My wife and I own the Overscaig House Hotel and we live here all year round. This part of Sutherland is a wonderful place to live and work. We are surrounded by open moorland and face the beautiful Loch Shin with its frustratingly difficult to catch wild brown trout.
Overscaig, named by the Vikings, means “outcrop” and was probably a notable feature by the loch. The hotel has been here for over 160 years and it’s first visiting fisherman arrived in 1854 along the newly built road from Lairg.
The loch was dammed in the late 1950’s increasing its surface area dramatically but leaving its length almost the same at about 20 miles. The fishing on Loch Shin remains as good as ever and still attracts people from all over the world.
Recently, the reputation of Loch Shin caught the eye of BBC presenter Paul Murton and his team. Having successfully broadcast their Grand Tours Of Scotland and Grand Tours of Scottish Islands, looking at the history and landscape of the country, they decided to refine their viewpoint and consider Scotland from a different perspective – hence the Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs.
Loch Shin was examined in great detail and the team had two visits filming in Lairg and surrounding areas, as well as here at The Overscaig. They took up the challenge of catching our famous wild brown trout and interviewed local ghillie George Leligdowicz who not only demonstrated his skills at fly tying but also his patience in coaching Paul Murton’s fly fishing technique!
They also spent a couple of hours interviewing me and filming our visitor books and fishing records. These old documents date back to the 1870’s and give evidence of a lifestyle that no longer exists. The books are signed by royalty and the elite of society in the late 1800’s who would be travelling on their own summer “grand tour” of the highlands, staying in places like The Overscaig for a week or two’s fishing, before returning to a base like Dornoch or Inverness.
A more modern tale caught the imagination of the TV production team – the tale of John & Yoko. John Lennon spent time in Durness at his Aunt’s home during his childhood and it became a favourite place to hide as his fame spread in later life. In July 1969, he was driving to Durness with Yoko and Julian when he crashed his car and ended up in The Lawson Memorial Hospital in Golspie. There are many public records confirming these facts but not many people know that he had been drinking at The Overscaig that day, or so we had been told by an “informed” local.
Given our visitor books date back over a century, you would expect the owner of The Overscaig at the time would at least get John & Yoko’s autograph in the book, while they were here. So are they?… the visitor book for 1969 is missing! So we can only guess that it’s true but if you had John and Yoko’s autographs would you keep the book or leave it behind when you sold the hotel?
This intrigue seemed to play well during the interview by Paul Murton and we waited keenly for the programme to be scheduled. Out of the blue we had a call from Paul, who apologised that my interview was on the cutting room floor and would not be aired as part of his programme. It turns out that the John & Yoko story was the main interest for the team but in order to present it properly they needed to use stock photographs to illustrate the narrative. Unfortunately, the global royalty payment required to use an image of such well known figures made it prohibitive for the producers to use!
Yes John and Yoko were too expensive but we all enjoyed the “storytelling” nonetheless!
Jan & Martin Fraser
The Overscaig House Hotel