Friday, 17 August 2012

GAIRLOCH

Glancing through the news archives for Gairloch, a headline from 1961 caught my attention: ""Terrorists" beaten back at Gairloch". Intrigued that such a dramatic event should have taken place in an idyllic spot on the west coast of Scotland, I clicked through to the article, but it turned out to be an exercise involving nearly 500 officer cadets from Sandhurst. The exercise had the "terrorists" landing on the shore with the aim of inciting the locals to riot, while being dealt with by troops aided by army helicopters. The exercise must have toughened the cadets up quite considerably, as the weather was atrocious and they were forced to spend much of their time out in the open. No doubt the proceedings provided a considerable amount of excitement for the residents of this sleepy community.

Loch Gairloch is one of a series of bays and sea lochs along this stretch of coast, with Gairloch itself consisting of several communities strung out along the shores of Strath Bay. Settlement here dates back at least to the Iron Age, and the remains of a fort from that time still occupy a headland near the golf club. Later, the Vikings arrived and used the loch as a haven. The area is now owned by the Mackenzies, who were granted the land by King James IV in 1494. Gairloch used to have an important cod fishing industry, with a large proportion of the catch being dried at Badachro on the south side of the loch for export to Spain. Now there are only a few fishermen left, while some boat owners have turned their attention to tourism, with wildlife viewing and fishing trips on offer. Gairloch has its own heritage museum, where one of the exhibits is a Pictish stone with a salmon carving, found here in 1880.

Map of the area.



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