Welcome to the first blog post of 2018… which is a bit late because it is now March!
The area is beginning to open up again as we quickly approach the Easter weekend at the end of the month. You can see opening hours for our local establishments below. New to the blog is ‘History Fact of the Month’ and a few more features which I hope will become a regular addition. I feel that enough has been said for the moment about the state of our roads, and the lack of gritting, so its time for some new features and subjects. Welcome to Kishorn.
The first Kishorn school, now known as the Meeting House, was built in the 1840s. The school was run and managed by the church, with the board being chaired, at one time, by the Rev Kenneth MacDonald who was minister in Applecross. He was also the school inspector and many inspections were undertaken to make sure that the pupils were showing good understanding of the bible and Christian faith along with reading and writing. One such inspection is documented below. School attendance became compulsory in 1880, though a survey undertaken in the 1890’s suggested that only around 80% of eligible children were attending school. But the Kishorn school received over 130 bibles to add to its school library at that time, which is maybe an indication of just how many children were attending the school.
The first state school was built across the road from the Meeting House just before the turn of the century and the premises became vacant. However a local board of trustees was established, mostly comprising of church elders, to manage the building as a church. The Meeting House continued to be used as a church right up until around 2006. But with no toilet or kitchen facilities, the building was used less and less. It was also used as a polling station during elections, but this ceased after the 2014 Independence Referendum with the building being officially declared as ‘unfit for purpose’. It has not been used since then. But now, as of last month, work is being undertaken to convert the Meeting House into a habitable building once more and I am delighted to be able to document the conversion from start to end. You can follow these updates on the Kishorn Online website, Facebook page and also here on the blog.
The Stromeferry Bypass. Need I say any more. I have not heard any updates for months. We continue to wait for the council to announce their chosen option for a replacement which will be either a new bypass through Glen Udalain, diverting from the current road between Attadale and the top of the Auchtertyre hill, or a new bridge crossing at Strome with a Lochcarron bypass. Money wise, it seems that the Glen Udalain route is cheaper and therefore I assume this will be the route chosen. If you have read the option plans carefully, you will notice that under the Glen Udalain section is a paragraph which states that to save even more money, the foundations would be laid for a double track road but only a single track road would be tarmaced. In due course and once more funds became available, the second lane would be tarmaced. By the time you put in passing places you might as well just join them all up to create the full second lane! I continue to be disappointed about the lack of support from the Scottish and UK Governments, and our local MPs and MSPs. This is a huge issue, and no help has been offered. The fact is, yes the bypass is a council road, but the council cannot replace it without help from our Governments. There has been so much “council road council problem” that I am beginning to wonder whether anything will actually happen. And if, WHEN, something does go wrong, who will take responsibility? Or will the blame be thrown around like rugby ball?
Speaking of rugby and any sport for that matter, the Kishorn Playing Field Club are putting plans together for this year. We have set dates and activities this time which we hope will make it easier for people to plan to come along! We are also putting plans together for a big beach clean in conjunction with various local residents and organisations including the Countryside Rangers. The date for the diary is Saturday 9th June and it is hoped that we can also have an evening event or outdoor ceilidh with a barbecue. Keep up to date with the Dell activity sessions by going to http://www.kishornplayingfieldclub.wordpress.com and . Information will also be posted on the various Kishorn Online pages.
The power of social media has enabled us to follow the clearing of snow from the Bealach na Ba which has seen some huge snow drifts this year! The Bealach is now a priority one route for gritting which means that it is one of the first routes in the area to be gritted and cleared. But the heavy duty snow clearing machines (that are fitted to tractors) were brought in again last month and it is amazing to see before and after photos of the route. We are of course indebted to our local road teams for all their hard work in what has been a bad winter in terms of snow and ice.
The planned six week closure of the Bealach has been pushed back to avoid Easter. The closure will now start on the 9th April and will be closed between the following times:
Monday to Friday: 9am – 4pm CLOSED.
Monday to Friday: 5:30pm – 11pm CLOSED.
The Bealach will remain open on Saturdays and Sundays but motorists will face delays.
The closure is to allow the safe installation of a new broadband cable to the MoD base in Applecross, but I am very pleased to see reports that the cable will now be extended to properties in Applecross too. But 22 houses is not good enough, and when you have all the machines and equipment over there and road closures in place you might as well complete all the property and business connections. Hopefully more properties will soon be added to the 22. Highland Council also intend to do some road repairs and maintenance while the route is closed.
Towards the end of February, Kishorn and neighbouring communities endured an evening and night of very intense thunder, lightning and hail. This caused the power to go off several times. The power was not off for long, and of course a massive thanks to engineers Donnie and Charlie for working in those horrendous conditions to get the power back on. In Kyleakin, a section of the Castle Moil castle was struck by lightning and a chunk of the old stone wall is now missing. It is always a good idea to keep an old phone (that does not run on electricity) for use during power cuts. You can phone 105 during a power cut to report it, and also to hear service information from the local electricity base. Within five minutes of the power going off, a message had been put on this phone number to inform the affected areas (listed by place name and postcode) that they were aware of the problem and that the engineers were already en-route. That is local communication at its best!
It will not be long before we start to see lambs and young livestock appearing in the local fields and crofts. There is some uncertainty as to what happens if a dog in particular is seen to be chasing or attacking or hassling livestock. This is called ‘worrying’ and also covers pregnant livestock.
From Police Scotland:
Under the “Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953”, farmers or crofters have the right to kill an offending dog as a last resort, when other forms of intervention have been unsuccessful. The owner or person in charge of the dog can be charged with an offence and be fined up to £1000, as well as being made to pay a compensation order. The Local Authority can also apply for an order to have an offending dog destroyed. Crofters or farmers, and also members of the public, are encouraged to contact police via 111 (connects to Kyle (or sometimes Lochcarron) police station) or 999 in an emergency to report livestock ‘worrying’. For the sake of the livestock and of your dogs, can I politely ask all dog owners in the community to make sure that their dogs are kept under control at all times when there is livestock nearby. Sheep and livestock ‘worrying’ will not be tolerated. Thank you.
I continue to see, in slight disbelief, that the Highland Council have progressed with plans for their random big outdoor information point shelter things, also to the surprise of many councillors! What a complete and utter waste of money when, in Lochcarron in particular, we already have a successfully iGallery and Information Point. What would we rather… Lochcarron Public Toilets open all year round or some sort of information structure? The Scottish Government in their budget announced their continued contribution to the Highlands (take ‘Highlands’ with a pinch of salt) through the Inverness City Region deal which we have not seen anything of. The Scottish Government have been too relaxed in giving a huge sum of money to the council. I believe that it should of been split by Ward area, with each council ward receiving a certain amount of money to spend on their own projects. Will we see anything of the millions given to the region? We wait in hope.
Also announced in the Scottish Government budget was their plans to build 50,000 homes. I will do all I can to get as many new houses for the area as possible, in a place desperate for more housing to keep people in the area. Thank you to all the local people that have already offered their support. But it is maybe also a time to think about some sort of local trust or board that buys and renovates empty houses, and then offers them for rent on the local property market. Several schemes already exist across the Highlands and Islands and have been successful in retaining full time residents in the community. Something to think about.
It was announced that Applecross firm Northwind Engineering, who have their boatyard in Kishorn, were awarded a contract by fish farm company Scottish Sea Farms to build a brand new landing craft for the SSF site in Loch Nevis. It is fantastic that local companies like this one are thriving and it allows people to stay and work in the area. The full statement can be found in the News section of the Kishorn Online website but here is a small section from it :
“Applecross-based firm Northwind Engineering has begun work on its largest contract to date, having been appointed by Scottish Sea Farms, one of the country’s leading producers of responsibly farmed salmon, to build a new state-of-the-art landing craft worth £700,000.”
“Not only is the landing craft the engineering firm’s biggest project in terms of value, it’s also its biggest in terms of physical size too, measuring 17.5m long and 7.25m wide. Equipped with an Amco Veba crane with a 30-tonne/metre lift, and offering an overall deck load of 35 tonnes, it will be powered by two Doosan engines whose advanced technologies offer maximum fuel efficiency with minimum emissions.”
Here are the planned opening hours for our own Kishorn businesses:
Currently open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays 10:30am – 4:30pm.
Open full time from the 23rd March 10:30am – 4:30pm.
Currently open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 10am – 3:30pm.
Open full time from the 19th March (hours tbc).
Reopens on the 20th March.
Open every day (closed Mondays) 10am – 5pm.
The Kishorn Online website has had a revamp with a new design and new information pages. There are new History pages which are currently under construction, but this section will make up over a quarter of the whole website. The News page is now being regularly updated. The email address remains the same, as do the Facebook and Instagram pages. Keep in touch! I would as always be very pleased to hear from you.
The Selfie Box will be coming out of ‘Winter Mode’ soon and new displays will be going up. I’m planning to put the ‘History Fact of the Month’ up in the Selfie Box too. Maybe you have a red telephone box in your community that needs adopting… please get in touch because I would love to see a red Selfie Box trail. I can offer guidance and advice from our own one here in Kishorn, and set it up with the basic window & external signage and selfie cards. It does not involve a lot of work, apart from a clean and tidy every few months. But of course the BT adoption scheme means that each community can put their own spin on these iconic structures.
The official start of the tourist season is just a week or two away and I’d like to wish all our local businesses the very best for the coming season. I would also like to wish you all, the readers, the best for 2018 though I know that we are now well into the new year! There are lots of exciting projects being planned for Kishorn this year, and we are of course looking forward to some Spring and Summer days with sunshine. Keep up to date with everything right here, through Kishorn Online. Not only do I document Kishorn’s past, or post about goings on in the present day, its also all about the future. The future of Kishorn.
On the 20th November at 14:30, the alarm was raised on the discovery of the Applecross fishing boat ‘Varuna’ grounded on the shore. There was no-one on board.
This sparked a major search involving the RNLI, coastguard, rescue helicopter and many members of the community. The search continued over a number of weeks, sometimes in challenging weather conditions. The family of Ali “Snoddy” MacLeod used his Applecross Life blog to keep the community updated on the search. His body was found on the 9th December at Staffin. My thoughts are very much with the family of Mr MacLeod, and also his home community of Applecross. I met him several times in his secondary role at the Applecross Inn, having usually just delivered his fresh catch – ready to be served to dinners in the world famous inn.
Many people forget how dangerous fishing is, but also how much a part it plays in the lives of so many people on the West in particular. It really is true when they say it is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
On Friday 15th December, many people were following the drifting of the fish feed vessel MV Fame off the coast of Harris and the subsequent attendance of both Stornoway and Leverburgh RNLI lifeboats and the emergency tug from Kirkwall. Many people were quick to criticise the ‘toxic’ cargo (is fish feed toxic..?) and what would happen if she had grounded and been holed. This is of course linked to the ongoing argument about retaining an emergency towing tug in Stornoway as well as in Kirkwall. But I would encourage anyone who criticised the MV Fame to go on a Ship AIS tracker and have a look at the number of vessels five times the size (and more!) going through the Minch everyday carrying usually crude oil. Instead of worrying about a fish feed boat, I would be worrying about these tankers and what would happen if they grounded and started leaking their cargo into our waters. Have you thought about how long it would take to bring a two hundred meter drifting tanker to a halt when the nearest suitable towing vessel could be as far away as Kirkwall in Orkney? Of course this doesn’t just apply to the Minch. Look at how many vessels pass the mouth of the loch on a daily basis, from fishing boats to submarines and the regular visitor that is the small cruise ship Hebridean Princess. Our seas are thriving, but we need adequate emergency support to be mobilised in the event of a marine emergency. Thank goodness we have many RNLI lifeboat stations and dedicated volunteers across the West, but I don’t think a lifeboat is big enough to bring a crude oil tanker under control.
I was delighted to receive a large collection of old newspaper articles from Am Baile and have started sharing them on the Kishorn Online website and social media pages (as well as my own!). It is very interesting to see accounts of events and incidents that took place in the local community, particularly about things that are not here today such as the Kishorn school. There also some sad stories reported, such as the death of a man trying to get to Applecross from Kishorn who perished in very heavy snow fall. Keep an eye out for more of these articles…
Speaking of very heavy snow fall, the Bealach was completely closed at the end of November for a few days while it was covered in snow. The Lochaber and Skye Police twitter account shared the photo below. Over the weekend of the 8th and 9th of December there was very heavy snowfall on the hills and even at sea level. This snowfall and also low temperatures resulted in many local roads being blocked. This was on a weekend, but there is a problem that exists during the week. School bus routes (notably Achintraid) are not being gritted before the school bus because they are not ‘priority one’ gritting routes. The priority route system needs redrawn. Now, almost every community wants their road gritted and I understand that it isn’t possible to do every single one. But is it not common sense, when it is the law that children should attend school, that school routes are cleared and gritted and made as safe as possible? You also cannot expect the bus drivers to drive down these roads in treacherous conditions. I am going to investigate what council schemes are available (if any) which allows communities to take control of their own gritting. If I had the money in my bank account to buy a quadbike or small tractor and purchase a grit spreading trailer then I would. But like many of us I don’t have that money. But, if the money can be found for such a scheme then I personally would commit to gritting the road before the school bus. Otherwise its a shovel and hand bucket… how long would that take me?
On the 21st November there was another landslip on the Inverness to Kyle train line, this time just past Muir of Ord. This meant that some services were cancelled. It is a reminder of how much of a lifeline this route is, and you don’t notice it until its not there! I remember a few years ago reading a letter in the local paper suggesting that the line should be completely closed and the Stromeferry Bypass road moved onto the current line away from the rock face. Apparently the service wasn’t used enough to justify it being kept open. In the middle of the winter on the evening service, yes, the train can be very quiet. But overall each day it remains a well used service and I certainly couldn’t justify closing it down.
There has been no official notification from the Highland Council about the Stromeferry Bypass but I have heard that after the latest stage in the ‘replacement journey’ it looks like a new bypass through Glen Udalain has come out on top. I’ve lost all hope of seeing work starting within five years and I just wish that the Scottish and UK Governments would commit to the project too! I have heard “council road, council problem” too many times. Enough is enough. I want the Government’s to tell us what routes can be used to get funding for the replacement option, as the Council cannot afford to fund it all.
A defibrillator is being installed at the Kishorn fish farm and although it will be located at the shore base, it will be available for any medical emergency in the village. It is becoming such a vital piece of equipment to have in any area but particularly in rural communities. I will keep you updated on the final location of the defibrillator once it is installed.
The village of Lochcarron now has several defibrillators, including one outside the village hall and one at the back of the Smithy Heritage Centre. It is fantastic that Kishorn and Lochcarron have them particularly with the amount of visitors and traffic that go through each village in the summer. I have seen that in parts of Skye and the mainland, there is a first responser scheme where several local residents are trained to assist with local medical emergencies. It is a scheme that seems to be very popular in rural and remote areas where a doctors surgery or hospital are not close by.
I am looking forward to launching the revamped Kishorn Online website in the New Year. Although I give it a ‘freshen up’ every year along with my daily and weekly updates, I have done some new design work and made the website menus less complex and more direct. Make sure that you keep up to date with the Facebook and Instagram pages too! I always enjoy seeing your photos and hearing your views.
I often look out my window and just admire the view. Sometimes I take a quick look and move on… other times I notice every crevice on the Bealach, every wave on the sea, every tree that is now bare. I forget how lucky I am not just to live in a place that has spectacular scenery and an always changing landscape, but in a place that has such a sense of community, of knowing every face. It’s a very special place, this wee west coast settlement and I look forward to returning home to it after being away, especially in the dark. Passing through Sanachan and seeing the shop sign, the light of the selfie box and the distant streetlights of Broadford as you pass the seafood bar and reach the sea again. Turning at the junction and seeing the lights of Achintraid glistening across the water… and looking forward to seeing what has changed once daylight has arrived. But although the seasons come and go, and things are built or knocked down, the Kishorn Islands still sit at the head of the loch. The tide still rises to the shingle of Achintraid beach and goes out to reveal the large expanse of flat sands. And Beinn Bhàn still looms over the settlements, with small dots of cars travelling the Bealach na Ba scattered across the slope. I would agree with anyone who says there is no place quite like home. And there is no place quite like Kishorn.
I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes, and all the best for 2018. Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur dhuibh uile.
Over the past few months, I have been monitoring the visitor statistics on the Kishorn Online website. Its shows the most viewed pages are the Bealach na Ba, Kishorn Port and Places to Stay pages. The blog is fourth.
The Bealach na Ba. One of the highest mountain roads in Britain, and the one with the steepest ascent and descent. A road that has spectacular views, and an amazingly engineered road way with stone walled supports and hairpin bends. A road some may argue was never built to accommodate the amount of traffic it does today. But I can't help thinking that not enough is done to draw attention to the pass as a roadway which was, and still is, vital for communities in the Applecross peninsula as a lifeline link and not just a 'drive by attraction'. A roadway which was constructed as a cattle track (hence Bealach na Ba, which translates from Gaelic as 'Pass of the Cattle') in order for farmers and crofters to drive (walking and herding drive, not in a vehicle!) their livestock to the Dingwall markets. What a mammoth task, a task that was no doubt undertaken in all types of weather.
Kishorn Port. Originally built to construct one of the worlds largest manmade moveable structures, the Ninian Central Oil Platform. A project that put Kishorn firmly on the map and brought thousands of workers to this remote Highland community. It also brought a lot of change not just to the dry dock area itself but in the form of new and improved roads, large housing developments to house all the workers and their families, and also the amazing Howard Doris Centre in Lochcarron. In 2013, Kishorn Port Ltd began work to resurrect the drydock which was last used in the early 90's when the round support platforms for the legs of the Skye Bridge were built there. Kishorn Port Ltd is a joint venture between Ferguson Transport and Shipping (who operate from the pier next to the drydock) and Leiths (who operate the Kishorn Quarry on the same site). The latest plans, involving the construction of turbine bases for the Kincardine Offshore Wind Project, have hit a hurdle which is why this work has not commenced yet. A statement issued by KPL can be found on the 'News' page of the Kishorn Online website: www.kishornonline.co.uk
Places to stay, be it in a local hotel or a B&B. We are lucky to have many accommodation options in the area, and the fact that this is one of the top searches on the website proves that people really are flocking to the area! I follow the tourism debate on Skye with interest, and one of their main problems is the lack of accommodation on the island. But I was reading that 'Jans' in Portree are pushing forward with plans, designed around shipping containers, for accommodation 'pods' which are compact yet suited to an overnight stay with the essentials provided in a tiny house form. It is somewhere in between glamping and a self catering house. When the media twisted the words of the local police force who apparently said that the island was 'full', there was a public outcry to make sure the world knew that Skye was indeed open for business. What should of been reported in the media was that accommodation is booked up and you can't turn up without booking anywhere and expect to find accommodation.
Debate has started again about the state of the Achnashellach road. The road is 'in the care' of the Highland Council. The Scottish Government have nothing to do with the road, apart from support from our MSPs for a new road. If the road was a trunk road, such as the Uig - Inverness - Fort William road, then the issue would be a Government issue. But the Achnashellach road is not a trunk road and is therefore the responsibility of the Highland Council. It is an issue which is also related to the Stromeferry Bypass; there are hopes that by making the bypass a trunk road, there is more chance of getting funding and a shorter timescale for a replacement option. Funding from the EU is probably not an option now, and it isn't until you realise how many of the roads around the area were built with EU funding that you start to loose hope for there ever being enough money to complete these projects. The massive double tracking project on the Kishorn side of the Kishorn Hill was funded with EU money. I remember the road before the project, and the narrow single track road that really did cling on to the side of hill with only a small stone wall between the edge and the tarmac. The new road is over ten years old... I cannot imagine the current volume of traffic being squeezed onto the old road! Several road refurbishment and widening projects between Torridon and Gairloch were carried out using EU funding. The new road between Strathcarron and Coulags was funded with EU money. I think we can say goodbye to EU money ever funding our road projects again. No hope for the Achnashellach road.
I read an article about the revised plans for the Parliamentary Constituency boundaries... and you have got to wonder who it is that is putting these plans together! The latest plans are to abolish our Westminster Government constituency, currently called Ross, Skye and Lochaber, and replace it with a Highland South constituency. This means that we will be in a massive area, which stretches from Applecross to Mallaig and across to East coast places such as Grantown on Spey. A massive distance. Isn't it interesting how one of the biggest constituencies in the whole of the UK is being made even bigger when problems already exist..? Would we see an increase in the number of MPs representing our area? Probably not. Because apparently in the Scottish Highlands we get pushed to the back and forgotten about. This re-design will affect other areas too... to such an extent that should these plans go ahead, just three MPs will represent 40% of Scotlands total landmass and we are included in that. Getting everyones voices heard? More like forgetting we even exist. You can comment on these plans by visiting www.bcs2018.org.uk.
The Selfie Box has continued to be very popular with the visitor book now full of messages. Thank you for all your comments and good wishes! The Selfie Box will soon be going into 'winter mode' and only the basic displays will remain. In case of internal or external damage during periods of severe weather, I will close the selfie box until the weather improves. The box has stood for many decades, but now it is the Selfie Box I want to make sure it remains in good condition. Apart from this, it will be open all winter!
Our local businesses will soon start to open on reduced opening hours as everyone takes a break (and a sigh of relief?!) as the area starts to quieten down. It has been a very busy season again this year. You can keep up to date with all the opening hours for the Seafood Bar, Patterns of Light gift shop and Bealach Cafe on the Kishorn Online website.
The temperature is definitely going down and no doubt we will see snow on the Bealach in the not too distant future. Because Winter (and dare I say it, Christmas!) really is just around the corner!
It's been a while since I have written a blog post... it has been a very busy few months!
There seems to be a silence being shown towards finding a replacement to the Stromeferry Bypass. The council are not keeping us regularly updated. It is not clear if we are any closer to getting a bypass, for the bypass. Last I heard, there were three different options shortlisted: a bridge, a new Glen Udalain road, and a road-on-rail tramway. If the tramway solution is chosen as the preferred option, then that will absolutely be a case of money over anything else, including the lives of the people who use it. You might think that 'peoples lives are at risk' is a bit over the top, but who can predict when the rock face will collapse next?
The UK and Scottish Government in particular seem to lack interest or support to help the Council fast forward these plans. I am constantly hearing the 'trunk road' excuse being thrown around (because the Bypass is not a trunk road, it is the responsibility of the local authority). Putting off and trying to delegate the problem is just not acceptable. Even forgetting the rockfall risk, the road is narrow with several blind corners and is no longer fit for purpose for the amount of traffic using it.
Despite the weather, the Highland Games were a success. It is fantastic that all the volunteers are willing to give up their time and bring the community together. Lochcarron has a reputation (and official title) as being "The Friendly Games" and this is all thanks to the hard work put in by the volunteers.
The creation of a speed limit through Kishorn has been brought to the attention of the community and it seems that there is a desire to have a 40mph limit introduced through the main village. I believe that the community council are currently investigating this further so watch this space. I am grateful to already have the verbal support of local residents and business owners and once we know which direction we have to head in, we can start this process. I have noticed though, in doing some internet research, that in England and Wales there is actually a Government website which enables you to request speed limit changes and this is then brought immediately to the attention of the Government/local council. This service seems to be non-existent in Scotland and the changing of a speed limit seems to be more complex.
Over the past few months, we have seen a rare seabed destroyed at Loch Carron and people were up in arms about it. Now I don't agree with scallop dredging. But there has been a massive failing in the protection of this reef. If this reef is as important as people say it is, and people already knew it was there, why has an exclusion zone not already been placed around it? Why has it only now been given official protection status, when it has been destroyed? I am however concerned to see that dredging continues in Loch Kishorn and Loch Carron. It really does anger you to see the dredging boats skirting the edge of the new exclusion zone and 'pushing their luck'. At the same time, these boats need to make a living and have to use all the available ground they can get. Instead of turning against the scallop dredging, we need to work with them. At the end of the day, whether the scallop dredger knew the reef was there or not, there has been a massive failing in the protection of this reef. And I have not seen or heard anyone point the finger of blame to the marine protection bodies.
You might be sick of hearing about the North Coast 500 with it's good and bad points. But the debate keeps rumbling on. You see so many arguments on social media pages which usually involve single track roads and the highs and lows of 29,000 more vehicles on them. What people forget is that the route is over 500 miles, covering hundreds of communities and parishes; not one area is the same. Which means that each area will have its own problems. And each problem needs dealt with. One point that gets made a lot is that there is no official NC500 signage and the start/end point and also along the route itself. Coupled with lack of community engagement and consultations, no wonder many local people are fed up with the route and the people behind it. If there had been community engagement before any route was created, we could of worked with the relevant organisations to come up with plans and solutions to prepare the region for this huge influx in tourism. And that hasn't happened which has left us all divided. Will we see a year round tourist season soon..? I can hear the tarmac groaning...
On Saturday the 29th July, the village said goodbye to Viv and Lisa Rollo, who have owned and run the award winning Kishorn Seafood Bar for over 20 years. Before that, the first Kishorn Seafood Bar was opened by Viv in the old fuel station building opposite the shop. When that building was demolished, the current unique premises were built and the Seafood Bar has remained there ever since. The Seafood Bar has very much helped to keep Kishorn on the map, and is known not just in Scotland, the UK or Europe. It is known across the world. And that is thanks to Viv Rollo, and her daughter Lisa. I would like to wish them both the very best for the future and also send my good wishes to the owner, who takes over on the 1st August.
Despite its size, Kishorn has a lot to offer. It has a vast history too (not just about oilrigs!). I found an old postcard of Kishorn... maybe it is time for some new ones! Not only would people be able to visit Kishorn; they would be able to take away a bit of it too.
Work has begun to bring the Kishorn drydock, previously used to build the largest manmade moveable object in world, back to working life.
Things have progressed quickly since I wrote my last blog. In 2013, Kishorn Port Ltd were given the go-ahead to turn the drydock and surrounding area into a renewable energy hub. The plans also detailed the potential for oilrigs to be de-commissioned on the site.
This year, the port was given half a million pounds to start work on the drydock. The gates will be undergo an overhaul and the water in the dry dock will be pumped out to test the new water seals on the gates. The gates will then be removed and re-instated to test how well the system works; the gates have sat idle for many years! It will be the first time the drydock has been operational (and dry!) since 1992 when the support 'cassions' for the legs of the Skye Bridge were built there.
It is almost 40 years since the Ninian Central Oil Platform was constructed there in 1978. The 600,000 tonne platform was, and still is, one of the largest man-made moveable objects ever created. She is still being used today. She is anchored at the Ninian Oil Field, around 144km North East of Shetland. The oil is transported from the platforms to the Sullom Voe Terminal in Shetland via the Ninian Pipeline System.
It is with some disappointment to report that, after speculation for many months, the playpark at Achintraid has now been removed. Plans are afoot for the now un-used land which could involve a community project to re-instate new play equipment. Watch this space..!
Resurfacing work between Kishorn and Lochcarron has now been completed. The stretch of single track road between Kishorn and the Glenmor cattle grid has been resurfaced and the verges have been cleared. The work to improve this stretch of road is welcome, it's a shame that the machines didn't stay to do the whole Lochcarron road! I wonder how long it will before it is all double-track. It was only around 15 years ago that the A896 Kishorn - Lochcarron route received its first section of double-track when major works on the Kishorn Hill were completed; the end of pulling into the tight passing places teetering on the edge of the hill! Slowly over the years more sections have been upgraded.
I'm working to get the Selfie Box out of 'Winter Mode' and ready for the season ahead! I've started to clear the mud, grass and rocks from around the Selfie Box too and hope that, once the ground dries, I can improve the surrounding ground to make the Selfie Box stand out even more. As well as the Facebook page you can now post your selfie onto the new Instagram page: @kishornselfiebox .
Patterns of Light is now open on summer hours, and the Kishorn Seafood Bar is just a few weeks off opening for the season. The Bealach Cafe remains on winter hours, but will soon welcome customers for the whole week once the season gets underway. In my next blog, I will update you on all the opening hours for our fantastic local establishments!
The warmer weather also means that lambs and young animals will soon start to appear in the local fields. Can I politely remind dog owners in particular to keep your dogs under supervision if out and about, and please do not let your pet(s) wander freely into areas where young livestock may be grazing. Thank you.
The Highland Council elections will be held on the 4th May. The polling station (for Kishorn residents) is at Lochcarron Village Hall. Can I encourage you all to go to the polling stations and use your vote. A spoilt paper is so much better than no paper at all. You will be able to follow information about the elections and our local candidates in my next blog, on the Kishorn Online website and also on the Kishorn Facebook page.
It has been interesting to note the continued installation of the Superfast broadband cable in the village. However, Achintraid looks set to miss out. I haven't heard any official report from BT, but apparently the 'outputs' (ie the signal to your house) only reach to a certain distance of the green box stations (that have now been erected). Achintraid is not in the allocated distance, which from what I have heard is less than a mile. Doing it all on the cheap it seems. While all the machines and workforce are in the area they might as well install these green box stations at Achintraid too.
Achintraid isn't having the best of luck in terms of improving broadband and phone signal. The EE mobile phone mast has now been granted planning permission, but its position means that most of the village will see no difference in coverage!
People moan and go on about how dependant we are now on phones and internet. But times are changing, the world as a whole is now dependent on it. It is so important that the remoter areas of the Highlands and Islands are kept up to date with the new technology. We must not be forgotten.
It is fantastic to see so many people in Kishorn using the new mobile bank service.
The mobile branch comes down from Gairloch on Tuesdays and Fridays and there is usually a queue for the service. This is absolutely fantastic and shows Bank of Scotland that there really is a need for a bank service in the area. It is concerning, however, to hear several reports of dis-satisfied customers in Lochcarron taking their anger out on past and present staff. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. Because I wonder how many people who are complaining actually campaigned to save the bank?
Its been a busy few months which is why I haven’t posted anything recently. The summer tourist season came to an end, and the tarmac of the NC500 can breath a sigh of relief until next year! This issue remains ongoing, it will be interesting to see if there are any changes brought in for 2017.
The Kishorn Playing Field Club had a good first season. Plans are already underway for next year. Watch this space.
The playing field club will be providing bacon rolls on “the dell” on New Years day between 9am and 10am. Everyone welcome. Watch the brave souls doing their own New Year swim! I am yet to be convinced to get my wetsuit on, I think I’ll just stay on dry land!!
As a write this, Storm Conor is in full flow. The power hasn’t gone off, so far so good! I can see the waves crashing over the dry dock, and the shore at Ardarroch is taking another pounding. It brings back memories of the 2005 hurricane, when the sea came over the road. It makes you realise how close Achintraid in particular is to the sea. And yet, during high tide on a calm summers evening, you think nothing of it.
There are plans afoot for the selfie box. It has proved to be incredibly popular over the past year or two. There are more phone boxes in this area and further afield up for adoption. The iconic structures are part of the landscape and the Highlands and Islands now.
Despite the weather (!) we are incredibly lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world. With so much history too, it is easy to see how hundreds and thousands of people are attracted up here every year. But we can call it home!
I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year when it comes. I look forward to seeing you all in the New Year if not before.
In recent years, along with the Broadford branch, the Lochcarron Bank opening hours have been on a steady decrease. And with the closure of both banks now on the calendar, its going to make Lochcarron and the surrounding area even more remote. The statistics released by Bank of Scotland claim that the Lochcarron branch has seen a decrease in use over the past few years. No wonder, when the bank is actually closed for most of the week. We cannot, and should not, have to rely on the internet. Especially as the internet in the area can sometimes be unreliable. I am hopeful that the 'promised' new mobile service will go ahead.
"Where is the cash machine?" Twenty two miles away. How utterly ridiculous.
The Kyle RNLI lifeboat was in the loch recently, searching for two people who were walking from Toscaig to Kishorn round the headland. They were severely dehydrated when they were found. Can I politely remind people who intend to climb or walk on the mountains and hills in the area to prepare according to the weather conditions as well as the terrain. The recent spell of very unusual hot weather can catch people out if they're not expecting it.
The Dell has been cut now with the bales lined up in the usual spot! This will provide a good source of food to the local livestock when winter arrives and they are brought off the hill. Kishorn has a good variety of livestock, making use of the common grazing behind Achintraid, or the crofts and fields closer to the sea.
The Bealach Mor cycle challenge, held on the 3rd September, seemed to be a great success with a lot of riders taking on this years challenge. Riders cycle for 90miles and take on one of Britain's highest mountain passes, the Bealach na Ba. A team from Kishorn hosted one of the many food stations on the route. By doing this, the Kishorn Playing Field Club receives a donation, and this helps towards the cost of the upkeep of the playing field on The Dell. It was also great to see local people cheering the riders on in the morning before going back to the Dell for some sports and activities. Remember that these Dell sessions are on every Saturday between 10am & 12pm. Keep an eye on the facebook page: facebook.com/kishornplayingfieldclub
It was extremely interesting to see the recommendation by local politicians to decommission the 'Lewis Oilrig' in Kishorn, instead of towing it to Turkey. Along with other places such as Arnish Yard in Stornoway and the Nigg yard, Scotland has fantastic potential to offer opportunities in this sector. Scotland is also making a name for itself in the renewable energies sector, another potential connection to the Kishorn Port.
Lochcarron Community Council, as published in their meeting minutes, have been notified of plans to erect a base station in Kishorn, by EE. Now the information received so far is minimal. However, could this mean improvements to the mobile phone signal in the area?
The Selfie Box has been extremely popular over this season, and I am looking at ways to expand the online presence for next year as well as some new interior features. The adoption of the red telephone box is designed to be a community project and I am very much open to ideas to improve the selfie box, or even to change its use.
But the selfie box is starting to become very well known. It has had several appearances on the news, and has had a lot of publicity from organisations & individuals. It is unique to Kishorn. And its another reason why Kishorn remains firmly on the map.
North Coast 500
This 'new route' has caused mixed feelings amongst the people of the Highlands.
Of course, it has been good for businesses. There is no doubting that our tourist industry is thriving and this year has already been extremely successful for our local businesses. But can our roads cope with the extra traffic?
We need to keep our small businesses afloat and our communities thriving. We need to promote our own wee part of the world. However, people live here. People work here. Not everyone is on holiday. What concerns me, is the lack of public consultation and engagement with the communities from the NC500 'team'. The first I heard of this 'new' route was an advertisment for an already established "Route 66" in Scotland. Where were the community meetings? Did the 'head office' just forget about the thin, rough lines of tarmac that snake through glens and up mountains? There are no highways here. But I, along with everyone else, must try not to become frustrated with our visiting drivers. You have to think about the businesses that are benefiting, the businesses that are keeping local people in work.
Speeding has also been a problem, with motorists attempting to do the route in the fastest time. If you want to do the NC500, take a couple of days to tour the Highlands. See the sites, do some shopping, try some of the fantastic eateries on the route, many of which serve local produce and seafood. Explore the area. Stay a while. Our visitors need to be educated about driving on our roads. Large convoys should be discouraged though as passing places can only usually accomodate 1 - 2 cars, so what happens when there are convoys coming in both directions? What if there is an ambulance or fire engine that needs to get past? And can't, because the passing places are too small to let everyone past? The route needs proper traffic management as well as urgent road improvements and the NC500 'head office' need to accurately inform motorists of the condition of our roads and how to drive them. Don't do the route in the fastest time, stay and explore. Let the faster motorists behind you pass. It is a very special part of the world.
I have been following with interest the situation that has arisen with ferry provision to Skye. The purpose built ferry that served Skye from Mallaig has been moved elsewhere, being replaced with smaller, slower vessels. This has had a knock-on effect to businesses in the Sleat peninsula in particular. It seems as if the whole process was not thought through. It is pleasing to see that the local MP and MSP have now pushed for action to sort this problem out.
Over the past week or two, there has been a greater military presence in the area. Warships and submarines have been spotted regularly along with planes and jets. A Hercules aircraft has been flying very low along the glen and over the Bealach. The vote about the renewal of Trident is to take place soon.
An algal bloom in the sea caused some shellfish to be banned in the area as well as caution being advised to fishing. Mussels were the main shellfish that was 'out of action'. The blooms can turn the sea into a turquoise colour, making it look exotic. The ban was lifted this week.
Despite the lack of sunshine so far this month, we are past the longest day and almost half way through the summer. Surely, we haven't seen the last of the sun and the warm days, and clear blue skies. Because if the weather is going to be the same as last year, the winter could feel very, very long.
This month we have been reminded about how dangerous trawling and fishing can be.
The tragic story of the “Louisa” which hit our headlines on Saturday 8thApril has been felt not just throughout the Western Isles (where the boat was based) but throughout the whole of the Highlands. My thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy. According to the only survivor the boat was at anchor when she started to take on water, the cause of which is yet to be identified. The liferaft was launched but failed to inflate and this has resulted in the death of two of the four crew onboard. The skipper is still missing.
We have a strong fleet of smaller fishing boats based in the area and on both sides of the island of Raasay. The struggle to keep the “Inner Sound” open is still ongoing. I am concerned about the lack of BUTEC consultations and public meetings. The fishing fleet will not be the only boats affected, what about the vessels using Kishorn Port? Quite often those vessels come from ‘The Minch’ area, does this mean that they will have to chug all the way down towards Broadford before rounding the Raasay headland and double backing up to Kishorn or Kyle?
The tourist season is well under way now with the North Coast 500 being very popular. However, I am aware of concerns being raised about the extra traffic now using our roads. In particular, visiting car and motorcycle groups are trying to do the whole route in the fastest times, using the route as a race track. Just because we are remote doesn’t mean the road rules are different. On the majority of the NC500 roads, the National Speed Limit is actually 60mph. This issue is set to be raised with the NC500 team. It’s great to see visitors coming up to the Highlands, but please remember that our roads are not race tracks. Allow plenty of time to see the scenery, stop and shop and enjoy the trip. Stay for a few nights. Try some of the hundreds of excellent restaurants and cafés in the area.
The Scottish Parliament election is fast approaching. On the 5th of May each person registered to vote will have two sections to fill in at the poll station: one vote for the “first past the post” candidate and one vote for the “regional list” candidates.
CAITHNESS, SUTHERLAND & ROSS CANDIDATES (first past the post):
Gail Ross (Sottish National Party SNP)Jamie Stone (Scottish Liberal Democrats)Struan Mackie (Scottish Conservatives)Leah Franchetti (Scottish Labour)
Lambing season is well underway in the village now. Can I politely ask all Kishorn dog owners to make sure that their dogs are kept under supervision? It is important that new born lambs are given a safe environment to live in and if a dog gets into a field the lambs could be harmed or killed. Usually earlier in the month we get a light dusting of snow, known as “lambing snow” but what a surprise it was to wake up on the 27th April to a large amount of snow lying on the ground! The majority of the roads seemed to remain clear.
I’ve noticed that a lot of the villages in the local area have leaflets and information packs displayed at various places to promote the respective townships to locals and tourists alike. Maybe Kishorn needs a bit of leaflet promotion, watch this space. Kishorn has a huge amount of history which not many people know about. We are lucky to have the award winning Kishorn Seafood Bar, the beautiful gifts and paintings at Patterns of Light and the new Bealach Café and Gallery in the village, not to mention the numerous art galleries and places to visit. We even have our own outdoor and bunkhouse centre and a red Selfie Box! Kishorn definitely deserves its place on the map.
Sometimes you wonder why the country seems to focus on spending its money in the cities.The City-Region Deal funding scheme is ridiculous. Inverness has just been awarded £3million to spend on the Castle and installing a city wi-fi scheme. But, hang on a minute, there is something called 3G/4G, a connectivity that the rural areas of the Highlands can only dream of having. 3G and 4G allow people to connect quickly to the internet using their smartphones. I don’t really understand the need for a city wi-fi scheme. Where is the ‘Rural-Region Funding’ for areas where phone signal and broadband barely exist? Where is the big pot of money for improving connectivity to businesses and organisations who continue to struggle on with limited internet access? Where is our 3G? Why should we suffer connectivity wise for living in a rural area? “The Highlands don’t go beyond Inverness” as they say.
It was interesting to read in the community council minutes that there are potential plans for a ‘Kishorn Hub’. It could be a good point of information for locals and visitors. The adoption plans for the Kishorn Phonebox are also progressing well and are now in the final stages. The “Selfie Box” will be getting a good scrub and tidy up this weekend, you’ll notice the sign going back up now we seem to be out of the worst of the weather! The Kishorn Playing Field AGM was held at the end of last month, with new volunteers offering their help to co-ordinate the playing field at the Dell. Unfortunately I was away and would have liked to attend, but it seems that progress is definitely being made. The ‘Kishorn Seafood Bar’ re-opens on the 24th March just before Easter and ‘Patterns of Light’ opens for the season on Wednesday 16th March. The Bealach Café is open two days a week but will soon be increasing their opening hours in time for Easter. Kishorn is beginning to wake up again, bring on the tourists!
A new addition this year to Kishorn is ‘Our Scottish Adventure’ based at the new Sanachan Bunkhouse. I’d like to welcome Sean and Sophie to Kishorn, and wish them all the very best with their new venture. You can find out more at http://www.ourscottishadventure.com or phone 01520 733 484.
It’s great that people are coming into the area to work and live. Unfortunately though, the time comes when we have to say goodbye. The thing about living in a small community in the West Highlands of Scotland is that usually everyone knows each other, and when the time comes it can be even harder. But the community supports one another. Even by putting a card through the door, that’s a small but appreciative symbol of community.
We are remote. We are small. But we shouldn’t be punished for choosing to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Maybe if the councils across the country became more ‘localised’ that would help. But we won’t be forgotten about and pushed aside. “They don’t need it”. We do. And we’ll get it.