a bit of peace and quiet.

At the Hall I have to say I did not connect as there was no one organising the Bells or “fireworks”. Although no one notices these things it was by the skin of our teeth we got every one out for the Radio Scotland New Year countdown but the fireworks were miserable. I only got two rockets off before giving up in the wind, getting an ironic cheer coming back to the Hall. Only had 8 to set off….not the best of displays but fitted in with Applecross’ new green out look.  Emily before and Becca after the bells, with an interlude of pipes from No4,


provided some fine entertainment. Had some music backup on the Ipod but the Scottish was not in great demand. Stovies and couple of chats and home by 2.30am. Did mean that New Year’s morning started off with a clear head and after a wee catch up with first series of The Bridge it was up the road to paint the front door of the toilets and pick up the filleted ling for the fish pie. Met a couple of waifs along the loch side and was taken with their drinks transport….bit wild west with “wagons ho” coming to mind.


Tongie was doing well as after I had left last night he was involved in a bit of crowd surfing setting off from the stage….the only thing missing was the crowd but that is Tongie for you. So it was home for a bit of wood chopping and fish pie construction and a bit of laziness. Nipped out for an appearance at the Milton Shed party but everyone was on a different level so did not prolong the “appearance”. I was a trifle late but by all accounts it was a fine display of music, camaraderie and food and carried on a tradition through to the next generation.

Today at the Inn it was busy but not manic and there was a lull late afternoon when I had a magnificent halibut with an essence of prawn sauce, wonderful food. A nice feel to the day and it finally felt as though the real New year had arrived when you wished a genuine good year to people when they had recovered from the libations of the last couple of days. There seemed to be a hopeful looking forward to 2014 and I had my first good political conversation of the year, again full of a hoped for change of direction, away from the tired, repackaged status quo. The weather in the Bay although not severe was poor enough for me not to go fishing and this is coupled with a very big tide.


Listening to the forecasts there is a concern for the western seaboard which is going to be hit again tonight with another storm surge. A blink of sun is all we seem to be getting just now.


A lot quieter this evening as the family additions left this morning in a wee car packed to the gunnels, dropping off personnel at Inverness and then Perth before completing the long journey to Dumfries. Dougal seems to miss them already,


and all the walking he did over the holidays. He had four long walks yesterday. His mum and granny however seemed quite happy in front of the fire.


Reading this back maybe it’s an age thing and sitting in front of the fire is becoming more desirable at this time of year and leave the “wagons ho” to the younger generation.

The “circle of life” again.

Sunday morning with Dougal, Eildh and Jenny lounging around at my feet, The Waterboys playing An Appointment with Mr Yeats on the iPod and white caps on the Inner Sound, life has become a lot less complex. From a conversation last night with Sarah my perception of the last couple of days was that it almost felt like two days off, but when you do a busy evening shift at the Inn, wash creels, load and unload a half ton of herring and salt it down to Sarah that sounded like hard work. I wager that if most people put down on paper what they do on a day it would take up a lot of space. With Dougal and Co walked, paper picked up and the bait salted a pleasant couple of hours were spent just chilling out. As I was out I came back to an Italian couple who had hit the kerb in a hire car and burst it badly. Their “spare” was a spray can which does not work with a two-inch hole so they were marooned here instead of heading to Oban. In true Applecross fashion Mark stepped in and arranged for the hire company to get a spare out possibly today and Jill got them into Jon and Elaines. Caroline was also called into action. We all carry spare tyres for a reason!!

Threatened to be “silly” busy at the Inn in the evening but although we had a list at no time was there any panic and everything went really smoothly. Only little apprehension is when a couple do not want to share a table for four. But the two couples who did not saw how everything worked and as they were still standing waiting they relented and seemed to be fairly relaxed. In fact Judith was so good at matching up couples it became a bit of a problem as they got on so well with each other they just sat at their tables chatting away long after their meals. Nice to see but for the guys who kept coming for their food. The 60th birthday party in the Dinning Room sort of fell my way and they were an easy lot from the East. Dingwall Academy and a Donald Macrae, who, I think, may be the Donald from Milton who now lives out in New Zealand….once you are on common ground, exchange names, the rest of evening is easy banter and becomes so uncommercial that it is almost like guests at home. Which reminds me Alison picked up a couple of French hikers, Adeline and Pierrick,in pretty awful weather. They “had” to come to Applecross and were planning to wild camp but as we have spare space they stayed the night with us….the circle of life, it’s a bonny thing.

Now thirteen hours later after a crazy day at the Inn. Sometimes for little or no reason everyone decides to come to Applecross for the day. It started at 10am for coffees, teas and hot chocolates till 12pm when the food kicked off and kick off it did. Absolutely no respite until 6.30pm when I stopped to have a home-made venison burger and a chat with a couple of guests who were staying. By the time I finished the evening rush started, well the afternoon one never really stopped. So could not really leave and four hours later with a scoop of chocolate, R and R and a little G syrup I escaped home. How busy we were was apparent by the running out of langoustine, squats, chowder, halibut, crab so it is out early tomorrow morning to start catching again. The day was full of stories but one of the images of the day was the lady calmly knitting on table 3 as the world swirled around her, musicians playing to the left people eating and being served all around but the knitting continued serenely on. One of many highlights was the Dutch family in the Dinning Room telling me how happy they were during their two-day stay in Applecross, how it is a Sanctuary and thanking the staff for being so welcoming to them and every one around them.IMG_4475

Many more stories but too exhausted to give them due care so a couple of flowers instead.


“the best”

Strange mix of emotions yesterday as a car recovery had to go into operation, having cracked the sump on the road down to the Estate Office, not the first seemingly , but mine was with a bit of style having dumped most of the oil on the road in front of the Inn. Made it home as it was straight into the shower and van and off to an evening shift at the Inn. It was a shift where there were lovely people all enjoying themselves, eating good food and taking in the Applecross experience but nothing of note to report. All this was preceded by a full day’s fishing of 450 creels and a bit of an improvement of the catch on unexpected ground. The squat lobsters have disappeared and are letting the few prawns on that ground into the pots. Enough mediums caught to have a batch sent off to The Loch Ness Inn this morning, good to see the absorbent granules have soaked up the oil. Not a big variety coming up in the pots but we quite often get a “monk fish” type of fish appearing, never much bigger than this and smooth skinned, also never survives as it does not cope with the pressure change.


Yesterday and forecast for the day are westerlies and southerlies so it is two days ashore with enough to do and maybe not quite getting round to most of it. I keep going on about working in the Inn but last night was one of the “special” ones. They all are for many people but sometimes you do not make strong connections with customers although you can see that they are happy and you are doing your job, last night was one for me. It is hard to describe the evening so saying it is the complete antithesis of the Ian Banks quote recently seen on social media from his book Complicity. People,decency,fairness and morality were to the fore, profits, money and dividends were secondary. I think that is the beauty of working at the Inn all these principles are in place and if the connections are right the dividend is happiness and the other boring bits like making enough money to live off are looked after. It was a busy night with a burst of customers around 6/7pm and all the tables rapidly filled up and an eye had to be kept on the residents’ booked tables. It was not a perfect night witnessed by me ordering a halibut inside of a haddock, if said quickly they do sound the same, I am sticking by that. Quickly sorted by the kitchen and a haddock emerged in double speed and Judith, had her tea sorted out. She sat by two of her residents while the Inn filled up. Good that she can do that and leave the floor to me. Trust built up over the months/years. By 8pm there was a queue waiting for tables but all went well even the chicken breast mistakenly ordered instead of the chicken casserole. This was delightfully eaten by the bar staff , we do speed eating very well here. It was busy and Judith spending a lot of time with a regular couple in the Dinning Room leaving the rest to us but the comments from the tables about the food, the Inn, the atmosphere are a tribute to the Boss and every one who works there. It got a little hairy at times, as it did in the kitchen, special needs eating etc with cheffie keeping a close eye on two stations, one more than normal. This resulted in a mussels not being on the cooker at the right time. That is the advantage of such a good atmosphere, the lady did not mind, in fact that was one of the tables who gave superlative compliments. Over the evening, the ‘best halibut”, “the best steak”, ” the best scallops”,” the best meal”, “the best langoustines” “ever had”. There was at least 8/9 comments like that, but the best for me was the young Californian who came up to me to give me one of the biggest compliment you can give. He told me that despite a “packed bar” I took time out to show his young German wife something about the menu. I could not remember what it was at the time but it came to me later it was a pompadom, which I got the kitchen to cook off and show her and took it out on a plate, she ordered a half veg Thai curry and just wanted info. But he said I was a “common man” which I took as the greatest of compliments telling me taking time out for people is always tops. But this is so easy at the Inn. Krotor made an appearance at many of the table conversations. Love the way that people have this blank look when I ask if they have seen the film “The Fifth Element”. Invariably a burst of laughter when I tell them Krotor now lives in Toscaig and has made your ice cream. Three other conversations stand out, the guy from Livingstone who was telling me about his daughter graduating in ecology and general world/ human connections to nature, ended with a sincere handshake. Another with Mathias, just talking about happiness and how he said “it is wonderful to see you happy”. Last conversation of the night was about how we build up negative profiles of people we know in varying degrees. She said that it great when you come across an action or statement which knocks that negative perception for six. Unfortunately I had one of mine strengthened, but this morning this conversation came back strongly in dealing with the car recovery. Garage rivalry can be  a bit of a mine field and some are painted in a bad light, but after a very pleasant conversation and a recovery plan put into place with ease and very little cost all is well. Another negative impression dismissed.

Around 10pm noticed there was a lot happening weather wise around the corner of the bay and nipped round for a couple of photos that do not do justice to the place and what was happening over Rona and Harris and how I felt but they will have to do.




So the end of the most perfect of evenings was finished of with a scoop of lemon curd and golden syrup. Bit of a “high” post but natural highs are the best.

Weddings,not Two but One.

Decided on a trip to Inverness today as it fitted in with picking up the clutch on the way back home. Lovely quiet morning looking across to the south as I’m taking Dougal and Co out for their morning constitutional. Over the last three weeks I have never seen so many ticks on a dog. He has got a nickname tickbag now. Some mornings he has between 6 to 10 ticks. Don’t use Spot On so maybe should expect this.

After a water stop on the Hill


made it through in reasonable time and heard the Kessock Bridge traffic was ok. So tackled the day from HIS and Highland Wholefoods end of town and worked through that way. Went like clockwork and was heading home just after eleven, aiming for the post at two in Kishorn. Glad I was not heading south as the queueing was back to a mile short of the Tore roundabout.


Had an hour to spare so, after nipping into Dingwall for some more seeds stopped off in Strathpeffer for a cup of tea and a catchup. Always good to hear about how other social enterprises are getting on and how they deal with their problems, really interesting hour. At the road works traffic lights on the other side of the village had time to look across at the farm land and it strikes you as always one of the attractions of this country is the contrasts you come across in such a small area.


The bleak rock and heather of the north-west,  the mountains down to the lochs of our place, the rolling “hills of the borders”, the woods of Perth and the bustle of the cities.

Anyway back to the clutch at Kishorn, not come through, so that will be the rest of the week off. Weather is still stunning and it boded for a busy evening shift and that was the case. Not so bad for finding people a seat as the garden was full but the kitchen got humped. still putting out food at half nine. The event of the evening took place fairly late on and involved weddings. The Inn was already mainly booked up for a wedding that is taking place today, unfortunately in the rain, looking out the window. All was going well, sitting outside, tucking into scallops and halibut, and we were getting ready for the last group of 6/8 who were eating at eight. The drama started when the lady dropped a name to Judith who immediately went into shock. She recognised the name but for a booking this time next year!! Panic stations as the community accommodation cannot cope with two weddings at such short notice and at this time of year. The stress lasted for about ten minutes while the lady got on the phone and fortunately,for us, Eilean Donan Castle confirmed what we hoped ….the wedding is down for next year. They had turned up for their wedding a year early. Amusement amongst the “real” wedding party.


Meanwhile in the garden a steak was so much appreciated that the lady ordered another one!! Cheesed Judith off as she was “stick thin”. And she finished it, seems it was a unique occurrence and she was not in the habit of doing this.

Lined up today is a trip to Kyle with an ill kayaker, picking up my clutch from Kishorn….and a massage in Shieldaig, squeeze in a bit of bookwork as well.

Simply the Best.

For all those that could not make the journey I thought I would ease the pain a little with some photos. I am not a food photographer so hope they taste, sorry, look ok.




Everything was startlingly good, from the canapes to the chocolates, I had a bit of time on my hands before the first customers came in so thought of arranging the chocs appropriately. Tony, as he has said often before, when he has the langoustine always thinks he is on holiday….so he had langoustine. The halibut and lobster was stunning as was the soup….a fine evening and it goes on for another two.


Really good the chef often is not very good at counting and at the end of service the extra medallion had to be eaten.

Applecross Valentine’s Menu.


Thursday 14th Friday 15th Saturday 16th

Welcome with a Glass of Sparkling Wine and Chef Kenny’s Canapé’s a la Skibo


Mini Seafood Platter, Chefs Selection, served in Oyster shells with salad and bread

Warm breast of Duck wasabi dressing on celeriac remoulade & crispy fried artichoke

Half Dozen Oysters from the Isle of Skye with red wine vinaigrette

White Bean & Ham Hock Soup topped with Truffle Oil



Tornedos Rossini Chargrilled Medallions of Prime Fillet Steak

Served on a Crouton, topped with Foie Gras and a rich Gravy with Garniture Grand Mere (glazed onions, bacon lardons, sauté mushrooms, potato rissoler)


Corn fed Chicken Breast Alsacienne

Casserole of Broad Beans, Baby Onions & Bacon Lardons in sweet white wine

with creamy mashed potato and fresh vegetables

West Coast Fillet of Halibut topped with Local Lobster Thermidor

Served with new potatoes and fresh vegetables.




Trio of Ice Creams especially co-ordinated by Aron

Pink Champagne, Rosewater & Milk Chocolate


Selection of desserts from the board

Cheeseboard with Chutney and Grapes

Coffee and Homemade Petit Fours


£30-00 per person for three courses         £25-00 for two courses

Not much to say other than the above will probably rival any where in the Highlands, even Scotland, for a “pub” meal in the next few days.


An Applecross New Year of Food,Dance and Music.

A very busy two days at the Inn. We knew it was going to happen on sunday as there were around 40 odd booked for lunch which included a 20 from Kinlochewe. This is generally ok but on top of that you have the busy last sunday lunch customers of the year and it was full on till evening but also really enjoyable. I probably say it time and time again but I get such a buzz from working at the Inn, just meeting people from all walks of life, sharing a half hour of their lives and telling them what happens here. It was a little fraught in the kitchen with cheffie not too well and a late night was had by other staff. Customers did not have a clue about the stresses behind the scenes as the food was fantastic and the compliments passed back eased the pain a little. Yesterday began with a trip to the Varuna, checking everything over and picking up the last of the prawns for the Inn and a wee delivery to Toscaig. Back for another full shift and it was so satisfying. If you work 3 or 4 days you get to know several of the families who are renting the houses. The Belgians staying round the coast, the Perthshire family in Clachan, a surprise visit from my southern cousin who was staying at the Torridon Hotel. After a couple of false excitements I had Mauritius confirmed in the evening to bring our total of countries who visited the Inn over the year to 76. The sort of embarrassing bit is, yes, I guessed 76. Mixed emotions of competitive Dad and “setup” but it has been great fun finding out where people are from and seeing how they enjoy being the first Cuban or Armenian to visit Applecross. Yesterday evening summed up why I work there. As it was a little slow to start you have more time to chat to the folk that came in earlier and ended up in a deep discussion about The Independence question with a couple from Lancashire. I find I am formulating my opinions talking to a lot of different people with a wide variety of views. Picking up ideas and slightly different ways of dealing with solutions to problems and also sharing these problems is a good way to go forward. I do n’t think I am Nationalist but feel more and more strongly that people living in their communities should be the ones taking the decisions that affect their communities. I have yet to hear a convincing argument that says otherwise. Later in the evening as it kicked off again, serving fillet steaks, halibut steaks,langoustine and scallops we had a 10-year-old set up his pipes and play us a couple of tunes, a wee bit shy, so played in the dining room, but if he keeps up he is going to be noticed. I told him after, that being Scottish, playing the pipes like he did and if he wears a kilt, he’s set for the world. Only at the Inn would you have a First Nation’s Choctaw dining at the next table and a dog called Sorley singing along to the pipes.IMG_1172

After the food and a quick clear up it was off down to the Hall. Always get a little nervous as you have to get the time right for people to go outside for the count down and the fireworks. Pleasant evening with a bit of live music early on with Sean and Emily and then on to the playlists of Scottish dance and dance.IMG_1183

Choctaw and the kilt looked well together on the dance floor, half two finish so felt reasonably fresh today. Very low-key day with a 5 mile walk for Dougal and family,a gravy run to the Inn for tonight’s venison roast and a call in for some home-grown pork curry and chips at Milton. Feels just a little flat today and it’s probably because of some fb messaging which means I am heading to Inverness this friday. Third time in about 4 months. Reflections on an “interesting ” year will have to wait but all that remains is to wish every one a year where your dreams and happiness come true and to thank you for the 33,000+ views last year. Contentment is my wish for all as that does not depend on taking anything from anyone else.


Another busy week drawing to a close with another day’s fishing and a shift at the Inn to see the week out. I really like the social enterprise course I am on as it comes into day-to-day life around Applecross. One of the themes of the course that is emerging is the element of trust. We are involved in workshops throughout the course which are meant to show us how to deal with difficult situations through a win/win solution. This however means that whoever you deal with has to be on the same wave length when you work through a problem. The difficulty arises when you find that element of trust is lacking but you cannot give up on what you believe. It is the same when working at the Inn. I have to admit to a little bias but Tuesday evening’s shift was a case in point. Working front of house is easy although you do have to keep your wits about you as it gets extremely busy. Having a son in the kitchen who is an extremely good cook makes your job so satisfying as you see halibut, langoustines, rare steaks, king scallops flying out in perfect condition. No wonder people keep coming back time and again to eat. If you work two or three shifts in a week you get to know who are staying in the community as they come back for meal after meal. Now with Aron under way at the Walled Garden Applecross hopefully will have a good tourist season.

Fishing has tailed of markedly this week and we seem to be back in to survival mode, only the creels beside the BUTEC range fished well on Wednesday and although this does not always happen we do tend to get a better fishing here. Fishermen tend to shy away from no fish zones but I think this is the only way ahead for our industry. I have fished alongside one for the best part of 20 years and the fishing is consistently better there. New Zealand have already gone down this road but we do seem to be light years away from any innovative ways to restore our fisheries. In a less optimistic mood unless there are more local control over local fisheries then I suspect we have very little future. Met with one of our MSPs today and discussed this along with the poor outcome to the community of the hydro lease negotiations. We also have a problem with our grid connection. Being a bit of a ‘lefty’ I think this stems back to the 80s sell off of the national assets and the company operating the grid is finance/shareholder orientated as opposed to helping communities help themselves. The element of trust seems to be so lacking in many aspects these days but as the MSP said you cannot reverse systems that have been put in place over centuries over night.As Andy Wightman said ‘The poor never had any lawyers’.

On a brighter note a day in the garden with Dougal and family. I think I will not be doing too much on the flower and shrub front as he is going through a very destructive/digging phase. In the process of fencing off another area where more raised beds are going to be built.Doing it with as much recycled wood and netting as possible, maybe does not look brilliant but if it works…….. Taken the before photo but it will be a year before things are  in place. Started my first hot composting batch with greens from the Inn, cardboard and the result of cleaning the hen-house. Lid is on and thermometer is in. This will help the Inn as well as the new bin collection is every second week and having smelling rotting food in bins for two weeks is not a viable option for food outlets. Local composting should alleviate the problem.

Half Term at the Inn and a bit of Philosophy

The poor run of weather and having my creel hauler resealed and rebored has allowed me time to do a few hours at the Inn. It has been fairly busy and working there with a different perspective and with Judy’s helping advice makes it almost like a new start. Again the connections are fun to find out. I always like to guess the accents and was at both ends of the spectrum on thursday evening. I thought the couple from Langholm who emigrated to Manitoba were from Fraserbourgh but I did hit the nail on the head with the West Country folk from Bath. The people sitting next to the Manitoba farmers had just came back from a tour of their province….small world. Simply amazing food over the three days, all good but my personal choice would have been the halibut served with vegetables, scallops, squats and a prawn bisque. Last night I cooked my own tea, a couple of sirloin steaks from the Inn with a bit of advice from Robert along with peppercorns, cream and a reduced gravy. Could not go wrong and had a magnificent tea. Life can be good.

Lots of good local chat as well, maybe some not so good although you can always follow those up with an apology or a least a clearing of the air. It is going to be a tricky time in Scotland over the next few months and years as the ‘Independence Debate’ heats up. Nationalism is a way down on my list of priorities but I always consider myself as Scottish. It is something indefinable and very hard to explain but I think harmless if it is not at any ones’ expense. For me the crucial point is being in charge of your on destiny where possible and that means the people living in Applecross should be the ones taking the decisions that impact on their lives. And that does not matter where these people are from, Applecross or any where. It is right what they say about politics and religion in a bar.

Following on from thoughts about nationalism and local control of local issues we go back to the negotiations with our Landlord and have to say that our Board have accepted what we think are very poor impositions but already are moving on a positive frame of mind. There has to be a certain amount of pragmatism when you deal with bodies in a position of power. I will concede it is probably harder to relinquish any control that has been in your hands over decades. The fact that it could be better used in other hands would not come into the equation, but if retaining control becomes the most important factor in the holders’ actions then it is time to move on. May be leaving them with apparel of control and taking the future of our community in our own hands is the way ahead. If the emperor has no clothes and is content I would leave him be. One thing that has emerged throughout the negotiations  is the lack of respect on both sides. Among our network of friends,members, contacts in other communities and agencies there has been a growing admiration of our achievements in such a short time and against many odds and also of the aims which hope to make Applecross a vibrant community again. Unfortunately our Landlord could not even acknowledge the fact that we are not for profit charity and seem overly concerned that they are receiving bad press in the community. I believe respect is not a right and has to be earned and I hope the Community Company is well on the way to gaining that respect as it clears each hurdle. Me thinks a missed opportunity. I really do hope we will come together in a more positive light in the future although I am not holding my breath. Maybe the it is simply a case of the Establishment working how to deal with the ‘new kids on the block’. I make no apologies for my views as my reading material includes Schumacher, The Spirit Level and now starting Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things they don’t tell you about Capitalism. Quality of life and not the bottom line is the essence. Off out to the Inn now to hear a couple of tunes from Becca Fox.

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