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.
Kishorn has been quiet over the past couple of weeks. Storms have come and gone, and snow still remains on the Bealach na Ba. The road was closed last week due to weather conditions.
The Kishorn Seafod Bar and Patterns of Light gift shop have now reopened for the season. The brand new Bealach na Ba Café and Gallery will be opening at the end of April, and I am sure will be very popular.
Four new homes are getting built in Achintraid and this also means that the streetlights and ‘thirty’ speed limit will be extended to the river. The council have refused however to extend the streetlights and speed limit at the other end of the village. How completely ridiculous when over half of the village’s children live ‘past the cattle grid’! We look forward though to welcoming the new tenants into the houses soon. These developments are vital to keeping people in the area.
The Scottish Sea Farms sea site now has brand new feed and accommodation barges in preparation for the expansion of the sea site. This expansion will also keep people in the area as new jobs are being created. People should really think twice before they try and stop fish farms being created. Yes, the cages and barges may not be the most elegant of structures, but surely it is more important to keep people in the Highlands and Islands and create employment. And if the damage to the environment was really as bad as some people make out it is, fish farms would not exist. It would probably be illegal. There are many organisations that monitor fish farming, do not doubt the integrity of these organisations.
A breakthrough has been made regarding the Stromeferry Bypass. Two options have now been identified to replave the troublesome road; a new road through Glen Udalain or a new bridge and Lochcarron Bypass. In my opinion a new bridge is the only option. The new road would be high up and would be prone to heavy snow and ice. Journey times would also be increased which is not favourable, especially as a new state of the art hospital is about to be built in Broadford, opening up medical access in Wester Ross, Skye and Lochalsh. The bridge would actually be fairly sheltered from high winds. And I am sure the bridge would not need to be as high as the Skye Bridge which was designed to allow the Royal Yacht Britannia to pass underneath. So long as boats like the fish carriers and pleasure boats could fit underneath then the bridge would not need to be high.
Despite planning permission being granted , all seems to have gone quiet with the with the Kishorn Port development. The community has not been kept up to date with the development, last I heard there was a hold up with something. The Ferguson Pier continues to be as busy as ever, with many ships and landing craft coming in and out of the bay on a daily basis. Calum’s Seal Trips boat ‘Sula Mhor’ was spotted in the loch last week on her first trip of the year and the MV Glenachulish left the boatyard after her winter overhaul.
The Easter Holidays are here and it won’t be long before SQA exams begin in Plockton High School. Good luck to all the students particularly those from Kishorn. And then summer will be here which means one thing…tourists!
Have a great Easter Weekend and holiday.