Thursday, September 28


A voluntary initiative has started up based in Glasgow to encourage and facilitate eco-renovation; increasing the sutainability of people's own homes. The initiative is being laucnched with a series of interesting events at The Lighthouse in Glasgow, with full details on the Eco-renovation website. The initiative is primarily aimed at urban houses but is obviously of interest to anyone who is interested in making their dwelling more eco-friendly. The initiative will share information about eco-renovation through blogs on their website and the series of events and workshops they are running. The events listed on the site so far are:

Powering your home: The present and future of micro generation. November 1st, The Lighthouse, Glasgow. 7.30pm

Eco-renovation in action. November 15th, Adelaide's 209 Bath St, Glasgow. 7.30pm

Eco-build and renovation: Meet the experts. November 29th, Adelaide's 209 Bath St, Glasgow. 7.30pm.

All the events are free. For more information check out the website.

Monday, September 25

Interview - Kenneth Ross, Ullapool

Next up in Highland Move's series of interviews is Kenneth Ross who moved from Edinburgh up to Ullapool in the far North West of the Highlands. People tend to choose the west coast of Scotland rather than the east for a love of it's rugged landscape and mountains. So choosing the right area for you often means striking a balance between availability of jobs an property in the bigger towns like Oban and Fort William with having the quiet and rural feel of smaller villages dotted up and down the sea lochs. I asked Kenneth wher Ullapool lies on this balance and why it was right for him.

HM: Where did you live before Ullapool and what made you move there? Were you looking for places in the NW or highlands in general or was it something specific about Ullapool?

Before moving to Ullapool I lived in Edinburgh for quite a while and although that it was great at the time I eventually became disheartened with the city; the noise, the traffic, having to spend 2-3 hours in the car to get anywhere. A long time ago I’d had a summer job in Ullapool and it had always been in the back of my mind to move there permanently. For me Ullapool had the right balance between isolation and services. I didn’t want to drive for half-an-hour to buy a pint of milk or have to commute to work. Lochaber was another possibility, but it can still get pretty busy during the summer down there and the weather can be awfully wet! The weather in the far North West isn’t as bad as people think and Ullapool probably gets less rain than Glasgow. Lastly, really like living by the sea.

HM: What are the best things about living in Ullapool and it's surrounding area?

The best thing is definitely the ease of access to fantastic wild countryside. Just being able to look out your window to check the weather, then go and do things locally is wonderful. Living in the country makes you more aware of the changing seasons and I like that. There is a much slower pace of life in the village and people just have more time for each other. There is also a sense of trust and community which is absent from the city.

HM: Do you find it a welcoming place and have you made friends with many of your neighbours?

On the whole people are friendly, certainly a lot more so than in the city. When I moved to Ullapool it was the middle of summer and busy with tourists and seasonal workers. A new face just didn’t stand out and it was only when things quietened down that I found it easy to make new friends. The population is approximately half locals and half incomers, and the locals can appear to be pretty cautious of outsiders. I’d say most of the people I’ve become friends with are incomers like myself.

HM: Do you work in Ullapool itself? What are the main options for work in the area? Do you know people who live in Ullapool but work in Inverness or elsewhere? Do you find most people work in a narrow range of jobs or do you know lots of people who do many different things?

Most options for jobs in Ullapool are tourist based. The main season is May to October when there’s lots a jobs in hotels and shops, and I’ve ended up working in various shops. Some people work in the rapidly declining fishing industry or offshore. Many people have more than one job so they can earn as much as they can in the summer. In the winter things are very quiet and some places shut for January. Not many people commute to Inverness as it’s at least an hour away, but quite a few people commute into Ullapool from Achiltibhuie and Dundonnel. Like many places in the Highlands the biggest job opportunities are for qualified tradesmen like plumbers or electricians. Wages are low but the quality of life is high.

HM: I know you are an outdoor person - do you find the North West’s climate difficult? Do you get frustrated with rain and dark winters, or does being so close to the places you do sport make up for that?

Actually I don’t have much problem there. I like to do a lot of different things which I can fit around the seasons and weather. Because I work part time in the winter, I see a lot more daylight than I would with a 9-5 job in the city. Also, although you can get some bad spells the weather is often not as bad as people in the central belt might think. Honest.

HM: If you had another choice for where to move to in the Highlands and Islands, where would it be and why?

Lochaber was somewhere I considered, because of greater range of job opportunities, but I think I made the right decision.

HM: Any other comments/observations on living in Ullapool or advice for others thinking about moving?

The biggest problem with moving to Ullapool is finding somewhere to stay, especially during the summer. Renting and buying are difficult, as many places are only let as holiday accommodation and the housing market is very small. Things are slowly improving with more housing being built, but the villagers get really frustrated when new houses are snapped up for holiday homes at inflated prices.

Finally, you’ll NEVER get used to the midges and do watch out for deer on
the roads in the winter.

Here are some sites where you can explore Ullapool on the web:
Undiscovered Scotland Ullapool guide
Ullapool webring

Thursday, September 14

Interview, Joe French, Fort William

Highland Move will be featuring a series of interviews with people of different walks of life who have moved into the Highlands and Islands. I'll be asking them about what made them move here, what they do, what they like about the area and what challenges are there for peopke who want to move. I hope the interviews help inspire others. The first is Joe French who lives with his partner who moved from Sheffield to Fort William.

Joe French

HM: Where did you live before moving to Fort William and what made you move?

Joe: I lived in Sheffield before moving to Lochaber, I was lucky enough to be asked to work on quite a famous arts project called room 13.

HM: Why did you choose Fort William what do you think the Fort and the Lochaber area has got going for it?

Joe: Originally when we decided to move I picture getting a croft in the middle of nowhere, finding the mcfrench tartan and embracing a rural life! I’m really pleased that instead of isolating ourselves straight away we chose to move to Fort William. This enabled us to find a social network and make some good friends. For me this is really important. When you move to a small community it’s important to feel as though your part of something and not an outsider. Fort William is full of little cliques; it took a while to establish who were the right kind of folk for us to establish friendships with.

My partner and I have lived in 10 different places in 8 years. For the first time in my life I have felt as if I want to put roots down somewhere. We have a good little house in town that over looks the loch, some good friends, amazing landscapes surround us and I feel Fort William is a town on the up. Sometimes it does feel ambit like a wild west town, as geographically its the last junction before some of Europe greatest wildernesses. It does have its problems, but doesn't everywhere? It seems like there’s a pretty even split between folk who have grown up here and are desperate to get away for the taste of the city and people who have chosen to move here because of its awesome surroundings and to get out of the city! (the pace of life here is markedly different from down

Fort William is one of the only major tourist destinations not to have had major investment and I think its only time before someone steps in with a lot of cash and drives this place forward.

HM: Tell me about your work - What's your main job and what other projects are you involved in?

Joe: I work for a very established arts project called room 13. We encourage children to empress themselves through creativity and try to balance out the monotony of the usual one size fits all curriculum. I’ve started my own version of this in Lochaber high school called studio 13. It’s a music and film studio run by the students for the students. I work as musician/film maker in residence and encourage and help them with their ideas. Have a look at if you’re interested.

HM: You talked to me a little about how opportunities for work and business projects have been quite forthcoming in the area. Would you say the area is progressing quite fast?

Joe: I am self employed so I have the freedom to work on other projects as well. We recently set up an artists co-op called Heather Hat , this is a group of creative young people who have a wide range of skills and can be called upon to work for people i.e. a local business needs a logo designing or the Council need a film made or work on our own projects such as the climbing film we're making about the glen. Fort William is the kind of place that if you want to you can make something happen. There is also lots of money sat in pots for people to apply for that wouldn't be there in a city. The area is progressing at a steady speed but could do with a lot more young determined folk here to drive it forward...

HM: What are your favourite aspects of living where you do from a leisure point of view?

Joe: I’m a climber and mountaineer so this area is perfect for me. I can get to the CIC hut from my house in an hour and a half on my bike or access some remote and wild places just as easily by a short drive. Sometimes the choice can be I just stare at the loch from my window wondering what to do!! Since I’ve been up here I have also got into mountain biking. When your surrounded by such world class tracks its rude not to!

HM: Do you know a lot of people who have moved into the area like yourself, and especially of similar age?

Joe: Most of my friends up here have grown up here, gone away to uni and moved back. Lots of my friends would love the chance to live up here but are put off by the limited job opportunities... like I say though if your willing to get involved and maybe take a less than idea job, its the kind of place that something could happen if you have good ideas and are determined.

HM: If you had a second choice for where to live in Scotland, where would it be and why?

Joe: If not Fort William maybe I'd like to live on Skye, Its one of the most incredible places on the planet! But at least I can get there in a couple of hours if I want to!

Living in Lochaber is a magic experience if you have the right head for it, yes it can be dreich and challenging but seeing a sunbeam slice through a storm cloud and the light and landscape thats ever changing gives me a perspective on the world that few other places could give.

Thanks Joe and good luck with all your projects.

Monday, September 11

Geograph - Every corner of Scotland in photo!

Geograph is an open online project to bring together images from every square km of the UK. Its broad aim is to bring maps alive and give a more human impression of the landscape, urban or wild, to the viewer. It's a pretty useful tool for exploring the country from a distant location in combination with free online OS maps. You could use it to get a feel for a town or just to check out a view of somewhere you might not have an opportunity to get to, such as a remote island or mountain.

The shot above is not from Geograph, its one of mine, taken in February this year. Its the Ardnamurchan peninsula seen from one of the few places you'll see the whole peninsula at one time - from the summit of Blaven on Skye.

Monday, September 4

Relocation support

Highland Move is here to help provide inspiration to find the right places for you to move to in Scotland. It's also here to provide you with all the information you need to plan your move yourself. However, you may have chosen the right place already and are looking for someone to help you with the actual process and legwork (or should that be mousework) of finding property, schools to locate your family and perhaps your business premises too. There are several Scottish based companies offering just this service. You can see them below:

Compass Relocation - based in Beauly near Inverness.
Rural Relocation - Offer property development and project management for the Perthshire and Kinross area. Interesting section on 'Eco-building' dwelling houses, balancing an ecological approach with cost realities.
Elaine French - Based in Inverness, offering property viewing and area information service.
Scottish Property Finder - The best website on this list with some details of the fees involved in the service, some tips for moving and other useful information.
Scott's Relocation- Don't appear to cover the highland area "from Glasgow in the west, across to Edinburgh in the east and right up the coast to Aberdeen". But comprehensive service.

Winter Scottish lectures

Cairngorm in the grip of winter. This beautiful and interesting environment is the subject of Drennan Watson's lecture in Aberdeen this winter. (Photo: Steven Gordon)

For readers based in Scotland I'll post up details of interesting Scottish lectures related to living in Scotland and appreciating its environment. First up is the North East Mountain Trust's winter lecture programme which you can find details of here. The talks are based in Aberdeen this coming winter. They include:

Drennan Watson - "The future of the Cairngorms - a reality check". The environmentalist and author will be talking about what has changed in the Cairngorm area in the 30 years of his work and what the future may hold for the area and its people.

Andy Hall - "A sense of belonging to Scotland" Andy Hall's books have been described by Ewan McGregor as " the most beautiful collection of photos of Scotland that I've ever seen". Andy will describe the places he photographed & the people he met whilst exploring places of special meaning and famous Scots including Sir Alex Ferguson, Ian Rankin and Eddi Reader.

Ellice Milton - "Donside Seasons" Wildlife watcher and pro photographer will take a photographic journey through the Donside seasons looking at habitats, plants, birds, animals and insects.

I will also be giving a lecture for the NEMT on November 14th looking at my contributions and explorations in Scottish rock climbing.

Finding your way around Scotland online

Anne asked if there was anywhere you could view maps of Scotland on the web to get an idea of distances from other places, commutes, etc when considering a property from abroad and without knowing the area well. The Ordnance Survey's 'Get a map' service allows you to navigate around Scotland, zoom in and out to show whatever you need and locate specific grid references. Very handy! You an also use the free Google Earth feature to see aerial photographic images for anywhere on earth. The resolution appears to vary slightly depending on the terrain, but over bigger towns you can make out people, cars and houses easily! If you haven't used it before it's worth downloading just as an experience in itself - its fascinating.