t takes Google Maps three or four attempts to identify Cove correctly. Pretty good going, considering they’ve only recently stopped confusing Inverness and Inverary: not so funny when you’re on the Rest and Be Thankful heading to a meeting with Highlands & Islands Enterprise.
But it’s fine if Cove continues to slip under the radar: a tiny hamlet on the remote shores of Loch Ewe in Wester Ross, the longer it stays undiscovered the better. Although, there’s probably not much threat from mass tourism, since it’s hardly changed a bit since we first trundled up here in 1994, after navigating an eternity of single track roads in a rusty old Land Rover, with two young kids, a couple of unruly dogs, and a boat in tow.
It was love at first sight for us. In fact, we were besotted enough to make the near five hour journey from Perth, twice a year, for the next decade. Growing to understand the remarkable landscape, making friends in the community, learning the knack of getting down to Cove Harbour early for a pick of crab and lobster fresh off the boats.
So, when local creel fisherman, Roto McIver offered to sell us a bit of land in exchange for some cash, and the promise of a through road to his potato fields, we jumped at the chance: on the proviso we’d get planning permission to build a house. And that was far from a given, considering the last evidence of construction on the site looked to be the remains of an ancient black house, which we were fairly guessing pre-dated red tape by several centuries.
Fortunately, permission was granted, papers signed and, after the traditional drams were knocked back to seal the deal, reality hit. We were really doing this, building a holiday home in the isolated country of single track roads, and winter days where you get five hours of light, if you’re lucky.
Would the grandeur of Wester Ross make up for all that lay ahead? Well, at the point when it was just fine malt and big dreams, we certainly thought so.
Unsurprisingly, there were a few sharp lessons waiting for us in the near future.