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.