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

Posts tagged ‘Toscaig’

Housing still a Priority.

Monday became Housing day and we headed off to Dornoch to see some affordable housing to be opened by housing minister Margaret Burgess.


Turned out that when we were there we decided to make for Helmsdale for another gathering, this time the Community did their own house building.


It was an early start and made Dornoch in plenty of time but spent about twenty minutes finding the right street. Small gathering of builders, new tenant and family, HSCHT representatives in Alison and Ronnie


alongside politicians, Rob Gibson


and aforementioned Margaret Burgess.


Wander round the house and a chat with the tenant’s son. Short family history and how grateful he was to get the house. £350p/a fuel bill and cost around £100,000 to build. A bit more realistic to have a warm and dry roof over your head. On up the road to Helmsdale, only a few miles away and coming so far it was a shame not to see what they were up to. Their “local consultation survey” was very similar to ours and had affordable housing at the top of the list. The key word in the sentence is affordable. And as usual the hoops they had to jump through were enormous but that seems to be the way. They were so proud of their achievement in Helmsdale, lots of kids and smiley faces.


They have arrested their declining school role and it is now increasing. Classic case of community empowerment. Lots of chat about renewable storage and filling stations.

Back at Dornoch and I got chatting to the tenant’s son and Alison to the tenant


and there was a sad but nice story. His wife had broken her hip and triggered an onset of dementia which meant she was now in a home in Dornoch. He had been living on his son’s croft but now with the house he could visit his wife at the care home. Worth building a house for alone. both Alison and I had political chats about housing or the lack of it and got to chat with Rob briefly about MoD. Also have Rhoda, MSP, on the case and slightly disturbed at the reply from the ministry she received. They claim they are reopening the Rona Range. Tricky one as it has never been closed. PR I suspect when they go ahead with their closure. It was a beautiful day on the east and the architecture is so different from back home. Went to see the Lateral North exhibition in Timespan with a lovely picture of Tom and Lesley and another of the Applecross kids prominent on the wall.


They have such a strong historical link to the land and having it ripped off them. Cannot help but feel the Duke’s statue looking over the whole area.


Back late afternoon and after tea went down to Toscaig to view the renovated byre.



Derek has done a fine job in a major rescue.


Although in theory it has been passed down with the croft that my Seanair worked, I have had little use for it after it being a bait shed and then the roof came off in one of the winter gales. Now a fine basket weaving shed.


Grand chat about housing with maybe slightly differing opinions but that is what makes us tick. The essence of what I believe in is the Common Weal and is inclusive, working out solutions with as little detriment to those around. Views, ideals, ambitions, wants and needs compromised for a genuine Common Good. Intriguing little tackety boot




found while the renovation to place.

Herring Drift Netting in Toscaig.

A photo shared by The Applecross Heritage Centre jogged a few memories of me getting involved in some drift net fishing for herring on Loch Toscaig. We used to set the net from the eastern shore of the loch just off the pier  and have an anchor to the west, haul the net in the morning and take it into the old wooden piled part of the pier. then the laborious part began with the extracting of the fish from the nets. Helping on this day were Douchie from Toscaig and Alec Cameron from Ardhu. Donald Mackay from Raasay is also there. I remember him coming to all the FP communions in the area although that would have been in the summer. He did come to fill in at other times for Mr Murray so this must have been one of those occasions. My memory cannot pin it down better than probably the mid 80s, not too long after we arrived here. Bit of an age jolt to see all the men in the photo are no longer with us.


Timeless Wander

Funny old day in which a fair bit was done but did not feel like it. More to do but there is time. Early start to send off more accounts first thing special delivery, then ended up at the toilets again where I finished painting and glad of it. Not the most professional job but then I am not a painter. From there it was on to a couple of discussions about what is happening next on the Company front. All that and it is only mid morning. on a bit of a spur of the moment thing I headed up the hill behind the house with the Dougal family. A wander up and over to some spectacular scenery,


watching a couple of showers of rain making their lazy way up the Sound and the light show to the south.


From here you get to see the winding road to Toscaig,


a little of Culduie, Ardhu,




Camusterrach, Camusteel


and Milton. As I was turning to head back down I stopped to watch DJ and Jon head in on the Grace Anne.


Saw her earlier bouncing across the Bay and was happy not to be out fishing. Of course great views of Skye and Raasay are filling the horizon to the west and north.


The weather is perfect for so many changes of light.


Only on the way down was I caught in a wee shower, but Blair Douglas and Adam Sutherland kept the mood of the hills going on the Ipod. Thought I had “A Northerly Land” and some Runrig to listen to as well but had to sort that out when I got back to the schoolhouse. Alt na Chriche on the way down showed its face almost in secret, little falls as it made its way down the hillside.


Time is something that should not exist in Applecross, that’s what the stone say.


Dougal was by this time filthy and if I had done four miles he must have done fifteen.

Sudden craving for some Toscaig ice cream meant another trip north and this was well-timed for a staff lunch of pulled pork accompanied by a bean and cumin cassoulet. Still wangled the ice cream, that’s for later. While I was up there I did a routine wet dip at the Filling Station


IMG_7376 and noticed what every small holder must wish for at the bottom of a rainbow, a little red Fergie.


So it was back down the road and dropping off Dot and wee visit to see Dolly at the back of her house.


All good stuff to keep me away from the paperwork but that happened early evening and will again in ten. Dougal looks as though he is ready for another jaunt though.


Daddy long legs Crab.

Cycling to the Inn this morning was so peaceful and still. When I stopped at the Milton loch to watch the swans, once the noise of the tractor engine, heading to Camusterrach, had faded all one heard was the calling of a swan. Some thing between a hoot and a whoop. Then as you listened you caught the rapid flapping of  wings as a seabird emerges from a dive. And then nothing, no background noise, just a very quiet silence. Not many places where you come across this, especially when not looking out for it. An uneventful lunch shift just being completed, a staff lasagna on the cards and a walk with Dougal should complete a fine sunlight afternoon in Applecross. Of course behind the scenes hen houses are being built, toilets painted, pigs  being fed and piers being planned. This part being written towards the end of the shift on the wee iPad suggesting not many people in.

It is a thinking time of year as plans often go awry as weather intervenes and, in my case, the odd health wobble. Out as planned Friday morning and pleasant enough it was with the sun hitting Paul’s mast on the north end of Raasay and the south end of Rona also getting some much-needed shine.


Not much to report on the prawn front, meaning not many prawns and not many sightings of traffic, the odd one heading north.


Often get these wee crabs, the daddy-long-legs of the sea.


Usually they get one of their really long claws caught up in the creel mesh. Unfortunately during the day the pain killers were only just allowing me to function, which was a pity as I had looked forward to going out but such is life. Sarah turned up and massage completed but by then I knew that the next wee while was not going to be enjoyable. As Amy had her little show and presentation on at the Hall, after coming back from dropping off the langoustines it was a lie down with the intention of heading out but not to be. The next four hours were spent covered in “concerned” dogs and dozing in front of some very uninspired rugby, although did have a good hour watching Country on Beeb 4, Tammy, Kris, Rita, Dolly, Kenny, glen, all there but Willie Nelson singing “Always on my Mind” is hard to beat.

Yesterday morning unfortunately was a continuation, slightly surprising, but as, I had slept through six hours of a migraine, then that is a bonus. Meant the planned fish did not happen but eventually made it to the Hall to see Amy’s landscape presentation.


Bit of a long, head down walk to get there and to the shop before turning for home.  While out I thought these two photos summed up the mood,


sometimes you do not see the familiar but the oak tree in the field in front of the Schoolhouse shows a successful fight for life while growing through, round a barren rock.


Possibly the result of the only place it was allowed to grow. Recovery took shape by mid afternoon and made it to work despite calling in sick at 12pm. A good, steady evening topped off with a “Movember” quiz organised by the “Movember Girls” and conducted by Paul. Made it to half time with the Greek living in Dublin and the German lawyer, Andross and Kim. Bit of an Irish theme as residents included a guy from County Clare and a girl from the “north”. Before the quiz we were regaled with a few songs from John and Lorna, of Tarneybackle fame, John is, despite the photo,


a very happy and jolly chap and I spent some good time in their company talking about this and that, mainly about next September. Every now and again, with genuine excitement. The quotation round of the quiz and Dougal’s desire to get outside again meant I had to leave early with not too many regrets.£200 raised for Movember….nice one.

I will never know if it is because one goes through a bit of pain your senses are a bit sharper but going past the lochside this morning was stunning and deserved the stop, look around and listen. Before work I headed over to the Public Toilets which are completing the refurb to take a couple of photos but decided to wait a day or so. It is on schedule with painting, fittings floor all done and connections and clean up this week to be done on time. Scarily short of time but another community project near completion. On the way back a blink of sun over Clachan caught the eye.


Today’s little surprise was the visitors on table 4, when chatting to them, as you do, it turns out one of them had a strong Applecross, no, Toscaig connection. So I asked what it was and he said his aunt Mary Kate used to live there. There was quite a stunned silence when I told him that she was my Dad’s first cousin…..could tell he was not expecting that response. Only in the Applecross Inn.

So back on the bike after the fine staff lasagna,chips and peas to some beautiful scenes off to the west,


truly an amazing place to live. We, inhabitants quite often find lots of different ways of not getting on with each other but, boy, when you take time out and have a look around and see the awesomeness of nature….. With the landscape theme in mind even the metropolis of Milton was looking grand with all it wires connected to the outside world.


And that would have been enough for the day but I have to thank Dougal and the family for getting out and up Tor Mor for even more spectacular scenes.


The Ronja heading north with a heavy load in weather as different as could be when I last saw her turning around on Wednesday morning in a storm force 10.And finally the sun sets on a varied three days. “A Northerly Land” was playing through out the writing of this post. I wonder if any one else heard it?


Bees and politics.

A day off which meant finishing of clearing the croft. Left it the other day thinking it was a half hour but three hours later….


Have another pile of wood for burning and then it was down to Lower Toscaig with Dougal and Co. There was a carpet of sea thrift down on the shore, seems to be a burst of flowers around.


Maybe due to the late spring followed by this warm spell and everything is under way at the same time.  Sometimes I think Dougal’s main aim on walks is to get as dirty as possible, unlike his serenity the evening before in the late sunshine.


He looks so innocent but seems he is a good traffic calming influence for cars passing the school, at least with local drivers.



He does let his image slip a little sometimes.Some good summer rain today and it is supposed to be heavy tonight, the garden does need it, but no wind forecast so a day at sea planned for tomorrow.

The Community Council AGM was on tonight with an ordinary meeting to follow. This time the audience was treated to a Chair’s report, a little unfair saying this but there was a previous one that has stuck in a few people’s minds. This involved not using the toilets during high tide…leave the rest to the imagination. A reasonably positive list over the year, weekly food waste collections over the summer,playground equipment installed, ACC taking forward transfer of pier, toilets, installing broadband and hydro scheme, securing graveyard fence from deer intrusion, and ongoing matters such as looking at snowblower replacement and setting up a first responders unit. So this balanced up against the negatives of the continuing doctor/gp recruitment and having to deal with a very unusual petition last autumn as a result of the LAS campaign against the Trust. A fairly positive year looking back. despite often wondering at the time is it worth it.

As a day’s fishing planned tomorrow a “meet the Trustees” days will probably pass me by. This is as a result of last years campaign where the Trustees are trying to make themselves more visible to the community. It would have been better to have maybe held it in the evening and possibly in the Community Hall instead of during the day and at Clachan.This knocks out the younger/working part of the community….the future. But the fact there is a meeting at all is an improvement.

Chatted with Audrey about bees and their health and she said she had lost two of her three hives this spring and the tricky local subject of varroa came up. So my next job is to sprinkle some castor sugar on the bees soon as they groom the sugar off themselves and knock some of the mites off as well. I still have not seen any mites but better safe than sorry.

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.

Yet another Funeral,the Pantomime and a Brioche.

As well as the beautiful mornings we had at the start of the week the sunsets were spectacular as well.


It is so beautiful when the sun goes down behind the Cullin at this time of year. There is a totally different kind of light on the Sound.


On Wednesday after a few jobs it was off to Balmacara to see off my aunt Eilidh who was my mum’s sister-in law and from Plockton herself. The weather was fairly unpleasant and after the internment it was off to the Plockton Inn where a small gathering of cousins met up. It is always good to catch up with relatives you have not seen for a few years and reminisce about growing up in Plockton, messing about on the water,playing football,cricket…yes we do that in the Highlands and going to church of course. As my granny’s house was the stopping off point for all the travelling FP ministers who preached at the communions held in the communities across the highlands. These communions were held annually and began on the thursday and went on till monday morning, with lots of time in church which was not the best appreciated by us young kids. Strong shinty influence from the Abriachan part of the family and had a reminisce about playing shinty in San Fransisco in 1980 and joking we were the fore- runners of the 4 teams that are over there now. Trail blazing again…. So not many left of that generation of our family, my mum and 2 aunts.

When you go out of Applecross word gets around and you do what is natural here, that is picking things up and dropping stuff off. Half a hind was loaded up to be dropped off in Lochcarron, then the phone rings so it was a stop of in Kishorn to drop off some money and to pick up picture frames. At Plockton Catherine came up to me at the hotel and asked if it was ok to take a couple of kegs af Plockton Bay ale back to the Inn. Really like this part of living here and some people who come to live here are always very grateful for these favours and want to pay you for them. They take a while to understand that it just goes around and you do not have to do a “favour” back but you do one for some else and it just goes round and keeps a community together. I know I owe so many people but if you keep it going it always comes back and it great and rewarding when it comes from an unexpected source.

Yesterday was time out with a visit to our primary school pantomime and to be frank the kids were brilliant. Obviously a lot of work went in to it against all circumstances of colds,flus and only one managed dress rehearsal. You would never have known. There was a big girl, called Marion who keeps repeating primary 7, She is the one wielding the axe.


The scenery and background work, lighting and sound were all great, one amusing aside was the official film crew took the wrong attachment to his tripod and the start of the opening scene was drowned out by the sound of packing tape being wrapped around the camera to try to keep it steady on its base.


The other major event of the day was the eagerly anticipated launch of the Coast Road Trucker’s first album, Rolling. Well the box of 150 CDs arrived as we were standing out the back of the Inn, so it was a fairly low-key event. On sale at Nanny’s today, I believe and it is good.The Inn in the evening was busy with the VT coming down for their Christmas dinner, a couple of residents and a trial run for tonight’s Brioche which was quite extra ordinary.Had some myself at the end of shift, unfortunate for Aron, as he had a piece booked if any was left over. But he was “content” to watch me eat mine. So many chefs,so many things to eat…what a place this is at the moment. So the solstice has passed as I write this and the days will begin to stretch out, always remember a neighbour who stayed beside us in Toscaig and every June 21st would comment “the nights are drawing in now”, a slightly gloomier way of looking at the world. Of all the politics and ups and downs over the past year was met with this attitude I would be in a spot of bother by now. Maybe its a just a part of growing older but when people who disagree with you personalise an argument you don’t take umbrage as much as you used to and as many people have said recently when some one goes down that path they have very little of import to say.

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