From ospreys to hula-hoops – XpoNorth had it all

Blythe Duff stars in the award-winning, life-affirming short film Hula

Question: What’s the connection between a magnificent osprey taking a 20lb trout out of a Highland loch and Blythe Duff mastering the art of the hula-hoop?

Answer: XpoNorth, Scotland’s leading creativity festival, which took place this week in a warm and sunny Inverness.

We were in the Highland capital as delegates at XpoNorth and were wowed by the wealth of talent on display. From all corners of the country there were people from the worlds of music, screen, writing, fashion, crafts, gaming, broadcasting, publishing and textiles. Based in Eden Court, the festival was a magnificent showcase for what’s happening creatively in Scotland right now. And there is a great deal going on.

Maramedia's breathtaking osprey clip from Highlands - Scotland's Wild Heart

To watch Maramedia’s/BBC Scotland’s breathtaking osprey clip, click here

On Day One we took in as many of the events relating to writing and publishing as we could. New writers, old writers, new publishing, old publishing – change and new developments helping to maintain a thriving sector.

On Day Two there were two particular screen events I wanted to see. One was a talk by producer Nigel Pope from Maramedia discussing the making of Highlands – Scotland’s Wild Heart.  Hearing about the skills, dedication and extraordinary patience of the crew as they wait for those perfect shots was fascinating. And the clips he’d chosen to show were absolutely breathtaking!

The other event was the world premiere of young filmmaker Robin Haig’s short film Hula. As director, Robin has created a delightful film that is warm, funny and poignant, combining to perfection the performance of the hugely talented Blythe Duff and the Highland setting of Dornie, a village in Wester Ross that sits at the meeting place of the waters of Loch Duich and Loch Alsh.  It’s not in the least surprising that Robin won this year’s BAFTA Scotland New Talent Award for Best Drama.

To watch the trailer click here

To watch the trailer click here

But films don’t make themselves and we were very fortunate to meet Lindsay McGee, Hula‘s producer. Like so many people, I wasn’t fully aware of all the hard work and skill that goes on behind the scenes of any film and I suspect Robin was very glad to have the talented and capable Lindsay as her producer.

All this talent, all this creativity and some of the most glorious scenery in the world – Scotland certainly has so much going for it. And who could ask for better than that!

For the BBC report on Hula’s premiere click here

Looking for Brigadoon? It’s in Wester Ross under Loch Glascarnoch!

A drowned bridge on a drowned road – across the bed of Loch Glascarnoch

It’s supposed to appear for one day only, once every hundred years, Brigadoon, the fabled Highland village.  Now, intriguingly, after almost 60 years under water, the old road through Glen Glascarnoch to Ullapool has reappeared in a similar fashion!

Up until the 1950s the main road from Inverness to Ullapool ran through the middle of the glen.  Though the term ‘main road’ may conjure up false images for many today: back then, as in so much of the Highlands and Islands, it was still only a single track road with passing places.

The old lost road to Ullapool

Throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s, an unparalleled hydro-electric scheme was created throughout the Highlands, bringing ‘Power to the Glens’ for the first time ever. Glascarnoch Glen was dammed and an artificial loch, Loch Glascarnoch, created to hold water from Loch Vaich and Loch Droma, before feeding into the hydro system at  Mossford Power Station, five miles away.  When the dam was built the road was lost forever – or so it seemed.

Looking north to the drowned bridge

Earlier this year SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy) decided to lower the water level in Loch Glascarnoch as a preparation for potential heavy autumn and winter rains, and suddenly there it was  – the ‘lost’ road – and with hardly a pothole to be seen!

It was a dramatic sight and when we arrived a number of people were already taking the opportunity to walk this ghost road while it’s still possible.  We walked for a mile or so, made it across the bridge (thanks to wellies) and perhaps half a mile or so further, but at that point the mud thickened and the road disappeared back into the dark water, and it was time to return to the car.

Old tree roots visible for the first time in 60 years

It was fascinating to see old tree roots, but also interesting to see just how quickly much of the area had become green: tiny plants and grasses taking this rare opportunity to burst out between rocks and mud.  But, just like Brigadoon, the rains will come and this old ghost road and its bridges will disappear once again too. And, who knows, might well become just another strange tale of the mysterious and misty Highlands!!