Wester Ross today:
Visitors often ask....."Why do you live here?" Why indeed? This is a remote area, a long distance from facilities that people in the rest of Europe take for granted, and it has a reputation - sometimes justified - for long periods of wind and rain.
But Wester Ross also has some of the most beautiful and rugged scenery on any part of the Scottish Highlands, and its very remoteness means that it is relatively quiet and peaceful even at the height of the summer months. It is perfectly possible to spend an entire day walking without ever seeing another person on the hill beside you, and during that day you may be able to catch sight of eagles, deer, pine marten, dragonflies, and other rare animals and insects. And let us correct one story - deer are not the rarely seen animals which have been popularised in a thousand guide books! In fact, the Scottish countryside has a large overpopulation of red deer.......nearly 300,000 (2.5 times more than the countryside can realistically support!)
But enough. Let us simply say that this area of Scotland has beauty, peace, and a sense of living on the edge of Europe which can only begin to be appreciated by as casual visit along some of the many small roads and villages dotted along our coastline.
The people who live here are a mixture: Although the families that have been there for generations are mainly Gaelic, Celtic, and Norse by descent, the regular customers in the hotel bar these days might have been born in Leeds, Glasgow, or Cardiff. Attracted by the area, many families have arrived here to live and work during the last few decades. But compared to this influx, many more have left the area during the last century. In 1861, the population was 14.447 - reducing to only 4,545 a hundred years later! There are many responses to the question "Why?", and the excellent Museums that we have in Wester Ross can provide you with at least some of the answers.
These can be found on the following links:
Ullapool: Ullapool Museum
Gairloch: Gairloch Heritage Museum
Applecross: Applecross Heritage Centre
"Ross - shire" goes from coast to coast, taking in the small villages in the West, to the coastal towns of Dingwall and Invergordon in the East. Approximately 89% of the population live on the other side of the county, leaving just 11% of us living here in the West. What on earth do we do?
Contrary to popular belief, we are not all fishermen or crofters - many people are self employed as craftsmen, or work in the building trade. Highland Council is the major single local employer through education, roads, maintenance and administration of services. While crofting and fishing plays an important part in the life of the region, there is a significant number of people who now work from home via e-mail in the increasingly important IT and voluntary sectors. Many of us routinely have two or three quite seperate jobs that occupy the daily work. Tourism? Hotels, Bed and Breakfast, self catering, and retail shops are features of nearly every village - in fact, income from tourism indirectly supports nearly every other type of non - tourism business!