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

Posts tagged ‘Shieldaig’

No Danny Macaskill.

A couple of days off, not quite making it out to sea, and enjoying the days without too much guilt. Morning still lovely weather.





Yesterday’s main event was a wee trip over the Hill to Shieldaig for a much-needed massage, neck especially giving a fair bit of gip. As Alison was not home from the Conference yet took Dougal and mum over with me. Stopped at the Gateway


for a look to see how things were progressing and they are fairly tramping on with the clear felling. Can’t help but notice the huge amount of wastage in the operation as is usually the case with clear felling. Seeing lots of wood just lying about, enough to keep Applecross fires going for years. And that is not the wood piled ready for transporting out. Impressive road built, hearing that it is a really difficult job, I suppose due to the lack of management carried out from the day it was planted. Lots of blown timber and no thinning makes for hard work harvesting. Also hearing that it will only be the Gateway that will be going out the North Coast road as there are no more grants expected so the remaining plantations are not scheduled for felling at all. Good for the roads but not for the trees. Although Dougal would like to have stayed


it was off up the road. New venue as Sarah and Paul are now in residence above Nanny’s. Spectacular view from their door.


Long session as falling to bits after the long season. Always good to catch up with what is happening in the neighbourhood and with plenty of new housing going up the school roll is looking pretty healthy over there. Unlike here, housing and land, same old same old. Left with lots of instructions on how to excercise the old neck. Stopped off on the way out


to give the dogs a run around, chasing acorns,


in the water mainly,


and back home.

Today another non fishing day even although the weather is due to break. Regenerating ready for another blast of work but first it was a trip over to Coillie Ghillie to catch up with the Bucks from Norfolk. Regular visitors but the first time over there. On the way stopped by a car and turned out my Maths teacher Johnny “Nick”and family from Plockton stopped for a chat and catchup. It was a beautiful afternoon and a fine ceilidh finishing up with a bit of camera chat. May be purchasing a couple of new lenses after trying out some variations in the garden.




Lots of activity with Tridents and otters passing by.


Late afternoon sun lit up both Coillie Ghillie, see how close to the shore these building were,




and Ardban and well worth the visit.




Dougal and Eilidh both thought so. Made it to above Poll Domhainn Beag on the bike and quite relieved as not too energetic today. Unfortunately on the way back, while knowing I am no Danny Macaskill, and taking care on the rough track, bike stops, I fall off , roll down bank grabbing anything I can. It was bracken and a throw back to childhood when I slashed my hand with the stuff. Back on the bike and dripped blood all the way home. Not bad enough to take the rest of week off.

Not Really Grumpy

Later start and hoped for a bit of a quieter afternoon and that was what happened. So after taking the broadband equipment earmarked for Rona down to the pier, a self powered unit,


passing the Grace Anne on the way,


it was out on the middle bank all day and it was not till the last two fleets that I came out of gear, meaning I almost always haul the creels facing into the wind and if there is a breeze and/or strongish tide against you, you have the boat ticking over ahead to keep her up to the gear. Always have to be alert for foul up or shoot overs as ropes are drawn into the propeller. Fairly uneventful day apart from missing one buoy and after going astern the rudder came around too far. Luckily the safety bars keep it from the propeller but it meant switching off the auto helm and heading down the aft hatch with the stilson to swing it back around with the help of the wheel. Not a very pleasant job in the swell but no damage apart from straightening the auto helm rod that is attached to the rudder. Although I get these things sorted eventually I do not have the engineering brain and began by trying to turn the rudder the wrong way but also I know I have not that type of knowledge so do not force things too much before taking time out to have a proper think about it. Last fleet I hauled had not been hauled for a while for various reasons and came up with half a dozen creels wrapped around my first couple of creels. Nothing else to do but cut them off and cut the other rope to get myself free. There will be a land delivery of the creels and hope I retied okay for the least hassle for the other boat. No blame just two fleets that had not been hauled for a while had come together.


Lovely afternoon and although sun arriving late it was an enjoyable day.


Only ashore you realise there is another ALPS meeting to go to, so it means, a take away fish and chips before heading back out the door. The project is coming to an end now and it is now the Gateway project to do and all these decisions are taken out with the Group so not really too much to say. I have stated that the pier option was the most carbon friendly but that has been turned down for several reasons which I can accept but not agree with. Taking timber out of Applecross by road is the least favourable option but that is the route we have gone down. Road upgrades and damage payments make the pier a better option financially but that is now history. Light looking even better ashore.


Today the weather came in albeit a little later but by 11 am was not bothered about not going out and got on with a pretty busy day of wood work, a pier tidy and landing some prawns to Spain via Ardheslaig. And by the time that was all over it was evening and time to make the sweet and sour prawns caught yesterday, which were bearable. Had to call into the toilets as we have a water problem, temporarily solved with a bucket but more needs to be done tomorrow morning. There always seems to be something at the moment. Bookwork, a long and intricate discussion on the future of rural west coast broadband on the email streams, Filling Station upgrade, and we thought it already was, and now the toilets. Hopefully it will turn out to be something simple like an airlock but it still needs to be sorted by some one who knows what he/she is doing. Slight relief in that we were not going to be quorate tonight at the CC meeting so cancelled. Bealach Beag has reared its head again, as said before it is tolerated here with not an awful lot of benefits but the organisers have decided in their wisdom to put the May event on on the May Bank Holiday. Businesses actually lose money on the day and losing a Bank Holiday payday seems a bit unfair for some people. When the organisers came in first it was to “extend the shoulder of the season” something that people in Applecross by September are wondering as necessary. But the opinion was that neighbouring communities may need or want this extension so we have shrugged our proverbial shoulders. The impact on the organisers will come from Shieldaig CC as we have been dismissed….we shall see. Good to have a grump and as we are on one then the situation with the Roads Dept regarding the undermining of the road at the bottom of the Craig Darroch is not the best, especially as they are putting a cattle grid on the Culduie road which as far as I know there will not be any fences round it. I am in a better mood than the post suggests but it is good to see what can be improved. Another way of looking at it is there is so much going on here for just a couple of hundred souls who live on the peninsula. When something goes wrong on the Varuna you fix it and no one knows, but when you have community problems like the Filling Station, local cards or running out of diesel, (that was me), you are a hostage to every one. It does mean there  a healthy and sometimes vibrant community, needs more people though. But as the trip round the coast shows there are sights and colours that keep you going,


a sign seasons are turning when you see the Seaflower 11


back on the water,




in the garden no exception. Wild bees choice but not the honey bee.


Difficult Day, Brilliant Ending.

Down to the pier and washing a fleet. These creels were left out a little too long and were covered in calcareous worm tubes.


Hard to shift with the pressure washer and only get a few off. A couple of hours and they are done so it is back up the road and a walk with the dogs after getting Dougal out of the car and into the van.


Back down for some prawns and then over to Shieldaig. Although the weather was no use for fishing the scenes both going over the Hill, stopping at the stream


and again on the other side are beyond description, certainly any attempt by me..


Massage was great as well as a good chat and met a few from these parts, Jim, Frostie, Iona and Linda. Sometimes wish the two communities were a little closer together. We used to have the same Community Council and have all the same rural problems. Any way it was round the North Coast, picking up bait and salt on the way and the weather was nothing less than stunning. Looking back across to Shieldaig must be one of the views in Scotland


and always caught by the little hamlet at Kenmore.




Lashing rain and having to wear shades for the sun at the same time coming around Cuaig.



Sure enough the most perfect rainbow appeared over the Bay and almost, but not quite the first rainbow I have driven under.


Quite a strange day, heavy when it should not have been. Possibly just a little too tired. Maybe not working last night and making life more complicated than it is. That is the great thing about getting out for the massage, every thing becomes simple but unfortunately it does not last long enough although the sight of the rainbow must be a good portent that every thing will be ok.

A Little Oasis

Recovery day yesterday although there was plenty to do. We have a break down at the Filling Station where we cannot dispense petrol, not even over ride it manually. Quite rightly the notices have gone out letting people know but we will have to remember to put them out when it is sorted. By the time you do a bit in the garden, take the dogs for a walk, flag irises are on show,


and keep Eilidh and Sky apart it was time for another shift at the Inn. Sky actually was no hassle and stood up for herself despite Eilidh’s attentions, and was very affectionate. Another wee job successfully done was sprinkling the hive with some castor sugar. Seems that when the bees groom the sugar off themselves they knock any mites, if they have any, off at the same time. All looked well and they are filling the first super up. They have a lot of work to do as they have to draw out the wax on my new frames.


Slowish start for me although the Prep room was spinning. Slowly wound up until at 8.30pm there was a 6, a 5 and a 13 all eating at the same time, along with all the other 2s 3s and 4s. With the Boss out wining and dining at the Walled Garden the pressure is on to make sure the residents are looked after and the week’s regulars as well. Weather was simply stunning and the baseball cap back on. Star group of the evening were the Kyleakin Connections who came over as a group and they had linked up with the VT for some activities. www.slad-skye.org.uk/ They are a pretty amazing group of guys and the banter all evening was top dollar, and no quarter given by the carers.


Living in Applecross I do not meet many of the folk I was in school with very often and when they come along to the Inn you just pick up conversations so easily. Every one seemed to enjoy it as much as I did, in fact serving them made you feel as though you did something important and worthwhile…even more so than usual. The Knox family on the Big Table and then Tom and Hilde came in with their Irish connection to play on Table 8. The Norwegians playing at the Inn tells you what time of year it is.


The Italian couple back in for more seafood and she was delighted to have met Sara and Aron the previous night and sorbet and ice creams were consumed. They knew that they could not eat as much as the night before to be able to have the lemon sorbet.

After service, the Bay was just a little more special than normal as the sun sank behind Rubha na Guailne and with this as a back drop, a scallop shell of garlic squats, I wager there are not many better situations in the world. And I almost forgot the music filtering out from the bar. No wonder so many people seek out this wee paradise.


Today was a strange mix of hard work, “best laid plans” going amiss and rushing around to get to my massage on time….failed but let Sarah know. The day up till 2pm was filled with hauling 350 pots. With the petrol down and some guests stuck I arranged to get some picked up in Lochcarron but that fell through and a back up as well so I had to drive far too quickly over the Hill to pick some up before heading to Shieldaig. I may have contributed to some tourist views on “local driving”. Arrived a little late and bit out of sorts but quickly settled into a peaceful and sometimes sore hour and a half of great massage. Feeling the benefits of my visits to Sarah as I realise I am no longer carrying any fishing aches and pains now. sarahalmond9@gmail.com Head is in better shape, although, as with climate change , a cold winter does not mean it is not happening. Fish pie for tea, Raasay Sound ling and squats supplemented by some smoked haddock from an unknown origin. My out of sorts feeling was based on my time out massage not going to plan and has made me realise how important they have become…a little oasis in a crazy, fast world, yes even here.

The next season is Spring.

On the way to Shieldaig and again on the way back the Torridon Hills were spectacular.

These scenes coupled with a sore, but relaxing massage, and a quiet shift at the Inn means alls well for a while. Good to see Phil back from his sojourns.


The Shiants, part 2

We headed round the west side of the islands and up to anchor on the more sheltered side away from the north-easterly.

Love the rock formation to the south. Looks like a witch waiting patiently on the rocks.After lunch it was off ashore for an hour or so. Headed to the north where I had hoped to get up to the puffin burrows but decided against it as it was teeming down and I am not the best of climbers. Went south instead and came across one of the settlements where you just let your imagination run riot as you sit on one of the walls. The fire-place and the entrance are still well-defined and you just sit there and think what a harsh but maybe fulfilling life they had.

There were birds around all the time and after going past the ruins I must have been too close to a skuas’ nest as I had to duck from a couple of fly overs. I do like them, maybe because they keep the black backs in check, but they seem fiercely independent and don’t mess around.

Walking past the bothy on the way back to the boat we past the rat traps lying on the table. Seems the black rats are so bad the bird conservationists cannot stay there but have to camp in tents as they would have no peace from the rats at night. They are suspected of starting to damage the bird colonies so action may be taken against them even although they are a rare species themselves. Because feeding during the winter is very poor, up till now this has been a limiting factor in the rat breeding cycle but this seems to be out of balance now. It was back on board and off home.

Still surrounded by birds its the puffins antics that always catches the eye.

On the way back over the Staffin Bank we had another minke whale spotting and the only down side of the day three prawn trawler tearing up the bottom. Only three boats on the whole of the Minch all the time we were there…..speaks volumes and Kenny says often they see no trawlers. If the Minch was healthy  they would be there. Stories were told and the one I really liked was about the charismatic minister who was in Applecross and his love of ling’s liver. Kenny would phone him up to say he had some and did so this Sunday in the off-chance he would come for them. And the response was immediate saying it was many a mile a Lewis man would travel for a ling’s liver even on the sabbath.

After coming ashore it was straight back to the Inn for a late start to a shift. Seems it is only half an hour from Shieldaig pier to the Inn. One has to assume every one is already there and they were. As usual good shift, good food, good craic and good people. Judith brother Chris is up for his annual trip so she is trying to take a few hours off over the next few days. Going home after hours, heading towards Milton I had to stop and gaze seawards at the moon shining through the trees at 11.40pm.

It was a good day.



The Shiants, part 1

Was up early this morning to sort out hens, dogs and prawns before I headed of to Sheildaig to tag along with Torridon Tours trip to the Shiants, a group of islands of the Outer Hebrides. Made it with five minutes to spare but all on board and away we went. Passed Shieldaig Island with its resident sea eagle. Unfortunately this year they lost their chick, fallen from the nest, and their activities have been different. They are not seen going back and fore to the nest as in previous years. The island has changed from being a busy heron residency to the home of an eagle.

Shieldaig has a history going back to when the herring industry was booming and there still is a legacy from that are in the front gardens of the houses built on the shore. They are made up of Irish soil brought in as ballast in the barrels, which were emptied out and then filled with Torridon salted herring. We were not out of Shieldaig more than 15 minutes when we came across a pod of about 50 dolphins.

They were magnificent. Its great when they come to you so you know you are not disturbing them if they are feeding or just chilling.

After a brief stop it was off out to Rona where we saw our first minke whales lazily feeding , coming up for air and then disappearing on dives for about four or five minutes. The next land mark were the cliffs of Staffin and although the weather had closed in they still looked spectacular. Interesting to see the geology so clear, the basalt sitting on top of the Jurassic.

From Staffin it was round the north end of Skye and across The Minch to The Shiants, stopping only for another minke spotting.

As we approached the Islands from the south-east we went over some tidal rips and even in slack water and a gentle north-easterly breeze you could see and feel the boat being tugged about. No wonder there has emerged stories in Celtic folk-lore about the Blue Men of the Minch. You can imagine in severe weather sailors under dire stress seeing apperitions such as The Blue Men. Some say that they originated from fallen angels who were not quite guilty enough to go to Hell. They lived in underwater caves inhabiting the waters around The Shiants. There is a channel to the west of the islands called The stream of the Blue Men, in gaelic Sruth nam Fear Gorm. They had glossy blue skin, long grey faces, long arms and were very strong. Sailors who were abusive to Selkie Folk were in pretty serious trouble if they encountered the Blue Men. Their appearance portended storms but you managed to escape their clutches if you could recite poetry to them. On to the islands and the birds.

We steamed round the islands anti clockwise going through the two main islands and stopping to see the numerous bird colonies both ashore and on land. The weather closed in a bit and it added to the atmosphere, misty and ethereal. Birds did not seem to mind our presence and carried on their own activities.

Passing rafts of guillemots, razorbills, puffins with kittiwakes and gulls flying over us we made our way slowly round the islands to anchor on the more sheltered west side and lunch of smoked salmon and prawns.

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