Work starts on the track to our community turbine site (with the Ben Mor Hydro pipeline in the background). Renewable energy – and an income for the community is on its way!
It’s been all go in the East End of Coigach these last few months with several construction projects in action. RJ Mcleod have been busy on the Ben Mor Hydro site, Curries are now at work on the turbine site, and Kinellan Building and their sub-contractors have been all-out at the Schoolhouse. Scottish Water have had a new road put in below the Piping Cafe for the new water treatment works and a new house is going up in Badenscallie.
It’s all great entertainment for some of the younger members of the community who are delighted by the parade of lorries, diggers, vans and other mysterious vehicles – and good for the local cafe and shop where sales of bacon rolls and snacks have received a welcome boost.
Work will be starting soon on Achiltibuie Schoolhouse so we held a clear-out day to cut back some of the undergrowth that was beginning to take over the garden. Local volunteers armed with a various bits of gardening paraphernalia gathered on Saturday 19th March and were soon chopping and lopping to tackle the jungle. A couple of hours later and there was something of a transformation – it may not be a contender for garden of of the year yet, but there is space now, allowing access for the construction team who will be working on the building (soon we hope). Many thanks to all our volunteers for their time and effored – and missing from the picture Bill and Iain who removed several trailer-loads of branches and greenery – and especially to Lesley and Rose at the Piping School Cafe who generously sponsored the day by providing lunch for the garden army.
CCDC is delighted to report that Acheninver Youth Hostel looks like having a brighter future. Scottish Wildlife Trust, who own the building and the Ben Mor Estate on which it sits, are inviting applications to lease the hostel. This offers someone with energy and enthusiasm an exciting opportunity to build a business and a life for themselves in an amazing place in the North West Highlands.
Acheninver Youth Hostel is on the Coigach Peninsula, and forms part of the community known sometimes as Achiltibuie (though strictly speaking, this only refers to the area from the church to the school). Roughly, Coigach covers the coastal area from Reiff to Culnacraig – (about 10 miles) with a population of approximately 250.
We are looking for someone with good ideas and practical skills who can: maintain and develop the hostel in some way to benefit the local community and economy; keep Coigach on the map as a great place for visitors and create a rewarding future for themselves as part of that community.
Coigach has spectacular scenery with mountains, moorland and a rugged coastline interspersed with sandy beaches overlooking the Summer Isles. The area is understandably popular with walkers, climbers, kayakers and anyone who enjoys the great outdoors. There is a small primary school, a hotel, two pubs, a couple of cafes, a craft shop and a comfortable community village hall which is a great asset. Coigach is part of a National Scenic Area and is also within the North West Highlands Geopark.
“But what do you do in the winter?” is a frequently asked question. The answer is we just get on with it! People work all year, go to school, and those that are involved in the (largely seasonal) tourism business sometimes remark that it’s good to have a bit of time to catch up! Though small, we are a very sociable community – regular community events at the village hall are well attended, well fed and fun. There are opportunities for people with shared interests to get together: skiff-rowing, music, singing, dancing, fishing, walking, photography, circuit-training, crafts – there is very little opportunity to get bored and no excuse to avoid exercise!
However, the area is not without its challenges. Described as “fragile” the community has suffered as result of de-population and a lack of opportunities for (particularly) younger people. Many of our young people have embraced education and a sense of adventure and gone off to find out for themselves what the wider world has to offer. This is good and Coigach has a broad and far-flung diaspora. Unfortunately it has become increasingly difficult for people to return to or come to live in Coigach. This is partly due to a lack of available, affordable housing and employment. CCDC (Coigach Community Development Company) was set up in 2010 to tackle some of these challenges and to help create a sustainable future for the community. We currently have planning permission for a wholly community-owned wind turbine which will generate an income to invest in local projects. We have two part-time employees funded by HIE (Highlands and Islands Enterprise) and as well as working on our development plan, we support and promote any projects which we feel will benefit the community. Hence our involvement here.
So come on if you think this is for you – details of the application process are in the Acheninver Hostel Prospectus documents below and the closing date is 21st February so don’t hang about!
If you heard us on BBC Scotland Out of Doors (broadcast Saturday 7th November, and available on iPlayer until early December) you will know that the hostel is now closed and the lease between owners Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) and the Scottish Youth Hostel Association has now come to an end.
You’ll see from our previous post that the hostel’s future was in question and we invited interest from people who would interested in taking on the lease (if that was an option), and there was a very positive response. We were able to tell the owners that there were, (as we suspected) willing folk out there who were keen to take on the lease, run the hostel or at least find out more about it.
We have since been told by SWT, that after much deliberation, they have decided they to sell the hostel in early 2016. This would come with burdens that would take into consideration (and benefit) the hostel’s heritage, and the local community – and there has been some interest in this too.
More recently we understand that has not been finalised so if you are interested in the hostel – either to lease or buy please get in touch and we’ll forward your enquiry on to SWT. Alternatively, you can get in touch directly:
After years of filling in forms, digging up holes, looking down drains and generally chipping away, we finally took ownership of Achiltibuie Schoolhouse 0n Friday 16th October.
The house has been vacant for a few years now and has suffered from lack of maintenance but it is basically sound. And placed as it is – next to the school and the community hall it will make a big difference to that little corner if the schoolhouse is restored to former glory.
The next step is to to lease the house to Highland Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) who will take over the refurbishment and convert the house into two smart, modern and comfortable flats: a two-bedroom upstairs, and a one-bedroom downstairs. HSCHT, who has all the relevant experience and expertise, will manage the tenancies and the property and we hope to see two new households in Coigach within the year.
Funding has been secured from the Nationwide Shelter Empty Homes Initiative which will go some way towards the refurbishment but not all, so we are pursuing other avenues, and Scottish Land Fund are helping with the legal costs. Although the purchase price was only £1, there are of course many other expenses! Read more →
Acheninver (or Achininver) Youth Hostel has been an iconic part of the local landscape for a long time. A former croft house, it became a youth hostel in the 1930’s when hiking and hosteling was the new big thing. Since then people of all ages (some more youthful than others) have stayed here: walked The Rock (the Postman’s Path from Ullapool); climbed the local hills, enjoyed the scenery and made friends. Many have returned and remember the hostel fondly as their introduction to the area – and some have never left!
Summer 2015 looks like it will be the hostel’s last in its current form as the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) are giving up their lease on the building; it is currently owned by Scottish Wildlife Trust as part of the Ben Mor Estate. At present, the future looks uncertain but we feel there is an opportunity to create a new future for the hostel. The accommodation is basic but the location is stunning and there is currently a shortage of short-stay, budget accommodation in the area.
Nothing is set in stone, and we are discussing various options but would welcome comment or notes of interest from anyone who might be interested in taking over the lease and running the hostel as their own business. It would suit someone one with energy and enthusiasm, and an interest in outdoor activities who would like to develop a business but perhaps does not have the capital to buy a property and start from scratch. It’s not going to make anyone a millionaire but there is the opportunity to increase business through extending the season (the hostel is only open in the summer months) and encouraging group activity bookings, or reducing the dormitory accommodation and offering a slightly more luxurious stay in private rooms. It may also be possible to benefit from SYHA’s advice and ongoing support as an affiliate. All is subject to negotiation and agreement with SYHA, SWT and CCDC.
Common room with kitchen area, upstairs Dormitory (8 beds), downstairs dormitory (8 beds?), family room (4 beds), warden’s accommodation, showers/toilets, sheds.
Access is by foot along the burn from the car park at Achavraie – there is a rough path but only passable by appropriate vehicle (quad, 4×4). The path continues down the Acheninver burn to the sea where there is a sandy beach.
If you would like to know more and are considering an exciting challenge in one of the most beautiful parts of the world (we have stunning scenery AND a friendly community!) please get in touch. You might even like to come and stay this summer and see for yourself. Or if you stayed in the past and have happy memories, or would like to make some suggestions for improvement please let us know.
Coigach is part of a National Scenic Area and the North West Highlands Geopark. The hostel overlooks Loch Broom and the Summer Isles and is a 25 mile drive from Ullapool (where the ferry departs for Stornoway and the Western Isles). There is a very rough path from Ullapool round the base of Ben Mor Coigach – suitable only for experienced and very hardy walkers. Or you could come by small boat or canoe as there is a sandy beach nearby.
Contact: Julia Campbell, Local Development Officer, CCDC
phone: 01854 622 379 (home)
write: Coigach Community Hall, Achiltibuie, Ullapool IV26 2YL
facebook: Coigach Community Development Company
visit: fly/train to Inverness, bus to Ullapool, bus to Achiltibuie – or drive approximately 25 miles north of Ullapool.
Salary £24,480 pro rata; up to 2 years funding available
Closing date for applications: 12 Noon 06 May 2013
Coigach Community Development Company (CCDC) is seeking to appoint an energetic and self-motivated person to drive forward the development of the community owned Achiltibuie Smokehouse to deliver a real benefit for our community. Working with a number of partners, professionals and contractors you will have excellent organisational and communication skills, and good written English. The work involves working with the local community to assist with the stimulation and evaluation of project ideas; to undertake research on the proposed project ideas; and to participate in planning and development of the smokehouse property with the project management committee and/or project manager.
Experience of securing funding would be desirable. 19 hours per week, some evening and weekend working, some travel to external training courses, seminars or study visits will be required.
The creation of a modern business premises and establishment of one or more new businesses is the expected project outcome. Job creation, re-employment of former smokehouse staff, and the creation of a popular tourist attraction could make a significant contribution towards the socio-economic wellbeing of Coigach.
Place of work: Achiltibuie Smokehouse in Altandhu (and some home working).
For details of the post please contact Julia Campbell by email (email@example.com) or phone 01854 622379 – or to help make our recruitment greener, please download the details here: