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.
“If we get rid of our Trident Nuclear Activities, surely every other country in the world should do the same?”
This quote definitely made me wonder. I have often expressed my views about Trident in Scotland, but I have never really thought about what would actually happen if Trident no longer existed. Yes, the billions of pounds being spent on it could be spent elsewhere. The “Bairns not Bombs” referendum campaign springs to mind, but would that mean that Scotland and the UK could become a ‘vulnerable’ country, in the eyes of not just terrorist organisations, but to other countries as well? Why do we have nuclear weapons that could blow up most of the land on this earth? Russia have just started firing missiles into Syria, from ships in the sea almost 1000 miles away. What are their nuclear weapons like? What are ours like? It does make you wonder.
Leading on from the renewal of Trident, the debate about whether or not the Torpedo Testing Range based in Applecross should be extended is ongoing. If the plans go ahead you will no longer be able to take a boat up the sound between Applecross and Rona out into the Minch. This will affect so many boating activities from fishermen to pleasure boats. The whole plan is uneasy, why have there not been more public meetings with the whole community?
It is good to finally see some work being done on our local roads. The improvements being made to the Achintraid junction will make that stretch of road a lot safer for pedestrians and other road users. And it looks like the top of the Kishorn Hill is being double tracked as well with deep excavation works ongoing, the new road marked out with wooden posts. The work is great. The winter grit supply has also been delivered to the local depots, I’ve heard that this winter is going to be a bad one. But then again, they seem to say that every year!
Lots of people have noticed an increase in shipping activity in the loch. The main ships are usually the Ferguson Transport boats. The biggest boat, “Harvest Caroline” and the two landing crafts “Harvest Ann” and the “Carly” are regulars! The newest ship in the loch, Calmac’s MV Loch Bhrusda, is apparently, going to be moored in Kishorn permanently over the summer months. Her main role as small relief ferry has seen her serve Raasay, the Small Isles and Western Isles in the time she has been moored at Kishorn.
Amid the Syrian refugee crisis Scotland, the smaller country, shows its true Scottish spirit, reaching out to help others. It was suggested that anyone with a vacant second home could offer that house to the refugees. If you own a second home, not just in Scotland but anywhere in the UK maybe you could offer it to help the refugees. We take for granted what we have, I know I do sometimes. That’s why its important to help when we can.
The first refugees are soon to arrive in Scotland, maybe we can lead the way in showing what a true Scottish helping hand looks like, to people inside our border and out.
RJM – Please note that the views in this blog are of my own opinion, and not the opinions expressed by Kishorn Online.