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

Posts tagged ‘Torridon’

Cornering Failure

You never know what is round the next corner, or in my case on the corner. I made off to Inverness around 9 this morning after taking some langoustine ashore for the Loch Ness Inn. Called in at the Inn where I decided to go round the coast and up Glen Torridon. I had plenty of time so managed a couple of stops on the way to try to capture the beauty I was driving through. First had to try to get the locals to use the passing place


before rounding the Cuaig corner.


I have never managed to capture this scene, the road winding its way north against the backdrop of the magnificent Torridons and the bleak foreground of the Cuaig common grazing. A brief stop at Ardeshlaig


before coming to the corner up Glen Torridon. Black ice and before I could react I was sitting in the van on rock and heather five feet below the road


and slightly shock up.


Would have been a fine bit of parking if there had been a car park there.


Twinge in the back was all and after checking the langoustine in the back I was helped by some very kind visitors who let me use their phone to get in touch with recovery. A pleasant hour was then spent waiting for Peter to turn up, not before Colin wandered down having recovered another van further up the Glen. So home in a wee Peugeot instead of my van which is almost certainly written off. A cup of coffee and natter at DMK’s before coming back over the Bealach stopping again



as it was breathtakingly beautiful.



So a phone call or two before making arrangements to head off to Inverness, this time to buy a van, still instead of thinking if only I had….I think I was looked after today.

I knew my post last night would cause reaction and am pleased that it did. I am always careful not to personalise problems, but becoming less afraid of pointing out the negative effects of organisations, hoping that they will change. I can only say that being positive is the only way ahead. Sorting out a nonexistent Filling Station, then a duff one, helping to improve Broadband, helping with the Hydro, both publicize it and sorting out small problems. I believe we will have affordable housing built in Applecross and maybe in the future the community may be able to buy into the current housing stock and create a two tier market. Short term we need affordable housing now. I have enjoyed a Facebook conversation since coming home and I know there are residents ready to take this community forward. Access to land is definitely not a lost cause and it will happen either through talking, cajoling or in the last resort using powers given to communities by the Scottish Parliament.

I got so involved in posting last night that I forgot to post the photo of the German contingent in town with Graeme.


I give tables little titles when I put the food orders through, usually after a wee chat and it causes puzzlement in Prep and kitchen as they are off the wall at times. Their title was “Graeme and the Germans” I suggested it could be a title of one of his future novels, we’ll see. The crumbles went down a treat as did the haggis and cheese melts.

The day has ended with me missing out on the funeral service, leaving the beer kegs in Inverness but salvaging the langoustine by selling them to the Applecross Inn. So instead of a planned trip to The Loch Ness Inn it will have to be another trip over the Bealach for the best seafood in the Highlands.

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.

Social Enterprising and The Scottish Parliament.

The last three days have been a bit of a blur. On Friday I got an email asking me to go down to the Scottish Parliament to give evidence on a petition put forward by the Torridon Nephrops Group. They are the fishermen to the north who mainly fish out of Shieldaig. Not entirely sure why I was invited although I do have a lot to say. I never thought that politicians thought it was worth listening to. As I saw that Kenny and Richard were going down I decided there would be safety in numbers. But before that it was off to Sal Mor again to meet up with the gang again to learn more about Social Enterprise. I am not a professional course attendee but this one has been nothing short of brilliant although the assessments we are supposed to do so far are not being done. As usual the banter and interaction was as good as ever. Throughout the course we do something which is called an action learning set and these are problems introduced by people who are then questioned by the group to try to look at different ways of solving what seems an insurmountable problem. Almost everyone on the course has said that their view on how they look at and interact within their own organisations has changed. I set my one up by explaining the poor state of the fishery and how was I to put my view across in what I thought was going to be an intimidating situation in a short time. The response and questions and assumptions that were challenged I think were invaluable today in Edinburgh. I am designated driver as usual and it was off to the pub for the evening. The evening and the next day flew by and I was home by five o’clock. Quick meal, couple of photos printed off and it was off to Shieldaig to meet up with Kenny and away down the road. Kenny could not go earlier as he had a trip booked till 8 pm. Boat looked good back on the mooring with Kinloch on the shore behind her.

It turned out to be an easy drive down with little traffic on the road and going through Edinburgh was an easy task for me, finding the hotel not quite so but modern technology kicked and saved the Highlanders yet again. Kenny luckily had his phone which has a GPS, maybe they all have, and from then on it was easy to complete the last stage. Weird hotel though, three floors up in the lift and then down seven flights of stairs. Not owning a watch or alarm meant I had to leave the tele on for a morning time check. We had to be at the Parliament building by 9.45 so that was easily done with breakfast on the way. Met up with everyone and knew that the SFF were not there so things were going to be a lot more peaceful than anticipated a few days ago. It turned out to be a really interesting experience and seemed to go well with the MSPs showing a fair degree of knowledge about our situation and they also seemed to take on board all our points. Marine Scotland ‘s Mike Palmer was there as well as our IFG chair and there was a lot of chat about the structures in place and how they could be improved. It really can be quite stressful as you want to make an impression because you are on a 600 mile round trip about something you are passionate about. I did manage to make a couple of points and that settled me down a bit and was really impressed by Richard’s and Kenny’s contributions. I think they are far more polished than me at putting points across. The meeting over ran by about an hour and towards the end I decided to go for it and told the room that we have to do more than talk about the issues. The way I see the problem is the fishery is in decline and will not survive unless something is done. In this case extend the no trawl zone south and north of Torridon. The creel men are willing to then cut back on creel numbers but only if the trawler is taken out of the equation. I did my usual in saying everything my Dad fished for is gone and we are now fishing for bottom feeders and are endangering them as well. I think it was slightly different to what they were used to and possibly registered and was different from all the structure discussions. I know there was and probably still is huge controversy over the Parliament building and how much it cost but it is pretty impressive. Beautiful inside and out.

So after the hour over run which we all took to be a good sign, it was a quick-lunch and away up the road this time with Richard as well. Good chats about everything and a positive feel about the meeting meant we were in Inverness in no time. Quick visit to Tesco, not by me, and back to Shieldaig to pick up the van and was back at the Inn for a shift that started an hour late. After half an hour managed to make contact with the real world again and got chatting to visitors about politics, fishing, parliaments etc, just every day life for a wee Highland lad . Maybe I will have a quiet day out on the water tomorrow.

Ps Finland arrived when I was away so that makes it 51 countries that have visited the Inn this year.

Spanish Prawns

Tuesday, if I have caught enough large prawns, means a delivery to The Packing Shed where the prawns get prepared for their flight to Spain. I always find this a little strange, us selling really good local seafood abroad where often Scots go on holiday to eat it, but then life can be very strange. I take them by van round the North Coast Road and drop them off to Ardeslaig where I put them in chilled tanks waiting for the packers in the evening. In good weather there are not many more spectacular routes in the country.This is a view looking down the Sound with Lonbain houses in the distance. There are always changes in lighting every half day when the weather is settled as we rarely get wall to wall sunshine.

One of the views that always gets me is when you come round the corner at Cuaig and you see the road disappearing into the distance with the Torridon hills as a back drop. It is beautiful and bleak at the same time. In the past I have spent a fair amount of time at Cuaig as a friend and previous crewman used to live there and we have a few six-nation sessions in residence.

On the way to the Shed I pass several hamlets and that sums up the lay out of the peninsular. Although Applecross is a 65,000 acre Estate there are only about 200 souls living here and from the south end to Inverbain there are little groups of crofting townships around the coast, mainly in these positions due to the Highland Clearances as the people were cleared from the better land to make way for the sheep to increase the incomes of the laird to sustain their profligate living in the city. The township of Kenmore, pictured above, is next to the Shed.

The Packing Shed itself is beside a little inlet where the Torridon fishermen moor their boats and the operation was started up by these guys as a way of trying to secure a steady market and price for the produce. There have been a few ups and downs on the way but it is really good to know you can always have a method of selling the bigger prawns. It is run as a marketing Co-op and I am charged the cost of what it takes to put the prawns on the market.The prawns have been packed individually by me as they come on board the boat and held in the water until I have enough to land to The Shed. There used to be a regular van run to Applecross to pick our catch up at our pier but we do not land enough prawns to justify that now. There is usually only one packing night instead of the previous four and that shows the decline in our catches.

The Shed houses several tanks where the prawns reside and there is a constant flow of chilled and oxygenated water running through the tanks keeping the prawns live and also slowing down their metabolism keeping their quality for the market. The prices increase in relation to the size and liveliness of the product so all this attention to detail pays in the long run. On the way home it was a quick stop at Sand as I had Dougal and family with me. He is out of the picture making friends with a visiting dog.

Fishing future,the Inn and a little Bees.

Just read a report from the New Economic Foundation about how inefficient our fishing methods are and how far we are from sorting it out. Although the report concentrates on white fish and pelagic fisheries I see the same happening on our prawn stocks. The report suggests that if we take measures to get the stocks of fish and shellfish back to a level which is a maximum sustainable yield then everyone from fishermen to buyers and all connected on the shore make more money than they are doing just now and more people will be involved in the fishery. The present situation of catching more than is being replaced by the stock is unsustainable but every-one both at sea and people in power seem unable to take action until yet another stock disappears from view. The report uses the word ‘restore’ and I remember we tried to put that into a management plan for our inshore fisheries future. We had to take out the word because other fishing association leaders objected to the unscientific nature of the word. Unfortunately I had not read this report as the science is there to back up the use of the word ‘restore’. One suspects that the opposition to the word restore rests in the fear that their members would have to suffer some short-term pain, that is lose some earnings, in the hope that stocks will recover. When you look at the Applecross Inn,one of the best west coast eating establishments, specialising in seafood, what a shame that all the white fish comes from the east coast. It is a pity but I see no long-term future for fishing in Applecross if we stay on our current track. One of the more troubling developments in recent years is the fact that by putting back the berried prawns you can no longer make a viable living from the fishery. Up till now you could argue that I was making a good wage while still returning the berried females and you could argue with other fishermen that this is good fishing practice. I do not think that is the case now and that is why I now work part-time at the Inn and am fortunate Alison has a two-year contract. So unless there a policing policy introduced then it will not happen on a voluntary basis. The brief spell of good fishing has already tailed of here. The other missing link is that we do not seem to catch for the market but go out and catch whether the demand is there or not.

On a lighter note work at the Inn is going well. Was there the last couple of days where the Easter trade has started up and the Inn is full of happy diners. A couple of shifts lined up over the next couple of days and the staff numbers are reaching full complement as the boys come back from South Africa. It does seem that the Inn is not being too badly affected by the general down turn in the economy but this is not accident in that there has been a huge amount of hard work gone into building up a loyal and sustainable trade over the last 23 years. Spoke to Kenny and Gemma for a while last night. they came down with leaflets for the Torridon sea tours, although it may have just been an excuse to have some good food. Booked a trip this summer to the Shiants an ambition second only to going to St Kilda.

Turning thoughts to bees again as the weather and the time of year means the beekeepers will be having their first look at their hives. We are hoping to get 3 nuclei from Colonsay. Toying with the idea taking Dougal and co with me and camping overnight. Hope the winter was not too harsh and the keeper has some bees for sale.

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