Posted by: Rory Brown | April 15, 2010

At The Loch Of The Green Corrie – a great read

I wanted to share a recommendation for a book I’m currently reading – At the Loch of the Green Corrie by Andrew Greig. It is the tale of Andrew’s quest to find and fish a hill loch between Lochinver and Kylesku in Assynt.

The story begins with a description of Andrew’s long term friendship with the poet Norman MacCaig who he visits infrequently over the years in his Edinburgh flat. As Norman’s health declines they talk about their respective travels and favourite places in the world. Increasingly Norman’s tales centre on his time in Assynt & trips he made there with friends to walk and fish.

On what turns out to be his final visit Norman says that after he is gone he would like Andrew to:

“fish for me at the Loch of the Green Corrie. Only it’s not called that. But go to Lochinver and ask for a man called Norman MacAskill, if he likes you he may tell you where it is. If you catch trout, I shall be delighted. And if you fail, then looking down from a place in which I do not believe, I shall be most amused“.

Rarely have I enjoyed a book so much. Andrew’s descriptions of the NW Highlands, friendship, poetry, fishing, travel, geology, the highland clearances and the general reflections of age intertwine smoothly to make a great read.

I really recommend you buy a copy – link to the page on Amazon here (although I’m sure it is also stocked in all the local bookshops and I know that Andrew will be one of the featured authors at next month’s Ullapool Book Festival).

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Posted by: Rory Brown | March 24, 2010

Great feedback

I’m just back from opening up the house for the season. There was a real feeling of spring in the air after a long and hard winter.

In the house we leave a visitors book with comments and tips from previous holiday-makers. It is always good to catch up with what people have been doing and the walks, restaurants and beaches they have discovered.

Here are a couple of comments from 2009. Others can be found on this page.

“Delightful location with views reminiscent of the Aegean.”

“Walked up to Kirkaig Falls. The kids loved it and at the end of the walk we dipped our hot & tired feet in the cool stream by the car park – bliss!”

“Great weeks holiday – fantastic weather. Surfing, swimming, otter spotting, beach BBQ’s… We loved the views over the islands from the front terrace.”

“The house is perfect. It has everything you need without any flashiness. It respects its own history and is spacious and very comfortable.”

“Lovely week with good weather – we swam three times in stunning and warm seas – particularly recommend Achinver Bay.”

“Soaked up the stillness and isolation – we had a fantastic time.”

“Amazing beaches. Achnahaird in particular – the sand is perfect for sandcastles with our kids.”

“Thank you for the use of your house – we had a lovely week.”

Bookings have been strong for 2010 but there are still some prime weeks available. If you’re interested in a holiday in renting a self catering holiday house in Achiltibuie this year you can find details for Greenhill by clicking the link.

Posted by: Rory Brown | February 18, 2010

Summer Isles Boat Trip

When you visit Achiltibuie and have a fine day I strongly recommend that you take a trip around the Summer Isles on the MV Hectoria. The trips take around 3 1/2 hours and includes a stop on Tanera.

There’s lots of amazing wildlife and rock formations to see around the islands. The views back towards the mainland and across Loch Broom & the Minch are spectacular.

I found one holiday-maker’s video on YouTube that will give you a great impression of what to expect.

Posted by: Rory Brown | January 22, 2010

Ullapool Book Festival 7-9 May 2010

The Ullapool Book Festival was launched in May 2005 and has grown to become a well established and well attended annual event. This year’s festival takes place in Ullapool Village Hall from Friday 7th May – Sunday 9th May.

There are sessions covering fiction, storytelling, non-fiction, poetry, writing workshops and a ‘one-woman’ show.

Fiction writers attending include: Iain Banks, Ron Butlin, Regi Claire, Jason Donald, Anne Donovan, Ian Finlay Macleod, Kevin MacNeil, Andrea McNicholl and James Robertson.

Full details of the festival, together with information about how to get tickets can be found on the festival website.

Posted by: Rory Brown | January 16, 2010

Mairearad Green – passing places

A lovely video shot in Achiltibuie & Coigach. You can find more information about local musician Mairearad here.

Posted by: Rory Brown | January 9, 2010

The Guardian’s ‘let’s move to’ feature on Assynt today

Today in the Guardian Saturday magazine they do a one of their regular ‘let’s move to’ features. This week it looks at moving to Assynt and the area around Lochinver.

A link to the feature is here.

But, if the thought of moving permanently is too much for you why not just make plans to come and visit this beautiful part of the world on holiday in 2010?

There are lots of great hotels and self-catering properties to rent for a week – or a little longer.

Posted by: Rory Brown | December 14, 2009

Walking safely in the hills

As winter begins I thought I would reproduce some advice form the Ullapool News this week for any hill walkers and climbers.

Anyone heading out into the hills this season is being advised to:

  • Check the weather forecast before you set off and remember that conditions can change quickly. Localised forecasts are available on the Mountain Weather Information Service (www.mwis.org.uk) and the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service (www.sais.gov.uk/latest-forecasts.asp).
  • Make sure you know your limits and don’t tackle anything too ambitious. Winter in the mountains can be challenging and a route that at any other time of year is easy, can take longer and be more physically demanding.
  • Whether going for a relaxing walk or for a challenging climb, be properly equipped and ready to cope with changing ground and weather conditions.
  • Consider joining a hillwalking or mountaineering club where advice and access to experience and knowledge is available.
  • Take a map and compass and know how to use them. Do not rely solely on technology such as GPS or an electronic compass.
  • Winter conditions can be serious so if you’re going high carry an ice axe and crampons, know how to use them and practise on less serious terrain.
  • Tell someone where you are going, what your route is and how long you expect to be on the hill.

The sporstland Avalanche Information Service gives winter hill-goers daily forecasts at five key locations in Scotland. The service runs from December to April. The Mountain Weather Information Service produces forecasts for eight mountain areas.

Wherever you are walking in Scotland this winter. Enjoy it but please take care.

I have been caught out by snow while camping in the mountains behind Achiltibuie in September…

If you fancy getting away to the highlands of Scotland next year for a holiday you’d better get your skates on.

Strange as it may seem the next 6 weeks are always the busiest time for holiday bookings. As families close off one diary and start thinking about what 2010 might bring we get a surge of enquiries and the prime holiday weeks are usually all booked up before the end of January.

So… have a look at a few pictures to persuade you to get moving and rent a cottage in Achiltibuie on the North-West coast next year.

Achiltibuie

The land that never sleeps - Suilven at 10pm in the summer

Greenhill - an old crofters house overlooking the sea

Achmelvich beach - perfect white sand and crystal clear water

I’m afraid that the week of half-term and Spring Bank Holiday have already been booked but other prime weeks at Easter, May day and in July and August for the school holidays are currently available.

For further details on renting Greenhill – an extended crofters cottage set in its own grounds and with direct access down to the seashore – please visit these pages. The house is comfortably furnished and is suitable for a couple wanting a quiet getaway through to a family of six.

Pictures of the rooms can be seen here.

(Some photgraphs from Flickr & reproduced under creative commons licence courtesy of PaddyPix, CaptainOates, 7Stars).

Posted by: Rory Brown | September 30, 2009

An open letter of thanks to all visitors to this site

Just 17 months ago I started writing about the Achiltibuie area of NW Scotland. I posted my reasons here.

At some point today this blog will receive its 30,000th visit.

I am continually amazed by the number of people who are searching for information about Achiltibuie, Coigach and the Summer Isles and who end up on these pages.

Your comments and contributions have been most welcome & I really value the connections I have made.

I hope over that time I have encouraged holiday-makers to spend time in the region, to discover for themselves what a special place it is and contribute to the local economy as a result of their visit.

Thanks again.

Rory.

Posted by: Rory Brown | September 29, 2009

The Summer Isles hotel in Achiltibuie – have you been recently?

fronthouseWhen we are on holiday in Achiltibuie with friends they are always amazed by the fact that, in the middle of thousands of acres of wilderness, there is a fancy hotel complete with a Michelin starred restaurant. It can seem slightly incongruous.

However, the Summer Isles hotel is no one season wonder. The hotel has been there for generations – in fact I believe my great great uncle worked on extending the building.

It really came to prominence when it was acquired by Robert Irvine in the late 60’s or early 70’s and smartened up.

Over the years the Summer Isles hotel has become famous for both the setting and the cooking of the current head chef, Chris Firth-Bernard.

The 5 course evening meals are fixed and not cheap but worth it if you are celebrating a special occasion. I have eaten there 5 or 6 times in the last 20 years. Every time has been superb.

In 2008 the Irvine family finally sold up and the hotel is now under new management. I was curious to see how it was faring so went at the end of August with my brother and his wife who were staying with us at Greenhill.

Unfortunately when we went they had made a mistake and lost our booking. Even though they were very apologetic and tried to accommodate us, it was fairly obvious that we ended up eating food from the bar while others around us were eating langoustine and scallops. A lamb shank and mash didn’t quite have the same appeal.

So, I’m curious to know from others about whether the hotel is still a special place to stay and eat? I had a quick scan on TripAdvisor to see the reports and it seems to be a place that people either love or loathe.

I’d love to hear others’ experiences.

Posted by: Rory Brown | September 21, 2009

Special offer for self catering accommodation in Achiltibuie

Greenhill, Achiltibuie, originally uploaded by Rory Brown.

For the rest of 2009 we are offering a special rate of just £400 per week if you want a holiday in Achiltibuie.

Greenhill is a large and comfortable family house with open fires in the sitting room. It is set in its own grounds and has spectacular direct views down to the sea and over to the Summer Isles.

Sleeping from 2-6 people it is a comfortable base for fishermen, hill walkers, bird watchers or anyone who just wants to get away from it all!

Please visit these pages to hear what other holiday-makers have said about the house and surroundings.

To see some pictures of the house or find details of booking please click here.

(We have also just opened up booking for 2010 holidays. Some of the popular weeks – like Spring Bank Holiday – have already been taken. If you are interested in a holiday in Achiltibuie next year then please get in touch).

Posted by: Rory Brown | September 14, 2009

Loopallu 2009 schedule

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Next week (18-19 September) the Loopallu festival takes place in Ullapool.

The detailed schedule is here (courtesy of Ullapool News):

Friday 18th September

16.00              Gates open

16.00 – 16.20   Ullapool Pipe Band

16.20 – 16.50   Bronto Skylift

17.00 – 17.40   Pearl & the Puppets

18.00 – 18.45   Kid British

19.15 – 20.00   The Dykeenies

20.30 – 21.30   Neville Staple (ex Specials)

22.00 – 23.15   The View

Saturday 19th September

12.00                 Gates open

12.15 – 12.45    Naked Strangers

13.05 – 13.50   French Wives

14.10 – 14.55   Grousebeater Sound System

15.15 – 16.00   Polly & the Billets Doux

16.25 – 17.15    Dangleberries

17.45 – 18.30   Codeine Velvet Club

19.00 – 20.00  Mumford & Sons

20.30 – 21.30  Family Mahone

22.00 – 23.15  Lightning Seeds

Further details can be found on the main Loopallu website

Posted by: Rory Brown | September 4, 2009

Scottish Geology Festival at the North West Highlands Geopark

370520084_3d282f0336Last night, as part of the Scottish Geology Festival there was a lecture in the Coigach Community Hall about the Stac Fada metorite strike by local geologist Fiona Saywell. I’d have loved to have gone.

Fiona was talking about the largest known meteorite strike in the British Isles – some 1.2 billion years ago and is today leading a walk at Stoer to see some of the evidence first hand.

These events are just part of a month of lectures and field trips in the area including:

Weds 9th Sept – Visit to the Bone Caves at Inchnadamph

Thursday 10th Sept – Scourie Coast – A Gneiss Walk

Friday 11th Sept – How the NW Highlands Tells Us How the Himalayas are Made

Saturday 12th Sept – Field Excursion – From Sango Beach to Arnaboll & Moine Thrusts

Tuesday 22nd Sept – Stac Fada Meteorite Strike

Wednesday 23rd Sept – A Billion Years of Life at Achnahaird

Monday 28th Sept – Mapping – How the Geologists do it

Looks like a great programme. Full details can be found here.

Posted by: Rory Brown | September 2, 2009

Mushroom and funghi hunting

IMG_0245During the family holidays of my youth trips to Achiltibuie largely consisted of 3 pastimes – walking, fishing and (if it was the right time of year) mushroom hunting. I remember whispered conversations about prime locations for chanterelles or cep. Locations that were only shared with a select few. I became adept at spotting the glint of orangey yellow beneath a pine or birch tree & discussions about whether we had hit a golden seam or been conned by the appearance of a false chanterelle.

On arrival at Greenhill last week I was delighted to find a large crop of cep growing by the shed in the garden. Unfortunately they were a bit slug eaten but it did prompt a renewed hunt for something exotic and edible. So, armed with a copy of the classic Food for Free we set off exploring.

First I asked at the beach hut on Achmelvich beach if the warden knew any good sites to find mushrooms. He looked up from his chair and said that a few years ago he had found bucket loads of some orange mushroom that was very good with bacon – a great start… “Where?” I asked him. “Third loch along back towards the main road. You’ll see an old jetty as you walk down. Just behind that is a small patch of woodland and they were growing everywhere”.

After ages driving backwards and forwards along this road I had no luck finding the third loch, let alone any jetty, so set off back towards home.

On the way back along the tiny road from Lochinver to Achiltibuie I saw a small sign pointing to the entrance of Culag Woods. Culag Woods? That rang a bell. I vaguely remembered writing a post about guided walks in these woods looking for funghi. So we stopped.

The midges were fierce but armed with some of Avon’s Skin so Soft as protection I set off with my youngest daughter to explore.

What a fantastic place. I cannot believe I haven’t visited before. These woods are managed by a local community of volunteers and are set out with a range of trails and well signposted. They stretch from the edge of the village across along the sea-shore. They’re a great place to visit – especially with children and there are regular events hosted there.

No chanterelles, I’m afraid. I suspect we were a little too early in the season but I did find a great haul of ceps / porcini. They were delicious fried with garlic and parsley on a piece of toast.

25359951I often think that late August & September is the greatest time to visit the Highlands. Most of the holiday-makers have gone & the tourist industry is winding down but the majority of places are still open. The weather is often great as well with that late Indian Summer feel before we plunge into Autumn and Winter.

If you are planning a visit to Scotland we still have availability for Greenhill in September & have also, this week, started taking bookings for holidays in 2010. Please visit this page for further information.

You might also be inspired by Ste Everington‘s lovely photograph taken from the Summer Isles today.

imagesThere is a story in the Times today saying that Achiltibuie has been chosen as the location for a major new feature film – The Eagle of the Ninth – to be directed by Kevin Macdonald (the director of award winning films including Touching the Void, the Last King of Scotland & State of Play).

The film is based on a book by Rosemary Sutcliff and tells the story of the ill-fated Roman 9th legion and their expedition from Hadrian’s Wall to Northern Scotland from which they did not return.

I know that the production company were looking to cast locals for parts in the film and held auditions recently in Ullapool. Canning Tatum & Jamie Bell are set to star.

Posted by: Rory Brown | July 17, 2009

If Twittering is your thing

 

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I have recently set up a Twitter account for this blog (@achiltibuie) & you’ll see a feed from it in the right hand column. It already has over 100 followers.

I’ll try to tweet interesting links about the area to all followers. If you use Twitter and want to sign up click on the logo above or here. I’m also happy to answer questions (or try to find out the answers) for any questions visitors might have.

Posted by: Rory Brown | July 1, 2009

How about some video?

I was at Greenhill in Achiltibuie last week & experimenting with a new Flip video camera in the beautiful weather. Here’s the first one – a panoramic view from Altandhu Polbain across the Summer Isles to Achiltibuie. Please excuse the ‘amateurishness’…

Posted by: Rory Brown | June 20, 2009

Coigach Gathering – 4th July 2009

3061648024_85eec41959_mThe full timetable for this year’s Coigach Gathering in Achiltibuie has just been published in the Ullapool News. For those of you visiting during the first week of July the Coigach Gathering is the summer festival / highland games for Coigach and is a great occasion. It takes place mainly around the beach at Badentarbet.

The Order of Events:

1.00 – Local pipers will accompany the Gathering Chieftan, Tom MacIver to the fank

1.15 – Primary & secondary accordion & fiddle

– target shooting also starts and runs until 4.00

2.00 – Rowing demonstration by local fishermen

– Wee ones races

– Flycasting (2.00 – 4.00)

2.40 – Hill race / Biathlon start

2.40 – Juniors

2.50 – Ladies and veterans / over 40…

3.00 – Gents and veterans

4.00 – Sheep shearing

4.15 – Net mending

4.30 – Tug ‘o’ War

5.00 – Stone tower building competition

5.30 – Prize giving & prize draw results

6.00 – Bonfire on the beach

6.00 – 8.00 – Traditional music in the tent

9.00 – Dance to the Remains and MV5

There will also be sumo wrestling, wellie boot throwing, skittles, face painting, penalty shoot out, guess the weight of the salmon, BBQ and many other events taking place.

It’s a great day out and there are usually plenty of other things going on in the village around that weekend.

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2 big features recently on holidays in the region.

1) Kayaking around the Summer Isles – ‘a big adventure on your doorstep’

2) A profile of eco-tourism in Assynt – ‘absurdly lovely and in the care of its community’

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