Friday, July 10, 2009

Coigach as it was - and is

When we lived in Coigach 25 years ago it was a different place. The mountains and islands remain unchanged, but the villages along the shore have had facelifts and now are all improved and well kept. B&B signs abound, gardens grace the front yards where green trees and bushes provide shelter from the wild sea wind, and houses that were once in ruin have been restored. The old wooden village hall is now a beautiful new facility with a proper kitchen, a large vaulted space for dances and other activities, rooms for meetings and a well-tended garden.

The Fuaran pub still sports its two palm trees - but is now gentrified and upgraded with a full menu of excellently prepared foods. The upstairs room is nicely furnished with booths and tables and the walls are tastefully decorated with prints and paintings. When we lived there, there was a limited menu of soup and sandwiches and it was all very casual. Now you have to make reservations for dinner. The dinner we had there was wonderful - especially the large scallops, succulent and tender and perfectly sauced.

The pool table now resides in the lower bar, competing with the dart board for limited space. The bar is still there but all the kitchy stuff - foreign bills & pennants etc. that used to cover the walls behind it are gone. It's nice - but sterile. The outside of the building has been completely redone and there is a very nice patio out in front for eating outside with a wonderful view of the sea. The pub is full of tourists because, other than the expensive hotel dining room, there is as of yet no cafe suitable for family dining.

The hotel in Achiltibuie is still operating - still expensive but offering the haute cuisine that has given it an international reputation since before we lived in the village. The bar is pretty much the same, but the patio where mothers and kiddies used to meet for a pint and a natter on Sunday afternoons has been enclosed with glass. This gives comfortable dining sheltered from the wind and with great sea views all around - but it's not got the same feeling. We indulged ourselves with a lunch of delicious dressed crab (large crabs simply called "edible crabs"). I have visions of cooking these beasties as my first experience with dealing with live seafood in Castlehill. They were often on our menu, both hot and cold and always yummy.

Sheep are still a common hazard on the roads and new lambs skipped in the crofts and dotted the hillsides. Jack went out with Iain a few times to check the field enclosures for possible lambing problems and was lucky to see the very newest of arrivals. But there are new animals to be found now - deer grazed below us in the croft below Tigh-Abbie and highland cattle turned their backs to the wind in a field along the road. There were shetland ponies and more cattle - it was fun to see the new additions.

The town of Ullapool has also changed - more and larger pubs and restaurants line the harbor and parking lots accomodate large touring busses. We were there on a holiday weekend and couldn't find a place to park anywhere near the harbor. The town was packed with tourists and there are more boats offering sightseeing and bird/seal/dolphin watching cruises. There was a large cruise boat anchored off the pier offloading tourists into rubber dinghies to deliver them to town. But the town still has the same white buildings along the waterfront and is a lovely town in a spectacular setting. It's still a thrill to come down the hill through the brilliant displays of rhododendrons lining the road approaching Loch Broom, and to see the white curve of the town laid out along the sheltered harbor full of bright fishing boats. It's a view I love.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

I am so pleased to read these posts about your latest return. Even though the things on the land (including us) change, it doesn't.