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The Reiff Notebook

This Noticeboard is for comment, articles etc submitted by anyone with an interest in Reiff and the adjoining villages.



Last Saturday, on the 7th of July 2001, it was like Dunkirk all over again. A flotilla of small boats left the harbour in a rush, (this time it was Old Dornie Harbour), but the commitment of the skippers and crews to get the job done and bring back the goods was just as great as it had been back then in May 1940.

The all-important weather was just about perfect, (calm water, not too bright sunlight), and 45 entrants registered for the competition. There could have been more, but for T in the Park and the Dingwall Gathering. Fifteen boats, some with professional skippers and some with amateurs, ranging from Half-decker creel boats, a "Fifie", to RIBs, Cruisers and Open boats took part.

All day the ether crackled with radio traffic from boat to boat, shore to boat and mobile phone messages. It was really funny, listening in to the exaggeration and miss-information being put out about marks and catches, one angler was called by his missus to ask "if he was coming home last night", all that was missing was a message from Tokyo Rose.

Every known mark between Horse Island and Rubha Coigeach was fished, with more or less success; one angler upon asking a local fisherman for advice on the marks received a tirade of the Gaelic from him, and was left no wiser than he was before.

At about four o'clock in the afternoon, a fishing frenzy set in, with boats scurrying from mark to mark, trolling at the same time, in a desperate last minute attempt to land the winner before the impending five o'clock weigh-in.

Five o'clock came around all too soon for most of the competitors and it seemed as if the time at sea had flown past. Any reluctance on the part of the anglers to return to shore however was immediately nullified by the welcome that awaited them. The turn out of the family and friends to greet the returning competitors at the pier was a sight to be seen. There must have been nearly a hundred people on the pier for the presentation of the trophies.

Alistair Boyd of Achiltibuie won the Summer Isles Gold Cup, (sponsored by Hydro Seafoods Tanera), for landing the heaviest fish of the day, a 5lb. 5 oz. Ling.
David Mackenzie of Altandubh won the Finfish (Inver Polly) trophy with a Cuckoo Wrasse, which was judged to be the most unusual fish caught on the day.
Elizabeth Drake (12) of Polbain won the junior prize for landing a 3lb. 7oz Pollack. A fine effort considering that she was only out on the water for half the day.

Cod Pollack and Ling between 4lbs and 5lbs. were landed and one Whiting but it was a disastrous day for the fishing communities of this Country when the three-mile limit was given up.

The Club wishes to thank all of the competitors and their families for making the day a great success. Thanks also to the skippers and boat owners, the competitors from the Lochside and the Lothians, our sponsors, Jim Muir and Chris' MacLeod for judging and presenting the trophies.

Weather permitting, the competition will be held annually on the Saturday following the Coigach Gathering.

Bill Mullin,
Competition Secretary,
The Achiltibuie Angling Club
IV26 2YS


As visitors, Jean and I were privileged to be asked to the Official Opening of the new Hall. We arrived quite early but were made most welcome by the local villagers already there. Wine glasses were thrust in our hands and were topped up regularly. We enjoyed chats with several people before the Official Visitors arrived. The official business was preceded by a foot tapping exhibition on the bagpipes by one of the local junior schoolgirls.

The Convenor of the Highland Council then unveiled a plaque to open the hall with a fairly brief and to the point speech. The children from the junior school then left and the "grown-ups" were called to lunch.

Lunch was a superb spread of meat and fish with an excellent selection of desserts to follow. The wine continued to flow well. The conversation at our table was interesting.

Then came speeches from those involved in the planning and construction of the Hall. As visitors we did not remember all the names but we had no trouble remembering Harry (the leading light in getting the Hall pushed along to completion). He had a tale about everyone concerned, luckily they were humorous and kept the party going.

We thoroughly enjoyed the occasion and admired the results of the years of work that went into the Hall. Our thanks to the people of Coigach for their hospitality.

John and Jean Bathgate


It was springtime and we had just moved into the cottage by the loch when Christine, her voice full of concern, called me to examine a dead duck in the garden. Sure enough, it looked dead, perfectly still with one eye open, just sitting there motionless hour after hour. We observed it from all angles and apart from poking it with a stick to prove the point, declared it to be a dead duck.

To us, duck had just been part of either the scenery, or the menu, this duck however, was about to change all that. The next time we looked for the dead duck, it was gone and in its place was a clutch of about a dozen eggs. The duck itself was cavorting in the burn that runs through our garden and into the loch just in front of our cottage.

Our conversion was instantaneous; it would be an exaggeration to say that we had been turned into "twitchers", but when the time came and a dozen ducklings were proudly paraded in front of us by the "dead duck", we immediately adopted them.

Dead ducks now became sitting ducks and at bath times were hurriedly fed mixed grains, purchased by the half-hundredweight, transported helpfully by our neighbour, from the animal feed store in Dingwall. For the first few days of their life, the tiny ducklings were fed with fine hen food kindly donated by our neighbour's chickens.

The ducks in question are a mixture of wild and semi domesticated mallards that are fed out of feelings charity alone. They are not killed for food, and their eggs are left untouched. The flock numbers average about sixty odd ducks and drakes over the year.

Some of the adults are taken by otters or break their necks flying into windows etc., or just die of old age.

A dozen ducklings is a big responsibility and a duck needs all the help that it can get if any of them are to survive to maturity.
The duckling's problems start when it is still in the shell, the nest and the clutch of eggs is often left exposed when the duck leaves it to eat and drink, or the busy drakes push the duck off the nest. The Gulls and stoats etc. grab this chance to steal the eggs, and that's that so to speak. The eggs that survive, can hatch out in groups of up to twelve ducklings, then the trouble really starts for the duck family.

The fight that the fledgling ducklings have to put up to survive is nothing less than phenomenal. The mother duck is constantly harassed by drakes that think nothing of pecking a duckling to death, or tossing it into the burn for being a nuisance.

There is a strict pecking order at feeding time and the ducklings are at the bottom end of it. Stoats try to pick off the odd duckling from an unwary mother and there is always one adventurous duckling in every family that wanders off from its mother's protection, only to get carried away by a seagull.

The mother duck, if it is lucky manages to rear one or two of her brood to maturity.

The male mallards are difficult to identify individually, apart from their size, they all look pretty much alike. The ducks are easier to identify because of their drab and tattered appearance.

Pure yellow ducklings are rare and usually, because of their garish plumage, are the first to fall prey to the black back or herring gulls. The yellow duckling grows into a pure white adult. We managed to raise a yellow one, now called Whitey, and it rules the roost in the flock, due to its aggressive attitude towards the others.

The only bird that Whitey puts up with, is a stunted, lame, herring gull, that has been adopted by the ducks. We call it Peg Leg.

Whitey the Mallard, and Peg Leg the Seagull are nature's lesson to us that shared adversity can provide a common goal leading to lasting friendship between former enemies.

Springtime has come around once more, and we are looking forward to our next crop of feathered friends.

Bill Mullin, Reiff



On Saturday the 20th of January 2001, the water in Loch of Reiff was frozen to an average depth of three inches; a week or more of hard frost had caused these unusual conditions on the tidal loch.
The resident Buzzard had suffered severely under the spell of harsh weather, which without doubt contributed to its problems.
The shy creature had been spotted regularly, hovering over its intended prey, in the vicinity of the loch. Recently however, the Buzzard had been seen perching closer than usual to human habitation.

On this particular day, Christine W. of Reiff had nearly stumbled over the bird, which was trying to get off the ground with what appeared to be a damaged wing. Realizing that the Buzzard was in trouble, Christine tried unsuccessfully to feed it with scraps of meat.

John W. also of Reiff, was next to encounter the injured Buzzard, when, but for his lightning fast reactions it would have come to grief under the wheels of his car. As luck would have it, the startled bird, flapped away on its injured flight, and landed in the middle of the frozen Loch of Reiff.
Exhausted and injured, close to death, lying helpless on the ice, the Buzzard was unable to defend itself from the hungry Gulls that almost immediately started to harass it. But help was at hand.

The residents of Reiff, Christine W, Jim and Mhari Mac, aided by volunteers Christopher Mac. Of Blairbuie and Ian and Nan J. of Altandhu quickly formed a rescue team.
Mhari and Ian made separate attempts to reach the injured bird by donning chest waders and braving the ice bound loch from the East and West banks respectively. Alas to no avail, these approaches proved to be too dangerous. Christine and Christopher then tried to startle the bird into making an attempt to reach the shore of the loch under its own power. Also to no avail the poor bird had no strength left over for the effort.

(photo Bill Mullin)

At this juncture, Plan B was put into operation. Jim and Ian donned waders and armed with a shovel cum icebreaker, headed for the West bank of the Loch and Christine went off to fetch the first aid bottle.
Patience, perseverance, kindness and courage were finally rewarded by success. Jim and Ian struggled to the middle of the Loch where they gently recovered the poor Buzzard alive and carried it ashore.
Christine administered first aid to the rescue party, Mhari found some fresh raw chicken breast and a dry bed for the Buzzard, which, despite all of the noble efforts of the rescue team, finally succumbed to its ordeal and passed away peacefully shortly afterwards.

At least the Community of Reiff, and their friends, had spared the poor creature further suffering from the cruel beaks of the Gulls during the last moments of its life. These spontaneous acts of kindness and charity must be beyond praise.

Bill Mullin

Ducklings hatched 30 July 2002
(photo Bill Mullin)

23 September 2003, The Hall Mobile

The local hall now has a large mobile hung. The pieces making up the mobile were constructed by many local villagers.

NB: The mobile has since been removed as someone felt it may be a health and safety hazard!

March 2006, Rescue at Reiff

On Wednesday, 22nd March, 2006 The day started with beautiful sunshine. By late afternoon the weather had changed to a heavy snowfall that went on until late in the evening. We thought the place looked lovely.

However, three elderly gentlemen had left their hotel in Ullapool and had ended up parking at Achnahaird and had started the walk around the rhue or headland. They became lost when the snow hit and one became ill. He was eventually left in a bothy while the others set out for help. They in turn became separated and both were unable to find their way off the headland and raise the alarm. The hotel reported the gentlemen as missing and a local man reported a sighting of their car.

Next morning the weather improved and the snow began to melt and was largely gone by afternoon. The RAF, Lifeboat and Coastguard began the search.

The three men were all located during the afternoon, all in quite separate locations on the Rhue. They had spent 24 hours in the open during a very cold snowy night and were all rather disorientated.

The pictures show the three services working together and the pickup of two of the men by the RAF helicopter on the Rhue. One of the men was found just above the cottage at Reiff.

After the search was successfully over the coastguards take refreshment at Reiff Cottages.

December 2007, On the Rocks at Reiff

Another drama at Reiff today, a fishing boat on the way from Scourie to Ullapool foundered on the rocks at Reiff. The one man crew was winched to safety by the Coastguard helicopter around ten AM today. Here are some pictures of the boat on the rocks.

This is the boat that went on to the rocks at Reiff last Saturday being salvaged. (photos Bill Mullin)

12 March 2008, Air Ambulance at Reiff

The First Call Response Group called in the air ambulance to take Christine to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness after she slipped and hurt her back. At least the journey was quick and easy. (photo Bill Mullin)

September 2008

A good day's fishing on Loch Oscaig produced sea trout, brown trout and this salmon.

September 2009

The whole peninsula has been invaded during this early autumn by a film company making "Eagle of the Ninth" in the area. The film stars Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell and Donald Sutherland and is directed by Kevin Mcdonald.
In 140 AD, twenty years after the unexplained disappearance of the entire Ninth Legion in the mountains of Scotland, young centurion Marcus Aquila (played by Channing Tatum) arrives from Rome to solve the mystery and restore the reputation of his father, the commander of the Ninth. Accompanied only by his British slave Esca (Jamie Bell), Marcus sets out across Hadrian's Wall into the uncharted highlands of Caledonia, to confront its savage tribes, make peace with his father's memory, and retrieve the lost legion's golden emblem, the Eagle of the Ninth. Donald Sutherland portrays Marcus' uncle Aquila, who has retired in Britain; Mark Strong is cast as Guern, an ex-soldier who holds crucial information about the Ninth (Focus Films).
Scenes set below Hadrian's Wall have been fimed in Hungary, whilst scenes north of the Wall have been filmed in Coigach and Argyll.

The main site for the company at Achnahaird (Sep 2009 picture by John McGee)

The Pictish Village built above Old Dornie Harbour (Sep 2009 picture by John McGee)

Pictish Hut (Sep 2009 picture by John McGee)

Fish Drying Frame (Sep 2009 picture by John McGee)

The Pictish Village (Sep 2009 picture by John McGee)

Distant View of the Pictish Village (Sep 2009 picture by John McGee)

Pool of Skulls (Sep 2009 picture by John McGee)

Film Crew Congestion on the road to Ullapool (Oct 2009)

Film Crew Congestion on the road to Ullapool (Oct 2009)

Universal Pictures arranged a preview showing of the film "The Eagle" using the local "Screen Machine" Cinema to thank the locals for their help in the production. (Mar 2011)