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

Posts tagged ‘wild life’

Well Managed Forests are an Asset.

Nice breezy day where, completely justified decision was taken in not going fishing today. Fine morning for looking across to the Cullin




while the Dog family race around checking for any rodents. Although it seems not a lot of constructive work was done, prawns were delivered to the Inn and a few headed down the A9, watched from the wires,


sent a few emails, and pondered a few sticky local problems. Despite a positive outlook on where I live there are always little disputes going on most of the time. I tend not to concentrate on these issues as there is too many positive events and projects going. Maybe there is a need within a community for some people to focus on items that do not work to balance out the more positive actions taking place here. Our growing trachles surrounding the community minibus are starting to get just a little embarrassing, it will be sorted but only hope there will not be too many casualties on the way. Some of the afternoon was taken up with a bit of bee keeping and well impressed by their efforts, will manage to get some honey of the hive sometime next month.


Nice flower by the back door, bit invasive but shows really well, as you can probably tell I have no idea what it is called.


Time is an interesting concept and also the fact that you are established in an area and not part of the now mobile population who stay in a place for 5/10/15 years and then move on. It means that some people come and go as you see changes, or not, taking places and as you age maybe you get less impatient. At the ALPS meeting tonight there were a couple of items that I found really interesting, the building of the pier at the Coalshed, and the replanting/management of the 45 odd hectares of the Gateway project. As it is going to be in the minutes anyway writing about tonight’s meeting is not revealing anything confidential. I am really interested in the replanting and the management aspects of the woodland after the clear felling especially having gained a little knowledge over the weekend’s chat. The ideas that were put forward that could mean that if the newly planted area was managed with the community in mind then it could become a huge local resource. If it was a planned planting it could provide the community with a sustainable wood fuel supply which could encourage people to move over to wood burning rather than picking up the phone to get another lorry full of oil in to fill up another tank for central heating. If this was demonstrably cheaper than fossil fuels then it becomes a no brainer. The plan would involve species selection and thinning over the next 30/50 years which keeps the woodland as a community amenity, rather than it be closed down with scrub, becoming impenetrable. Also a thinning program is proven to be beneficial to wild life. The only conflict may be how important deer are. Local employment and a sense of community pride in a well-managed woodland…what’s to lose? Over the years it has always better to fund an idea with the intention of using public money to make it sustainable and providing the public with an asset while helping the community survive and provide the services needed by that same public. Far better than knowing there is funding available and thinking what to spend it on. That to me is a misuse of public money. Pier discussion went quite well as the only contention is whether there is enough dosh to stone cad or concrete facade it. Always the conflict of keeping archeological features or the pragmatic approach of building a structure that can be used by the community after the original purpose has been completed.

Night was finished off by a saved new ice cream flavour to hit the boards….Blackcurrant which is up there with the Ripple. They just keep coming.

Andy’s Bealach,(The Road not the Pint)

My first guest writer, Andy Walker who made the brave move to Applecross a few years ago with his family, starting at the Campsite, then the Smiddy and now in Milton. Still here and intending to stay this post came about from a trip to Strathcarron where Andy was heading off to work…in the Midlands…of England and we just talked about anything and everything as you do.

Call it what you will, the Bealach na Ba, (Pass of the Cow,) Beallach nam Bo, (Pass of the Cattle,) or just The Hill, (because it is,) the formidable single track byway traversing the 2054’ Caledonian massif, which separates the butterfly-wing peninsula from the outside world, has dominated Applecross life for generations.

Legend has it that the original drover’s track was made into a proper road in 1822, thus postdating Thomas Telford’s relief network, (“Parliamentary” roads,) by a few years.  The early 1950’s saw the gravel surface being replaced by tarmacadam and signalled the start of an unprecedented influx of all types of traffic.  The attraction of visitors intent on “conquering” the Alpinesque route, with varying levels of ability and preparation, still causes regular consternation to those who use it for access in their everyday lives.  In an attempt to avoid unnecessary friction ‘twixt those tourist and indigenous, I have taken the liberty of assembling some guidelines for those less familiar with the drive over.

The road’s profile is mainly dictated by surrounding terrain, with surfaces, cambers and edgings built around an obviously beautiful but wholly unforgiving landscape.  From the outset, blind bends here are just that.  A near miss here with no run-off will usually result in an unscheduled vehicle/ditch/rock interface or even worse.  Getting it and yourself back out again will probably involve a walk, (if you still can,) to an area where there is mobile provider coverage.  Once you have managed to find signal, you will make several telephone calls to repeatedly explain your plight to various agencies.  (Expect to be called back also to explain your location again multiple times.)  The rescue process will take literally hours and as a result your visit will most certainly be cut short.  Really, the only method of prevention is to proceed both slowly and carefully.

Signposted passing places abound so please ensure you know how to use them.  The old uphill-car-gets-right-of-way rule was written for cars with leather clutches – the vehicle at or nearest the passing place at the time should stop regardless whilst remaining on the correct side of the road.  This also applies for first-time drivers of rented motorhomes, (contrary to romanticised folklore, these are always equipped with a reverse gear and mirrors so please locate both before reaching Hut Brae.)  Talking of mirrors, the driver of the car behind which is flashing its headlights is politely requesting that you pull in to let them pass (which, if you read more roadsigns, you are legally obliged to do.).  An occasional eye in the rearview will go far towards fostering a good relationship with those not on holiday.

The local wildlife here is just that.  Deer, birds, otters, pine martins and the like will undoubtedly make unexpected appearances along the Highland way, not just up The Hill either!  They are all masters of camouflage; however deer pose an especially real threat to those really not expecting twenty stones of heather-coloured venison to leap onto their car bonnet.  It happens.

It has been said that a deer uphill of you may well cross in front without warning, whilst a deer downhill of you will continue in the direction that gravity would dictate.  Obviously though the downhill deer may not be aware of this rule so please be careful.

Suicidal lambs will often pounce from gaps in drystone dykes.  A fully-grown verge-positioned sheep on the left and a doleful bleating from behind a pile of rocks on the right should signify an imminent reuniting of mother and offspring.  Playing the new top twenty at full blast while descending the last mile into the village probably means that your mind is not completely on the job in hand.  Stamping out burgers through your radiator grille is not yet an EU-sanctioned method of meat preparation and will play havoc with the cooling system.

Lastly, but by no means leastly, cyclists, please consider all of the above before letting it all go on that admittedly spectacular descent.  Round that next blind bend there just may be a rented motorhome reversing into a passing place and your extrication from the bicycles hanging on the rear rack thereon may prove quite confusing.  (Please may I also refer you to the passing place rules above?)

Please bear in mind that these are working communities.  Consideration by all and to all will keep things moving, if only slowly at times and more patience than usual may be required.  The road to Applecross has never been classified with good reason!

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.

At last, the smell of early summer

Almost a week in the life of….

It has been a few days of dramatic contrasts spending a busy evening at the Inn on Wednesday followed by a day on the water on thursday. Mike came out with Lyndsey’s brother and in-law and they seemed to enjoy the day out. It is always good to have people out to see how you work. Lots of good chat about what to do with the world, Scotland and land. Although much of the day is routine to me they saw dogfish, baby cuttlefish,sun starfish, codling,ling,haddock,queen scallop spate and butterfish. By the afternoon they got stuck into tailing a basket of squats for the Inn. The evening was back at the Inn where it is gradually winding up to Easter weekend. Was pretty beat up by 11pm so bailed out as I was off to Inverness the next morning. Going to Inverness is a community event where you end up doing things for other people as well as a stack of stuff for the house and boat. Met up with Joanne of the Cnoc Inn with her prawns and then headed down to the Loch Ness Inn with their order.Had a chat with Debs who has cooked in the Applecross Inn and she seems well contented with her new role and is getting people excited in the Drum area with her new menus. The Loch Ness seems to be attracting more and more business and a lot of it is local which is a good sign for any pub.Inverness beckoned. It was a rapid shop involving bike repair shop, outboard repairs, food shops at the Co-op and Wholefoods culminating with some shoe shopping.Always people you know and met with one of the Trustees and could only wish the conversation was closer to the policies carried out by the majority of the more far flung Trustees. I reckon my least favourite activity is probably shopping. Almost forgot my visit to the Garden centre where I bought my seeds and seed potatoes. I feel I am falling behind on my growing this year but we will see. The country I live in is one of the most beautiful in the world and it is the sudden changes in the light that contributes to this. My photos do no justice but I will keep trying. On the way home going towards Achanalt this scene showed its magic.The Inn was heaving with visitors by the time I arrived back home so it was a quick unload and away home where I have not spent much time lately. Fishing on saturday I find really enjoyable, radio4 playing in the morning with such a variety of programmes as bizarre pet treats, the Week at Westminster to the brilliant Foreign Correspondents. This week was mostly about Bosnia 20 years on and it was very thought-provoking. While this goes on you work away through your day with nature as your companion. The skuas have arrived alongside waiting for the old bait to be thrown to them. They used to chase the gulls around in the sky to make them sick up their food so they catch it before it falls to the sea. Now they have realised that they can short-circuit this by just getting the bait straight from me. Whether we like it or not we affect every bit of the natural world we come into contact with.The fulmars have also turned up in the last couple of days. I like the way they scurry about picking up little bits of bait and chasing the gulls of with little oily threats.This post has turned out to be a really good way to wind down after a hectic shift at the Inn. It started of fairly quiet but by 7pm there were customers queuing for tables and it is not really surprising. The atmosphere and contentment were apparent and most left satisfied by 11pm. Lots of good craic and banter throughout the evening particularly from the biker loon from the east. Mike is back up from Edinburgh and I always have a good challenging conversation with him. Many thoughts still buzzing around so it’s a bit of a read before winding up for the night. After thought, Ukraine and NZ arrived last night.

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