Hey! I’m finally writing a blog post about my present location! I’ve caught up with myself. Or caught you up with me. Or, well… Never mind. Here we are. In Scoraig. Population:70. Households: maybe a third of that number. Border collies: at least one per household. Pairs of wellies stacked up next to the front door: too many to count!
The settlement of Scoraig is not like any town I’ve visited yet. In fact, it’s not a town. I’m not sure what it’s called, exactly. I’ll try my best to describe it to you.
(Pardon me while I throw the stick a dozen more times for the relentless Border Collies in my care. I’ve mentioned this on Facebook already. Throw a stick once, just ONCE, for a Border Collie and you are doomed to stick-throwing hell for the rest of your living days.)
Scoraig lies on a small peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic. It’s laid out on the south facing side along Little Loch Broom. I don’t know why it qualifies as a loch, since it opens right into the ocean. But maybe it’s a Scottish thing.
Scoraig is actually a series of Crofts, rather than a town. Each croft is a long, skinny piece of land that runs from the sea on up the hillside to the spine of the peninsula. As I understand it, these Crofts were provided to people removed from their homes during the famous Clearances. Each croft is just big enough (in theory) to support a family. The crofters built homes here, predominantly from stone, and kept livestock, gardened and fished as they were able. It was a very hard life. The population emptied out of Scoraig as opportunities to earn a living opened up in the cities. At one point, there were just a handful of households still extant on the peninsula. (I think four, but don’t quote me on that).
Some the area was largely abandoned, it came about that One could apply for and get ownership of a croft here. For free. (Much like the old homesteading opportunities in the US) Wait — not exactly ownership. The land is all owned by an aristocratic family. Yes, there is even a laird. In fact, the laird of this entire area is Tim Rice, the guy who co-wrote Jesus Christ Superstar with Andrew Lloyd Weber. How’s that for weird trivia?!?! So you can’t own the land exactly. But you do have some kind of rights in relation to it and your children can inherit those same rights as the croft holders.
In the late 1960s, a few alternative folks decided to try it. They came out here, fixed up the old crofters’ cottages, planted trees (lots of them – all the ones you’ll see in upcoming pictures were planted from that time until now), figured out a way to provide themselves with water, power and income, and slowly, over time coalesced into a small but thriving community. The school reopened. Mail delivery resumed thrice weekly. A few folks had boats and the jetty became the transportation center for goods and people moving back and forth across Little Loch Broom.
If you don’t want to come across the water to get to Scoraig, you have the option of driving along the peninsula to its nearest neighbor town. Then you park your car and hike the four miles in. Groceries on your back. Folks here seem to do both, depending on where they last left their car.
Once in Scoraig, transportation is mostly by foot. Some households have a four wheeler, but not all. I’ve only seen one car here. It’s Lisa’s (my host). And she’s got it because she delivers the mail to all the crofts.
Lisa’s home is one of those old crofter’s cottages. Over the years, she and her husband Bill (recently deceased) and their two (now adult) daughters have added on to it. By Scoraig standards, it’s quite roomy and upscale. There are two bathrooms and a lovely sunroom addition which they call “the conservatory”. The home is powered by a wind turbine and solar panels. Heat is provided by wood burning stoves. Water is collected from a spring above them on the hill and is gravity fed to the house. Thee are a few small outbuildings that house tools, a small shop, some storage, some quails, and animal feed. They also have a big
Sorry, must throw stick. Throw. The. Stick.
polytunnel and small greenhouse. Lisa keeps a small flock of sheep (Cheviot, I think), chickens, quail and has some pretty extensive gardens. She provides “veg boxes” and eggs to local folks. In past years, she’s sold at the nearby farmer’s market.
on what I’ve been doing and why I’ve mentioned Bisbee in relation to Scoraig. Xoxox!