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Caithness News Bulletins October 2005

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Caithnophobic Websites

by Mike Clark

Search engines are great when you know what you’re looking for. The one thing search engines cannot do successfully, is find sites which exclude what you’re looking for. Which means websites purporting to promote Scotland, be they in the fields of travel, history, environment or any other, and which ignore Caithness, don’t come up when you search for Caithness. And they don’t come up when you try “not Caithness”. They remain anonymous.

Though I spend a lot of time in the libraries, I also trawl the internet regularly, researching material for potential magazine articles. And I am dismayed with what I find by accident. It comes as no surprise to find that Caithness is the forgotten county, but I am surprised that it is ignored on such a grand scale.

This list can only be the tip of the iceberg, being my personal experiences, and when I remembered to make note.

http://www.travelpublishing.co.uk/HiddenPlacesScotland/Highlands/HighlandsMain.htm  - The Travel Publishing website, subtitled “The Hidden Places of Scotland”. They certainly keep Caithness well hidden. The clickable map is peppered with dots. Inverness is completely hidden by dots. Join the dots, though, between Melness and Helmsdale, both of which are obviously in Sutherland, and you’ll find nothing to the north east. Caithness doesn’t exist.

http://www.scotland.com/  – If you can find anything to do with Caithness here, you’re a better man than me. Navigation is a labyrinth. If you give up, and enter “Caithness” in the search facility, you’ll get the Castle of Mey (fair enough), followed by Caithness on Amazon, Caithness on eBay, and Caithness on shopping.com. Caithness.org is listed, along with Caithness Glass (!). And that’s it.

http://www.geo.ed.ac.uk/scotgaz/ - “The Gazetteer for Scotland is a vast encyclopaedia, featuring details of towns, villages, bens and glens from the Scottish Borders to the Northern Isles.” So it claims, but on the map, only Wick, Thurso and Groats are clickable, and even then justify only a few brief words. Any other click within the county is “Not Found”.

http://www.scottish-enterprise.com/aboutscotland  - the website of Scottish Enterprise. The drop-down menu in the site search doesn’t include the Highlands. While I appreciate that the Highlands is the remit of HIE, one would expect some acknowledgement within the Scottish Enterprise site that the region exists, and at the very least a link to HIE.

http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/  - okay, they have the Hill o’ Many Stanes, Camster, Get and Old Wick, but information is sadly thin on the ground. And if you click on an area of the map from the homepage, you go round in circles. The repeated message is –

Search for places to visit"
Please select an area of Scotland you are interested in visiting and you will be able to view an interactive map of our properties and places to visit located in that area

If you persevere, you will eventually find a clickable map which is actually clickable. But how many visitors will persevere? I wouldn’t. If I found a supposedly clickable map on the homepage which kept taking me back where I started, I’d be out of there.

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ - The Office of Public Sector Information. A search for Inverness produced 374 results. A search for Caithness produced “ No items matched your criteria. Please refine your search.” Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe we have no skeletons in our cupboard.

http://www.travelinescotland.com/index.htm  - This is wonderful! I tried a dummy journey from Edinburgh Waverley Street to Canisbay! It will take 5 hours and 1 minute. I’d believe that when I saw it. The main drawback is that I’m booking something without knowing the cost. At first glance, the journey will cost me a paltry £3.00. Then the unknowns kick in. I quote –

“Standard fare £3.00 excluding Bus X86, Local Flight 8893, 43691 , Bus 80”

The detail of the travel itinerary is so good, that this website shouldn’t really feature on this Caithnophobes list. But it makes it because it provides no costs, nor links to the stages of travel to allow me to determine costs.

I will continue to note Caithnophobic websites, and urge you to do the same.

Perhaps if we are bold enough, and proud enough, to name and shame, given time things will change.

Any thoughts To The Message Board!!!

© Mike Clark 2005.