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

Posts tagged ‘weather’

Hegg Mac

In a bit of mild shock this evening over what could have been earlier. I am well aware of the greater tragedy for many folk after the insanity in Manchester. We have a Manchester connection at the Inn and it brings it home that we are never far away from the actions of madmen. These people have to have a disconnect with the norms of humanity to carry out acts like they do. My own potential mishap pales into insignificance when put against what the people of Barra must be feeling tonight, but life for others goes on.

Tuesday was a hit the wall day and that meant that absolutely nothing got done and resulting in eighteen hour days since, not remotely catching up but at least not falling further behind. The weekend featured the music brought to us by Hegg Mac, a band

that Matthias from Karslruhe,

brought over to play their world tour of Applecross. To be perfectly frank I did not hear as much as I would have liked. Saturday night the tour got underway at the Community Hall but as I was fishing and others were younger and keen to go I stayed on and finished at the Inn. Feeling pretty knackered so the ease on down of the late night suited me fine and the second night of the tour took place at the Inn. Busy old lunch even with the poor weather. Although sold as the “acoustic set” there was a fair amount of setting up.

When they did get to play they rocked and sounded really good. Good food

and great music, what more does one need, Raymond taking the snaps?

Again coming to the end of the shift I did not hear as much as I would have liked but did manage the whole of the first set. They finished up at the Walled Garden but that turned out to be my Wall day.

Monday saw me delivering langoustines to Loch Ness Inn, Alison to Beauly, Aron to Toscaig and racing around Inverness trying to organise passports, Gaelforce, Highland Wholefoods, before picking up wood and herring

on the way home. Light and still at the Shed moorings.

Maybe the Tuesday off was so on the cards although I did not see it on the horizon.

Back on the trolley for Wednesday and it was down to the Pier early to throw off some creels for washing,

before nipping up the road for a badly needed massage from Sarah, back to the Pier to wash the creels and then the shift at the Inn. Busy enough with a table of fourteen booked in at 8pm but as they were the Karlsruhe crowd on their last night all went well with only a short wait for tables for a couple of residents. We then finished the night with a truly acoustic session

but again tiredness takes over and I am off down the road for an early start on Thursday as the weather had quietened down.

Fishing fine and one of the fleets back in operation so just the other to find. Unusually have had five attempts at it so far, beginning to wonder if it has been dragged a little out of position. The well forecast weather arrived this afternoon

and it was a pleasure to be out.

Not a lot of sea life about but the views are fine and quiet waters are the order of the day. The bees are looking very healthy and busy

and the garden is buzzing with bees and colour.

That left today to deal with and all was going well. Varuna beached alongside the Pier, another fleet ashore to be washed along with the bottom of the Varuna. Things going swimmingly, not quite getting the fleet ready for going out in the morning as there were a few bars to repair. Not a good set of creels these ones. Have had a lot of the welds breaking earlier than they should. So with the oil change left to do I floated her off. Decided I would make a really good days work and change the oil at the moorings. Only just decided to do that as it was easily put off for a day or two. Went below and thought just a little more water than there should be, pumped her out and proceeded to empty the sump, then saw water pouring in from the aft compartment, another quick couple of pumps, change of oil and filters, open up the aft hatch to a little fountain of seawater coming in where there should be a bolted on anode. Rotted away and still have a little shake thinking if I had put the oil change off the Varuna would have settled on the bottom in about an hour. Phone to Ewen, who picked up parts on the way home and now ready for another beaching, through the night this time. So close to having my wee world turning upside down.

(2.00am) Ashore again after leaning her against the Pier, waiting for the tide and fitting a new bolt, packing and anode on. The light was fine on the way out,

so now a couple of hours sleep before it all starts again.

Back to Hegg Mac and talking to Matthias it seems the name is taken from a colloquialism with an added Scottish twist, basically meaning de stressing, going with the flow and Scottish, even Applecross style. Thought about that many times this evening when it all could have been so different.

Now 6.00am and all is well after my mini scare, the Varuna is back on her moorings, sitting peacefully as though nothing had happened, and I am going to bed after having an hour and a half sleep. So Hegg Mac works but a wee insight to what goes on behind the scenes in getting some langoustines on the plate.

Hydro Walk and Local Colour.

(Friday evening) Down from a trip up to the Head of the Community Hydro to show Rosslyn and brother Gordon the set up.

We had gone to the Turbine House where Owen joined us but he had band practice so did not head up the track. The view on the way down was worth the trip up on its own. Sights, sounds and chat all contributed to affine evenings walk. Having hauled 360 creels earlier in the day did not lessen the enjoyment although the legs felt it a little. Gordon is well versed in the industry, being involved in geotech in Norway, and may well come up with some new ideas to use the energy locally.

Lots of questions about generation, best times for usage, how much etc. Always good to see things from an outside perspective, learnt that early on in the volunteering scene. On the way up there are always colours

and nature to see and I was always being left behind both on the way up and back down. With the unusual dry spell we are in the 52% down spell included in the business plan.

(Saturday evening) Finishing up at the Inn tonight as have not the energy to go down to the Community Hall to hear the Band of Matthias. Germans playing rock covers. Busy enough evening but little contact, maybe a wee bit too tired but as long as no one knows. Coming up to eighteen hours since work began, earlier start with lambs calling and the rain falling, an unusual occurrence over the last three weeks. Not a fan of dozing so got up and used the forecast for the beginning of the week to get out. Bit of wind on the way so next week not expected to start before Thursday. There was a bit of a change in the blue skies we have had over the last few days.

Was fortunate to only have to haul four fleets as the fishing was fairly good. Despite having a fleet cut and not retired and losing a fleet, suspect some of the buoys the pile barge had wrapped around it was two of mine.

Two fleets down just now having lost one to the north, failing to recover that one after three tries. Not to panic as I will get it back eventually. That is fishing, plan a boat drying out and pressure wash, oil change and a trip to Inverness via Loch Ness Inn when it is windy. No end to the hours of activity. But in amongst it all I enjoy the chats with the elders of the community, random craic about sheep, peat cutting and had a visit from the south end of Raasay. A chap, Willie, who fished on the Mary Ann with my Dad no less. These little dips into the past are good for keeping the older folk alive, the oral history of the area will become harder to maintain in another generation as the world becomes more mobile. Well it is now kicking out time………. and done in the best possible taste.

The colours at sea

and on the shore

are equal to those on land, mostly they are out of sight and mind so tend not to be looked after as well but more of that next.

The light on the way down from the hydro did take the breath away though.

So Much…..

Siting at the menu table after 4 hours work and just before it all kicks off again you wonder how on earth she runs this place the way she does. I have only been here for the weekend, granted I have also been fishing and washing creels and trying to sort a breakdown in the last couple of days, but running the Applecross Inn takes a phenomenal effort. When things are running okay it is busy, food, accommodation, drink and people all coming in and going out the door. The Dream Machine outside is also ploughing on with haddock, Aron’s ice-cream and coffee all going south as fast as it is being made or fried. As well as all this the roof needs done, the cold store gets put outside to make way for more space in the Prep room, new gas boilers and constant repairs for accommodation. For me, without all the extra stuff, this morning from just after eight it was checking out residents, taking booking for accommodation and meals for anytime this summer, bottling up the bar, cutting lemons, changing the menu board, ordering soft drinks and answering random requests from the phone, redirecting customers to the Walled Garden for breakfasts, sorting the float out for the Dream Machine and finally getting the crashed till system up and running again. Twelve o’clock now so the day starts. That plus another twelve staff, cooking, serving breakfast, servicing rooms, prepping, preparing salads…..

(The above was written in the heat of the battle just before twelve last Sunday, cannot believe that it is ten days since last post). Having said that, looking back on the photos there has been a lot packed in. The weather has been immense over the past while, to the extent of having three fires in Applecross in 24 hours. The first one in Toscaig had about ten residents and holiday makers beating out a fire across from the old homestead. The following day I called in one that started on the Coast Road, across the Bay. The opinion was that this was started by a passing car throwing a cigarette out. The Fire Brigade came from over the Hill as well as our beaters. If this had not been tackled, judging by the flames seen across from the Inn, this one had the potential to race up the Hillside behind Cruary. While the Brigade were in another one was called in at the Campsite and seems this was caused by wood worm dust coming down on an extractor fan, over heating, setting off what could have been a serious fire at the Steading. Pure coincidence/luck that the fire men were in Applecross and were diverted from across the Bay. Story is that another ten minutes and there would have been serious damage.

The week has been taken up with some long days, combining the fishing and the Inn. This is what I have been telling myself during the winter that I work the whole year during the summer months and should not feel so bad during the winter wind down. Yesterday, for example, I was up at 6.30am, fishing till around 3.30pm, landed the langoustine and squat tails, a half hour on the couch and shower before going up to the Inn till just before midnight. Finding the Inn very rewarding these days, meeting lots of folk, both regular and new arrivals. The weather makes such a difference to people’s moods and on week’s like these no wonder so many people come for a “get away from it all” holiday. And there are some who get that bit more, speaking to Ian last night and we were talking about the essence of the place, a spiritual peace. The bubble of the Inn can be left behind by walking in any direction for ten minutes and you enter a place of peaceful serenity. At a meeting last week I asked some one to describe the character of Applecross, he could not which I found a little disturbing as he is tasked with conserving it. But more of that later. I love being surrounded by people’s contentedness, happiness, pleasure of visiting such a beautiful part of the world and you try to covey to them what it is like to live here. Despite being hectic, busy, sometimes not enough time to stop and look around, the conversations you have with people like the Walkers or Ian, who obviously connect with the place, reinforce the feeling of pure joy of living in Applecross. Very occasionally there is a spare room available due to late cancellations and one such was filled on Sunday. I showed them the room and left smiling at how excited she was by the room the view and the promise of good food, a Hungarian who had just come of the ferry from one of the Western Isles having the holiday that they will never forget. You meet the world and their dogs at the Inn, so far not a Trump voter in sight, and there are a large number of Americans on the move.

The fishing had taken a bit of a dip last week but seems to have recovered somewhat on the last couple of hauls, catching enough to keep both Inns supplied. This morning there was an early start to get some langoustines over to the east coast with a regular carrier who was heading back with an empty lorry. The sights and sounds on the fishing trips are as varied as ever, some soaring and graceful,

some that jar, who is watching who,

traffic as other marine users ply their trade and make their up the Inner Sound,

natures intriguing creatures,

this being a Rhizostoma octopus floating by, I stopped to take a couple of shots but as the tide was flowing found it quite hard to manoeuvre, but pleased with the effect of the exhaust discharge on the water over it

and just the views of all the different goings on

and weather

fill one up.

Even the blackbacks have a certain beauty.

Still time for Dougal and Co to go for a wander on the mornings I do not go to sea. The advantage of being single-handed was I had time to recover on Monday morning before going out to haul two hundred creels in the afternoon to keep the Inn going. A walk is as good as a rest.

The trips home on the bike from the Inn are as good an example of the contrasts that Applecross throws up. Serving a hundred and fifty folk followed by a serene cycle home in the moonlight.

The rest of today , although the plans have not been set out properly yet, involve most of the rest of the day off with just a stop off at Aird to pick up a half ton of bait for the creels on the way home. The plan is to head north to Ullapool, eventually for a spot of music, possibly an art gallery visit and a dog walk thrown in. And it seems the weather is holding out so looking forward to a busy day off. Again so much has been going on so will try and catch up over the weekend as there was another film crew on board the Varuna and two more Consultation Meetings plus a missed CC Meeting due to tired head. Onwards. Duncan Chisholm on the stereo certainly setting us up for the rest of the day.




Just finished a fairly busy shift at the Inn but heart not in it with the news from Plockton. One of our community of fishermen is missing with the boat being found across the loch. A heavy feeling and cannot help imagining the scenario. Will never know but that does not stop the mind playing out the final scene. Tonight we did not have a table ready for a booking and they could not understand why, another trio went away because they were made unwelcome……..they came back and that was repaired but putting everything into perspective I feel so sad. It was only this week that Walter, who was staying round the coast, had gone to Plockton, met with Bruce, and came back with my nickname and a “how are you doing”. Not only do you never expect it to happen to you but you do not expect it to happen to fishermen you know. There are many communities but the one I belong to, despite our ups and downs and disagreements, is a special one and if you lose a member it stops you in your tracks and does make you think that bit deeper. I often have to fend off comments of why are you not out today?. Luckily I have got to that stage in life where I do not have to justify whether I go out or not. Thoughts with the family, it must be a hundred times worse for them. Still a very faint hope that I may be assuming the worst but three days of searching the shoreline around Loch Kishorn has not produced anything positive. (Now a week later and I am afraid we have to bow to the inevitable)

Maybe todays driech weather adds a little to the mood but thoughts that Spring had arrived have dissipated a little. Fresh breeze blowing mostly from the west making fishing non existent and hard work when we get out. The catches have tailed off a little meaning that more fleets of creels have to be hauled to keep the supply going. Unfortunately we are a little out of sync with the numbers of people who have descended on Applecross. Even in the poor weather langoustine and scallops are the popular dishes. Creel caught always get mentioned as many people have not experienced the firm flesh of the creel caught as opposed to the trawled variety. But Spring has arrived between the showers and the snow forecasts

and some days at sea have been spectacular in their clarity.

The other days you just get through.

It is often at sea I see the arrivals and departures as indications of a change in the seasons. When you see buds appearing often there may be snow following. When you cycle home from the Inn on a Sunday evening and you see the three whooper swans take off in line head south and then wheel off to the north flying over Milton to disappear to the north up the Glen then you know Spring has arrived. A truly awesome sight as you see them at the start of a journey that will take them hundreds of miles north for the Summer. Now we have six more on the Loch, one assumes they are ones from further south who are resting for a few days before heading north.

One swallow does not make a Summer but two bonxies make a Spring.

No grass cutting till the dandelions are away as the bees are flying on the odd days of warm sunshine.

We had a week of fantastic sunsets, possibly two weeks ago, time flys, every one different.

Last Wednesday was a day of contrasts. early start to get my bulkhead filter changed and land langoustines for the Inn before taking out a couple of boys from Deep South who wanted to film for a pilot show about outdoor/wild activities and it seems, through a contact, I fitted the bill. All was going well until trying to get the filter back together. I have had trouble in the past with this but after a couple of hours, gave up, sacrificed a washer and it all came together making sure everything wa sealed up as it was downline from the fuel pump so would draw air if not. Knackered with the effort in a cramped space but was just on time for the boys and a decreasing north westerly. Have to be careful with passengers assessing how assimilated they are to the work space and Rufus and Steve did not have their sea legs. The day gradually improved and they seemed happy with what they filmed. They tried a drone flight but was aborted as on the way up it hit one of the buoys on the cat rail, adroitly caught by Steve before disappearing down under. Unfortunately my battery was flat so no photos of the film crew. Ashore in time for a shift at the Inn and the visitors have arrived. There is little time to make much contact now as the numbers mean that you are just trying to find them a table to eat a meal before the next wave comes in.

Saturday and Sunday shifts were a bit like that but still the welcome must be maintained or there is little point in being there. I think that there could hardly be a worse place to work if you did not want to. Having said that when you are a little under pressure some one says something or orders something that is either misheard/misconstrued or just plain wrong you have to keep smiling and back stage there are plenty people to laugh at you as can be seen when little Missy from Aussie land appears with a “mistake” on a plate.

We have attracted a group of Polish residents from London….they drive up every third or forth weekend, the group getting bigger and bigger, Sunday lunch found them colouring in the kiddies drawing books while waiting for lunch, different but then this is the Inn.

Even dealing with the numbers there is nowhere else one would want to be.

A Mother’s Day to end all Mother’s Days

So that was Mother’s Day at the Inn. With the blue sky start to the day and langoustines in great demand yesterday it was out to the Varuna for the rest of Thursday’s catch. On up to the Inn, landed and cooked off for service, it was straight onto the bottling up before the doors opened and stayed open for the day. The weather was stunning and at one stage we had Spanish sitting beside Italians, Dutch drinking coffee outside and Serbians scoffing wine in the Garden. This went on until the magnificent sunset occurring during evening service.

There was an indication that the day was going west when the first order of the day was 7 coffees and a tea and that was followed ten minutes later by 8 Hot Chocolate Fudge Cakes. We knew they were coming and come they did. Boss was back in control and only had a minor panic for ten minutes when a three on the Big Table were still there when the eight came in for the same table. But as usual it all works out but we needed the good weather for the diners who sat in the Garden. The Walled Garden was busy as most of the Applecross residents headed up there knowing the Inn would be busy. Good to see so many familiar faces who keep coming back, from Lochcarron, Kyle, Kishorn, Achanalt and the rest of the Highlands. Slightly off-putting having more and more people call me by name and I have not a clue who they are. Just managed to dig up a memory for the costume designer from London who was chatting to me before Christmas. Graeme’s folks were over (Bloody Project) and news breaking this week that the film rights of the novel have been sold. I reckon with careful sustainable development Applecross Community can create employment directly and indirectly from all this activity. It is already underway with projects like the Brewery and the Community Company activities. And as the Consultation has progressed the potential in the Community is apparent, but more of that soon.

The days at sea have been a limited lately but as the catch has been fairly good

the langoustines have stayed on the menu board and are selling really well.

The weather helps so much, sitting in the Inn Garden eating creel caught langoustines from the waters you are looking over, sun shining from a crystal clear blue sky…. can not get much better. As the sun is setting and there is a bit of chill in the air

people head for the warmth of the Inn but customers were torn between the stunning scene outside or eating the wonderful produce caught off the Scottish shores.

Yesterday the weather was perfect and the Bay called with the dogs. And here he comes

bounding along with endless energy

followed by the more sedate mammy.

Beech trees are looking imposing in the morning sunlight.

It is so uplifting although by the time I made it home the last two or three days activity had caught up and it was dozing on the couch until a shift at the Inn. Could tell there were plenty of people about during the day mainly as the run on langoustines meant an early start is planned for Monday morning. Ended up staying till after twelve to let all the staff down to the Rock and Roll Disco and Dance show at the Hall. Cycled past resisting the temptation to call in. Cannot do everything and the missing hour beckons. When you sit down and write what goes on here you realise how much goes on and I have not been posting so much of the activities but as Spring marches in we shall try to do a wee catch up in the next few days.

A Walk between the Showers.

Thursday, after a very lazy morning, to get into the mood for the evening shift at the Inn and as the sun was shining, a walk to Ardbain was called for with my two mates.

There was a pretty healthy breeze blowing from the west

but the walk in with the usual companions was bright,


and sheltered.

In the right conditions you would be hard pushed to find such a beautiful wander, certainly on the west coast. If you can time it with the low tide all the better.

The active weather out west breaks up the views,

with the constantly changing dark showers sweeping in from the islands. Sometimes with all that is going on here, it is tempting to just drop out and live right on the edge.

But after ears flowing in the wind

it is back to the hubbub of life in Applecross and the Inn.

Mr Chisholm Accompanies One

Walking back from the Inn on a dark and damp Friday night, I realised that distance and time can be measured in music, especially if you are listening to one of the Duncan Chisholm Trilogy. In this case it was Affric, An Ribhinn Donn get you under way, followed by the cascading Big Archie and before you know it before Night in That Land comes on. It was a perfect way to come home after a very, very enjoyable evening.

The lead up to the show earlier could have been more relaxed as it has turned out to be a very busy week. A gentle start as still recovering from the lurgie on Monday but was out in the evening, initially at the Inn, but ended up at the Community Hall, for a meeting about Out of Hours in Applecross. Only being lightly involved in local politics and finding that hard enough I do not envy those at either Highland or National level. In this case we heard how times have changed and we no longer have as good a supply of GPs as we would like and those new do not have the 24/7 commitment to coverage that those in the past had in the Dr Findlay’s days. Mind you there is probably less alcoholism now as in the old days. We can consider ourselves so very fortunate in our current Situation. Even the managers were suggesting we have as good a service as any where round the Highlands. But Doctors need time off and the cover is going to be still locum but is also going to be a mix of paramedics and nurse practitioners. This has already happened and there seems to be little concerns in the community. The ambulance service were also present and first responders are back on the menu. We were going down this route before but was stalled due to an unresponsive SAS, but that has now been solved and the Health Care Assoc is going to take this on. The defribs are now in town and hope to be in position in the next month or so. Being Applecross it is not one or two but six are going t be installed round the Community, monies all raised within the Community itself. Certainly impressed the managers.

Tuesday saw the CC meeting take place, constructive and frustrating at the same time. Knowing we have little powers and can only keep telling the authorities about the state of the Bealach. However there does seem to be a bit of action, partly as a result of photos of the deterioration of the road that we send in. Newspapers are always looking for angles on the NC500 and when you talk to a journalist giving two sides you leave yourself wide open to editing, but it turned out to be fairly balanced. Some people on the following Facebook steam say exactly the opposite of what you want to put across. Everyone, in my view is welcome, but it is going to put an undoubted strain on our infrastructure. Many communities would wish our problems

Wednesday and my fishing career has restarted.


I had been out to the Varuna on Tuesday afternoon to link up my new batteries and fire her up for the first time this year. Bit suspicious that I have a dead cell in the system so isolate the lighting bank as a reserve. The batteries are new because of one of those little mishaps, perfectly avoidable, but happen anyway and end up with you poorer and with a sore head from hitting it against a wall. Had two ashore, fully charged and back in the van when I was asked to nip over the Hill to pick up a couple of Internet boys from the train. Remembered the batteries in the back, the slidey floor and the insecure back door. The van is not quite a Teuchter wagon but is heading there. I actually stopped, but the hand brake never held so went round the next bend. Big mistake as two £100 batteries shot out the back door and lay smashed on the Bealach. Did not stop hitting the steering wheel until after Kishorn. Fishing went surprisingly well with only one out of the five fouled up. I have realised this week how much I have missed the sea with all its magic,





and life.



Dozen  kilos and a few squats means the year is under way, langoustines and squats now back on, well appreciated on Thursday evening by the regulars, five squat lobster in garlic starters with Isla having chips and salad with hers. Fine food for a young un. These squats were caught on the way back from Rona,


was there with Sean trying to link up the Applenet but did not go all to plan as a bit of kit was forgotten. Shows up how the stretched capacity of the community does break at times. If we had two people involved then a phone call back to Applecross, an instruction for some one on the computer and all would have been sorted. Still some work done


and may be finished through a phone call. This was exactly the chat I had with an MSP who stayed at the Inn on Wednesday evening. Our community capacity is being stretched so thinly, but soldiering on we will continue. Good to chat to a Chair of one of the Committees that have an over view of rural life. You can still give him the difficulties of survival over here even if he is at the opposite end of the spectrum with your political views. Working at the Inn has taught the ability to accept the many faces of human nature and not react adversely. I was being watched by the regulars who were imaging newspaper headlines the next day involving front of house in fracas with landowner

So we are up to Friday and third day in  row we are off to sea. Bit of a breeze but just a little more than gentle. Again good run with another five up with only one foul and it had been lifted by a neighbour possibly exacerbating the work. Due a wash so took it closer to home. Friday evening was earmarked for a movie showing and to be frank I was not enthusiastic, it being a hard few days and managing to squeeze in a short sharp migraine on Thursday night. However well worth the effort as Postcards from Applecross was a cracking video taking in different aspects around the community. Nick, Stephen and lately Angelica have put together a series of  short videos lasting an hour showing the variety of occupations and life styles on the peninsula.They ranged from the croft to the sea taking in the Inn, wool dyeing, ice-cream making and photography on the way. I found it very touchingly simple, getting to the soul of the community, but not branding it in a tourist sort of way. Regular visitors to the Inn will love a glimpse into how people live in order to stay here. The beauty of the place is shown in the photography of Jack’s, Angelica and Nick, who sadly passed away last year. Had a lot of time for Nick who fell in love with our wee place and he came out on the boat for a day, becoming colder than he had ever been in his life. He was a quiet gentle man and with an eye to his surrounds.

Footnote to the evening; I walked up to the Hall and soon after leaving the house a car passed and then stopped to give me a lift as Fiona saw there were no dogs being walked. Chatting away I was slightly taken aback as we scooted past the Hall. Fiona then commented that she was going up to the Bay as she was slightly early, methinks this is a little unusual but okay. She then mentions she is heading out to dinner and not to the Hall. So half way round Milton Loch we screech to a stop as we both assumed we were heading for different destinations. Me to work and her to the Hall instead of where we were really going…me to the Hall and her to Gordon and Val’s.

Back to Mr Chisholm and this afternoon on the wood run. I had moved onto Cannich and it took all of that album plus the tracks up to the third , Lorient Mornings of  Farrar, to load up what felt like a 3/4 ton of wood,


shifting it 50 metres to the van. It was heavy going but with his beautiful, haunting fiddling playing, the graft on a driech day was minimal. Dougal and Eilidh were in their own world but never far from all the ditches.


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