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

Posts tagged ‘Heritage Centre’

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.

SONY DSC

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.

Chat about Herring,a Migraine and some Contrasts

A couple of days of intense contrasts. Following a phone call from Dundonnel it was off to Kenny’s at Shieldaig where we met up with Sue for a chat about the herring fishing, have to say several people more knowledgable than me from Applecross to talk on the subject.. Although Kenny and I had not a lot of involvement in the actual fisheries it was great to hear some of his stories and that in itself brought back memories about my Dad and the Mary Ann, the ring net boat he was engineer on. Kenny and his brother Dickie went off on trips when they were 7/8 years old and this was for the whole week. The negotiations between his Mum and Dad would have been interesting. His Dad’s boat, the Seaflower, would head of to Stornoway with the four share owners to pick up crew for the season and they were drift netting rather than ring netting. Also these boats did the ground nets in the spring for cod which came in to spawn and feed on the herring eggs laid in great quantities in days of plenty.  Kenny had spent 10 years with the Torry Lab working on fisheries research and what he was say about the herring spawn was fascinating. They used to take sample grabs of gravel and the herring spawn would be a sticky,like frog spawn,layer on top of the gravel. Seems ,like sea-trout and salmon they needed lots of oxygenation, hence the gravel base. Off Melvich,Gairloch and Ballintrae, south end of the Clyde,were two main herring spawning beds. Sue was suggesting that the young herring stayed in the lochs for a year before heading of out and they provided good feeding for the sea-trout population which following the herring collapse has also to a large extent disappeared. Descriptions of the spotless and warm focs’le where up to seven men ate and slept reminded me of trips over to Applecross from Kyle to the communions here. We were allowed down below and it was great us young guys messing about on the way home down below free from supervision and away from the pressures of the day’s church attendance. The trust and camaraderie of these men can only be imagined and the pressures on the skippers to find the fish to pay for their crew and families must have been great. My conversations with Hector in Kyle were remembered, he was also on the Mary Ann. Some of the stories had a bit of regret as well with my Dad telling me that they should not have caught the “mazy” herring, the herring that had not spawned. And Hector landing beautiful silver darlings for fish meal and in some cases dumped when they could not sell the herring but got paid the subsidy. My saturday lunches in August in the 70s I remember well, salt herring well boiled served with Kerrs Pinks, jackets bursting open. A great way to spend two and a half hours on a wet and windy Friday morning. The only drawback was my developing headache which I can control for a certain period of time but always wins out.

Off to Sarah’s for a pre planned massage and after warning her about my delicate health I only managed about half an hour before admitting I had a full blown migraine under way. After a visit to the bathroom and another attempt from Sarah I had to admit defeat and accept the kind offer of a lie down. To cut a long story short six hours later after a period of excruciating intense pain and lots of stomach upset I now know I can drive over the Hill with one hand and hold my head in the other. It did take an hour. What I will always remember is the sympathy and care people express when you are in trouble up here. Offers to stay in Shiedaig, offers to drive me home, looking after Dougal and family, even wishing they had a magic sympathy wish to cure me. I have to say that thinking about all this on the way home it was quite overwhelming and fits in with what I think is ultimate community spirit. People do care, we may disagree but we care. The one thing I would say in favour of migraines or like pain you know what ultimate pain is and you sympathise so much more easily when you come across other people’s pain.You also experience the intense relief when you come through. Maybe that sums up the wonder of life. Loved the comment this morning that my public image took a bit of a beating “being laid horizontal in Shieldaig Thai massage parlour for six hours”. Past the Hall where there was a busy AppleX factor taking place. It sounded a great night out and seems there is lots of talent here, singing, poetry and Chris with Emily taking the prize of the night.

The day after a migraine reminds me why I do not drink any more. Today is what it used to feel like the day after a hangover and a couple of good chats today and a good walk with Dougal and family on the Forgotten” walk although there were contrasts there as well when Dougal and his Mum decided to disappear and go off hunting hopefully mice and other rodents but suspect they may have taken a fancy to some venison on the hoof. They did appear after 20 mins and seeing I am no dog whisperer it was a smack followed by a relieved pat and hug, hope they understood, means they will be tired when I am out to work tonight. Although there are still lots of local politics rumbling on with another letter from the Trust and residents making sure the ACC is in line, which I take as good in that there is interest in what we do going to take a break on this. I think most people are getting excited on the news about broadband which is seeping out locally. We have to wait for national announcements before making it official but suffice to say it is all good. Nice views of clachan from the “Forgotten Path”

The colours even this late in the year are still so vivid. In the photo below there is much community and personal history. From the left is the Clachan manse then the Heritage Centre and the Clachan church and gave yard where my gentle grandparents are lying….much gentler than me I have to say .

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