PAUL GOES TO AM PLOC – PLOCKTON

One of my favourite places in Scotland; the picture skew harbour settlement of Plockton on the west coast of the stunning Scottish highlands. Plockton is a truly unique village, on the North Atlantic drift (or, when I was at school it was called the Mexican Drift), palm trees along the harbour shore line and gardens of the residents. On the shore of Loch Carron, colourful cottages add character to the seafront, the locals work hard to preserve the atmosphere. Fans of the ’90s tv series ‘Hamish Macbeth’ may recognise scenery from the TV show, which has was one of the funniest shows on tv, loved it; culture, humour, love interest, skulduggery – it had it all . Plockton is also home to common seals and is close to the Skye Bridge. Whatever the weather, Calum Mackenzie of the ‘Sula Mhor’ will take you out on seal trips on Loch Carron and experience a wildlife cruise with a difference, the ‘Sula Mhor’ sails every day from April to October, the really busy months are July and August so you might like to turn up 10- 15 minutes before a trip if you see a queue gathering. Calum has been sailing these waters for over 32 years, nobody knows the seals and dolphins better than him (let’s not go there).

Originally called Am Ploc, the settlement was a crofting hamlet until the end of the 1700s. As in other parts of the highlands this changed when landowners found it was possible to make more money by letting their land to sheep farmers: to make room for the sheep they cleared the crofters from the land. Many had little choice but to emigrate and Plockton soon became a port of embarkation for those displaced during the clearances. In the early 1800s the landlord, Sir Hugh Innes, decided he could increase the value of his estates further by giving tenants cleared from inland areas an alternative to emigration: instead they could resettle in a new fishing port he developed under the name of “Plocktown”. New streets of houses were built, many with small crofts, pieces of land that the residents could use to supplement the income they derived from fishing. This was the era of the “herring boom” and Plockton rapidly grew to accommodate over 500 people, many living two families to a cottage – the herring boom ended when the fish changed their migration patterns, the area was also severely affected by the potato famine of the late 1840s. Plockton became known as Baile na Bochdainn “village of the poor”.

The hotels (no many, two in fact) have live tradition music throughout the year every Tuesday and Thursday during the summer months. The bars alive with customers and music from local musicians, are often joined by talented youngsters from The National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, which is based in the village. Plockton prawns, a favourite of mine, locally caught langoustines served with crusty bread, sun-dried tomato mayo. Seafood platters and a selection of what’s available from the west coast’s finest seafood – salmon, trout, mussels and clams with fresh prawns, oysters, lobsters. Hand dived king scallops landed in Kyle of Lochalsh,  succulent scallops seared and served with a bacon garlic and cream dressing, served with chips or baby boiled potatoes. Aye when are we going back to the west coast heaven? As a short stay over, or a base for touring, it’s hard to beat this place.