Polar bears, bobble hats and cigarettes.

Polar bears, bobble hats and cigarettes.

What caught my attention in the media lately.

Iain Hamilton, Head of Creative Industries, HIE.

My blog has been a bit delayed of late. Watching the news has been a miserable experience, and if watching it is miserable, it’s hard to imagine what people in Ukraine are going through. Some how it felt a bit odd to look for good news items amongst the general gloom, but I have.

So let’s start with some really good news! A community in Lochaber has succeeded in its bid to buy Britain's remotest mainland pub in a landmark deal. Residents of the Knoydart Peninsula in Lochaber are now the owners of The Old Forge in Inverie. The only way of reaching the village - and its pub - is by walking 18 miles (29km) or making a seven-mile (11km) sea crossing. This is not the first community purchase by the 100 strong community, as in 1999 they bought the 17,500 acres of the Knoydart estate. This is going to be great for locals and the large numbers of visitors attracted to the area.

Tourism is looking promising overall in 2022. Orkney is expecting a boom season as the cruise liners start to arrive back into the islands, with 190 cruises expected to bring in the region of 100,000 visitors, compared to 36 cruises in 2021.

It was great to see an Inverness primary school named Public Building Development of the Year at the annual Scottish Property awards in Glasgow. Merkinch primary saw the original building, opened in 1876, renovated and a new building with classes and a family centre added. A panel of 20 judges selected the building from more than 60 entries. Merkinch itself is one of the oldest parts of Inverness and its name is translated from Gaelic meaning ‘Island of the Horse’. The area became part of Inverness in the 13th Century when it had to make an annual payment of 1 pound of black pepper to the town! The area was also known for ship building at one time and is the home of the mighty Clachnacuddin FC!

Sticking with historical themes, the Press and Journal has a regular ‘past-times’ feature, although I would dispute the use of the term here – the White Heather Trials in Sutherland actually finished in 1983, so I was well and truly around for that! Started by two brothers from Rogart – Jim and Bill Grant, it is a nice article about the annual motorbike trials that ran for more than 20 years and has some fabulous photos of riders in boilersuits and wooly hats, cigarette in mouth, as they hammer round the course. Guess health and safety was less of an issue at one time!

So, I understand most people realise that nature and the countryside is an important part of the Highlands and Islands, and I know that I have mentioned the Cairngorms National Park in this blog before, so animals appearing in the blog will be no great surprise – but not giant flesh-eating mice this time around. The first article I spotted was about the local polar bear cub being mighty excited about his first snow fall! Brodie was born at the Wildlife Park at Kincraig near Aviemore in December, and believe it or not, was just experiencing his first snow! His older brother, Hamish, was the first polar bear cub to be born in the UK in 25 years back in 2017. Anyway, forget all that, if you can resist photos of a cute wee furry bear, then you don’t cry when you cut onions!

Snow is welcomed by many – apart from me – but it is important that you are well prepared if you are taking to the mountains at this time of year. STV have a short item and programme on the invaluable work carried out by the volunteers of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue and a volunteer being buried in snow for practice!

The next animal story features a rare but less unusual resident of the Cairngorms – the Sea Eagle. The Sea Eagle is the UK’s largest bird of prey with wingspans of up to 2.4 meters, and you can see them up close in their nest through a new hidden camera in the reserve at Abernethy. The Sea Eagle became extinct here and was re-introduced from Norway in the ‘70s, and there are now around 40 breeding pairs in Scotland.

Does everyone except me know what a superbloom is? My incredibly smart colleagues I suspect are not telling the truth on this, but all claim to know. My point – Orkney composer Erlend Cooper has been commissioned to write a unique work which is set to be the soundtrack of the floral transformation of the Tower of London as part of the celebrations for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The Superbloom will require 20 million flowers. A superbloom, the article says is when several good weather patterns coincide and spark growth of in dormant seeds. I really don’t believe my colleagues (and former friends) knew that at all!

And just in case you missed it – we are holding our annual online conference XpoNorth on the 15th and 16th June. Did I mention it before, and the fact that it is going to be awesome! Don’t forget to sign up!


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