ctor Robert Carlyle who plays the laid back policeman of a remote Highland village in the BBC television series Hamish Macbeth has undoubtedly put the West Ross village of Plocton firmly on the map of the UK. The first series was an instant hit attracting audiences of over ten million and winning Carlyle the BAFTA Scotland Award for the Best Actor.
With a sencond series on the way Hamish Macbeth's beat will once again be the tiny coastal village of 'Lochdubh' and viewers will be able to feast themselves on the wonderful scenery which this area of Lochalsh has to offer.
But although the television series has brought this part of the western Highlands into the homes of millions of people across the country it has always enjoyed a high degree of popularity with tourists because of its unique location, its wildlife and the peace and tranquility which it offers. First imperessions are always important and there can be few who have not appreciated a first sight of Plockton - its quaint village street with walled-gardens opposite and waves breaking the surface of the loch.
The railway, which was extended with great difficulty from Strome Ferry in 1897, was the making of Kyle of Lochalsh which then replaced both Glenelg as the main ferry point for Skye, and Plockton as the main port on the Lochalsh Peninsula.
A large proportion of the peninsula is made up of the Balmacara Estate owned by the National Trust for Scotland. It includes the Lochalsh woodland garden, and the late 18th century planned port village of Plock, now known as Plockton. Lying round a sheltered bay looking eastwards down Lock Carron the views from this enchanting village main street are of dotted islands on the loch and of Duncraig Castle, until not long ago a thriving catering college.
One person whose memories of Plockton go back a long way is Isobel Williams who lives with her husband in the house in which she was bornin Plockton's Main Street. 'It is really a MacKay house, my mother's maiden name' she explains. Recalling the days when communion services were held twice a year in different places and times she spoke of her partents going by fishi8ng boat to Raasay to attend the services. 'When communion was held in Plockton we would have two sitting for lunch in the dining-room'.
For many years Isobel and her husband Ali lived in Malaysia where her husband was a mining engineer. She recalls her day sthere with affection and speaks of gatherings and ceilidhs heldin Kuala Lumpar when she and her husband would get together with other Wester Ross exiles including Sany MacKenzie whose parents had the Post Office in Plocton. Roddy macRae from Duirinish, who was a banker in Kuala Lumpar, and Kend and Betty Mackay. 'Believe it or not I first tasted haggis in Kuala Lumpar - and it was served to me by an Englishman at a Burns supper. Haggis was never something that we ate at home, it was much more popular in southern Scotland' she said.
In the garden of their house the views across the bay are interrupted by gentle swaying palm trees a feature of the village. According to Isobel they were brought to Plockton by Tom Cload, a cousin of her mothers who was a horticulturist with the mother's who was a horticulturist with the Glasgow Parks Department. he brought quite a number of unusual plants which still thrive in the Lochalsh village, and several people have followed his example and added to the collection of paln trees in the village. The name Tom Cload was well known to people all over the west coast and much further afield as he was the gardening correspondent of the The Oban Times newspaper which still serves the area.
The task of correspondent for The Oban Times is one which the present incumbent Charlie MacRae adds to his many list of public spirited duties including being chairman of the local community council, secretary/treasurer of the village hall, secretary of Lochalsh branch of the British Legion, secretary/treasurer of the SW Ross Badminton Association and an active member of the Plockton Sailing Club.
Plockton is proud of its rich heritage and naturally, Gaelic plays a large part in the life of the village. Next year the National Mod of An Comunn Gaidhealach the shop window of the Gaelic language will be held in Skye and Lockalsh. While a certain amount of unhappiness has been expressed about the high charges on the Skye bridge its existence will benefit the Mod in bringing events to both sides of the Kyle.
One of the main enthusiasts of the Mod movement is Anna Rowe (left) who runs a Bed and Breakfast business at An Caladh in the village. A fluent Gaelic speaker she has taught her children Aonghais and Alanna to speak Gaelic. Her husbanb Bob is a fisherman who also runs sea angling and fishing trips, wildlife cruises etc.
If your preference is for dry land then Plockton and its surrounding district has an abundance of places to visit and explore. And at the end of the day there are popular hostelries like the Plockton Hotel or "Off the Rails" the former ladies waiting room at the [railway]station now a small restaurant with a cosy atmosphere offering delicious home made cooking run by Jane MacKenzie (right).
But those who come to Plockton often return. It lays a spell which will keep bringing you back.
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Last Update: 8 April, 1997
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