Saturday, 31 December 2011

Brains, Scales and Scams

The BBC has recently presented two stories concerning fish. One involves a Shetland company manipulating its scales in order to create what has apparently turned out to be a £47.5 million pound scam involving catches. However, this company and several fishermen were caught out ... by the authorities. Then a marine survey has produced some remarkable findings from 220 square miles off the the Scottish coast. Around the Small Isles, over 100 marine specimens were identified and off Tankerness, Orkney, the rare prehistoric amphioxus was found. This fish, pictured above, lacks both a brain and a face. Could the two BBC stories be connected?

Scottish Islands Explorer - sometimes establishing links

Friday, 30 December 2011

Time To Test Tidal

The sub-structure of the HS (Hammerfest Strom) 1000 tidal turbine was constructed in the Arnish Yard , Stornoway; is about to be tested off the Orkney coast; and is a device that will be part of the forthcoming Islay Sound project. Out of sight, out-of-mind, but capable of powering 500 homes.

Scottish Islands Explorer - subject more to times than to tides

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Way Off Course

Two Kemp's ridley sea turtles have been found washed up on Britain's shores. One was at Llannon in west Wales; the other was early this month on the Isle of Tiree. They are members of an endangered species and require special handling whether dead or alive. The Marine Conservation Society is keen to see that stranded creatures are carefully prepared for return to the waters or be given a suitable post-mortem.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of what has come ashore

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

On Top, On Top

Sufficient residents of Shetland, at the top end of the UK, have indicated that they are happy with their lot. This year's Bank of Scotland survey has placed them on top of a table measuring what is presented as 'quality of life'. They may be short of daylight at his time of year and an average of three hours of sunshine per week, but this has not deterred them.

Scottish Islands Explorer - considered, by some readers, to be a top publication

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Caroline at Coastcard

This image of a bird flying over Bass Rock was taken by Suffolk photographer, Caroline Gill, and is part of a collection that deserves full attention. Have a read of her travels to the Scottish islands and the ways in which she presents her subjects. You will not be disappointed.

Scottish Islands Explorer - keen to take a bird's eye view

Monday, 26 December 2011

Birds En Masse

This feral Canada Goose has its eye on us and the film-maker of a seven minute YouTube clip certainly had his lens focused on a large flock of the geese descending on Islay. Sit back and enjoy, especially after traditional fare of the season.

Scottish Islands Explorer - attracts birds of a feather

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Wait For It

The residents of Foula, the most remote island in the Shetland group, have since 1752 traditionally adhered to the Julian Calendar when it comes to Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Foula also adhered to the older calendar by keeping 1800 as a leap year, but did not observe a leap year in 1900. As a result, the island is now one day ahead of the Julian calendar and twelve days behind the Gregorian, observing Christmas Day on January 6 Gregorian and New Year on January 13 Gregorian. At one time the Foula Post Office made a token opening for business on Christmas Day morning.  A similar resistance to the date change brought in 260 years ago is shown by the 200 or so residents of the Gwaun Valley in West Wales.

Scottish Islands Explorer - changing with the times 

Saturday, 24 December 2011

It's a Four-Letter Word

This image of the Paps of Jura does have an austere feel, with Islay appearing through the clouds across the Sound. Yet the name of Jura has a wide appeal - not just for whisky connoisseurs, but for those who like a particular make of coffee machine, a brand of watch and a European range of mountains. Which one for a Christmas present?

Scottish Islands Explorer - still available as a Christmas gift

Friday, 23 December 2011

More Claymore?

There has been a new Ferry Review published by the Scottish Government. The popular petition for the establishment of a Mallaig to Lochboisdale crossing has not been dismissed, but, as yet, there is no plan to implement it. Support will continue to be sought. A report in the West Highland Free Press suggests that Pentland Ferries with its now spare, former CalMac vessel, the MV Claymore, may be interested. Now that the Fort William - Mallaig road has been upgraded, this new ferry route does appeal.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looking for new avenues

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Where's Jimmy?

Names come and go - in the Northern Isles as well as anywhere. The range available on Shetland takes in those of Scandinavian origin, but a look at the island group's popular names for babies in 2011 indicates that there are many different strands that appeal to parents. The letter accompanying the item shows how deep the resources are when it comes to choice.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has remained the same name for 13 years

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Join the Elite

Here, in the winter sun, is Maeshowe on Orkney. It was built in Neolithic times and was intended, perhaps, as accommodation for the socially elite in a prehistoric tribe. One of its attributes, enjoyed to this day, is the alignment of the sun on the Winter Solstice. Go there today, with its shortest hours of light, via the three webcams that bring images to all parts of the world, wherever there is an internet connection.

Scottish Islands Explorer - keen to illuminate

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Flying the Flag

A couple of days ago the Scottish flag apparently featured in the skies above Bavaria. This image was sent to the blog by a German  national who wonders what has happened. Any thoughts on the matter by our readers?

Scottish Islands Explorer - sells in Germany, but not yet in sky-high quantities

Monday, 19 December 2011

More than Explorers

The Ravenspoint Centre at Kershader in the South Lochs of the Isle of Lewis has expanded recently and supplies retail, restaurant, archive and hostelling needs to the community and visitors. It also houses the back office of Scottish Islands Explorer magazine. Now it is increasing its services and certain lines are proving particularly popular. Will a fuel supply be added, saving a 30-mile round-trip to fill-up the tank?

Scottish Islands Explorer - has a good home


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Need Advice?

At sometime in 2012, if you need to contact Citizens Advice direct from your home you could well be put through to Stornoway. This organisation will soon be recruiting 41 individuals to work at a local contact centre. Read all about it.

Scottish Islands Explorer - insular advice supplied

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Beyond the Noup

There are Foula watchers, everywhere. The loneliest Scottish island with a permanent civilian population always attracts attention. So do the YouTube clips that are readily available. Get behind the Noup and see the lie of the land, the housing stock and its residents going about their business.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a vested interest in the faraway

Friday, 16 December 2011

Brochs, Duns & W'houses

Dun Carloway is certainly the best-known broch on the Isle of Lewis. Go some miles to the west and discover the Valtos Peninsula, on the way to Uig. Here there has been some exciting archaeological work on brochs, duns and wheelhouses. The landscape is appealing, the scenery is grand and what's beneath the surface is stimulating.

Scottish Islands Explorer - digging deeper where possible

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Hostelling Highest

The Islesburgh Hostel in Lerwick has 64-beds and something to make its staff and visitors sleep soundly as well as feel very proud.  It has been awarded the highest accolade at an international hostelling convention in Vienna. So here is the world's best place of its type at which to stay. 2012 should bring increased business to the Islesburgh House Hostel that is geographically high in the UK, particularly from those who seek top establishments.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to be top among island magazines

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Plenty To Look Up To

The skies over Orkney have plenty of offer as these two images above Hoy Sound show. A group of enthusiasts want to look further afield and are establishing an island-based Astronomical Society. The inaugural meeting will take place on Tuesday 20 December. That day provides the longest hours of darkness during the course of the year - so it's significant for this type of observation.

Scottish Islands Explorer - encouraging people to look up as well as beyond

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Rare Sighting

There was a rare sighting, at the weekend, of a humpback whale off West Voe, Shetland. It was some 50' in length and came within 250 yards of the shore. The news spread and crowds gathered. STV covered the occurrence, the first in the area for over a year, in their evening report.

Scottish Islands Explorer - covering events off- and on-shore

Monday, 12 December 2011

But and Ben

'Simplicity, sobriety and industry' apparently applied to island-life on Stroma, the only island administered from Caithness. Other distinctive differences are described in an analysis that includes references to the two major rooms in the single-storey houses that were occupied until 1962. These were the 'but' and the 'ben'. The Islands Book Trust has organised a trip to Stroma on Saturday 14 July and has published a finely-illustrated book, the cover of which is above.

Scottish Islands Explorer - plenty to explore

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Under the Sand

The Viking settlers at Skiall Bay in Sandwick, Orkney, built their homes to last, but would have been astonished to know that over a thousand years later there would be excavations to recover the foundations from the sand. What's more people from throughout the world are being asked to vote on their merit for an archaeological award. See this blog for more information.

Scottish Islands Explorer - digging for island treasures

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Take a View

This photograph of part of the Isle of Harris has won David Clapp a top award in a national competition. The details are presented in the Stornoway Gazette. Network Rail is involved in the sponsorship of the event while, of course, its presence in the Hebrides is non-existent.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always keen to display great images

Friday, 9 December 2011

Family and Free-Postage

There's something about the Bell Rock Lighthouse that makes the blood race. It was the last of the lighthouses to be commissioned in the days of sailing ships and yet it stands the test of waves and time. Roland Paxton has written a book on the dynasty of the Stevenson family that had engineering and construction in their DNA coding. When purchasing a copy enter another code and it's yours post-free.

Scottish Islands Explorer - also post-free for subscribers

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Summer (Isles) Job

Here are the Summer Isles from Conival. You could be living, working and enjoying yourself on these islands this Summer. There is work available and so check out this advertisement and get your application in by Friday 6 January 2012. Tell  them that you first saw the position here.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always open to free-lance writers

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Detailed Viewing Direct

DVDs certainly allow the armchair traveller to have detailed viewing direct. The stocks of DVDs at Scottish Islands Explorer permits highly-visual visits to the Highlands & Islands - whether to the west coast of the mainland, on ships and boats in and around the islands, to places that are relatively near or remarkably remote. A glance at the details of the score of videos on offer may revive memories, stimulate the urge to acquire, solve a present-buying problem.

Scottish Islands Explorer - good things for sale

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Make Plans Now

This image of Mingulay is sufficient to arouse the interests of most Scottish island explorers. It can be experienced this year with the Islands Book Trust which has just released its annual programme of visits and events. This deserves a thorough scrutiny because here are opportunities to learn about some stimulating topics and to reach places seldom on offer. There's Scarp and the southern side of the Pairc in the Western Isles; Stroma, the only island off Caithness; together with Canna, Wiay, Ronay, Soay, Pabbay Mor and Pabbay Beag. Make your 2012 plans now.

Scottish Islands Explorer - refreshes parts not reached by other magazines

Monday, 5 December 2011

A Mill Transformed

The Bonhoga Gallery is to be found at Weisdale Mill on Shetland. It was originally a meal and barley mill, subsequently became a butcher's shop and was converted into an art gallery by the Shetland Arts Trust in 1994. Its range of exhibitions are extensive. A launch of the new Thames & Hudson publication, The New Artisans, will be held soon featuring, among others, two Whalsay textile designers.One of the framed photographs on sale at the gallery some three years ago was this compelling Shetland image by Phatsheep Photography - whose 2012 Calendar is now on sale through its website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - will feature the UK's most northerly gallery

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Current Conversion

This stretch of the river at Buonvoneader, on North Harris, once powered a generator at the long-closed whaling-station. The waters continued to flow and now the North Harris Trust looks forward to constructing a micro-hydro plant to supply local needs and feed into the national grid. Across the Minch provides an interesting video of the ways in which old forces can new create new energies.

Scottish Islands Explorer - continuing to supply interest

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Wild About Lewis

This image - courtesy of Murty Campbell and the Stornoway Canoe Club - indicates something of the club's activities and provides a taste of the scenes to be screened on the BBC Alba programme at 21.00 on Monday 5 December. Details are found in this Stornoway Gazette article. Here's a passive (and dry) way, by viewing the programme, of getting around a wild coastline and its off-shore islands.

Scottish Islands Explorer - also makes visits easy

Friday, 2 December 2011

Travelling Light and Right

There was a time when travelling informatively meant lugging books as well as luggage. Now the technically-savvy can go light and be right about their destinations, accommodation, attractions and events. Apps for downloading information to mobile phones are on offer through Welcome to Scotland and so for a couple of pounds sterling there is a vast saving on pounds avoirdupoids!

Scottish Islands Exploration - destined to have an electronic version

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Trees on the Hebrides

The windswept conditions of the Hebrides are not conducive to tree-growing. Seeds and saplings have their 'predators' and so development is not easy. However, they are there and this blog drew attention to an official, commemorative planting in its Woods on Lewis item. Yesterday's entry on Across the Minch gives some interesting insights and certainly makes me look forward to progress reports.

Scottish Islands Explorer - growing with time ... and efforts

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Take a Trip

Fair Isle lies between Shetland and Orkney and has a distinctive lifestyle. There is an interactive map which provides photographs of features. So you can explore without venturing far. Take a journey.

Scottish Islands Explorer - this is where the magazine originated on 1 January 2000

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Getting to Dibidil

Yesterday's account of  the kayaking venture to Islay brought over 150 visitors, not to the island, but to this blog. So today let's take a journey to Dibidil that remote bothy on Rum. Its construction led to a book being published by the Mountain Bothies Association. Your visit will be somewhat easier by log (i.e. journal), images and video clip. One of the participants was on what the writer described as a 'stag do'. Now that's an appropriate activity for visitors to Rum.

Scottish Islands Explorer - making visits easy

Monday, 28 November 2011

Savage Shores

There have been cancellations to ferry services in the Northern and Western Isles during this month. That means there must have been some rough crossings on occasions. Take heart this Monday morning if your journeys to work involve mere road journeys and commutes. Here's an account of a Summer crossing to Islay by a method that's for the Three Es - element exposure enthusiasts!

Scottish Islands Explorer - an easier way of getting there

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Road to a Play

When Calum MacLeod used a route on his home island of Raasay, he saw its potential as a road. The authorities did not share his view. So in the winters between 1949-52, he constructed the one-and-three-quarters-mile road  with the help of his brother, Charles. Subsequently it became adopted and surfaced by the Council.  Calum's Road is now the title and topic of a play performed by the National Theatre of Scotland.

Scottish Islands Explorer - also journeys from a small beginning

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Numbers Count

According to the records, this is the 200th entry in the blog. So we shall focus on numbers and anniversaries. The Croydon YHA Group - now known as COPSE (Croydon Outdoor Pursuits & Social Events) -  was set up in 1934 and some 50 years later celebrated this when it inaugurated the Gatliff Marathon. It was in memory of one of its founder members, Herbert Gatliff, the man who started the Gatliff Hostels, the first of which at Rhenigidale, Isle of Harris, is pictured above. Tomorrow (Sunday 27 November) sees the 28th running of the Gatliff Marathon over 50kms and shorter distances. So if you happen to be in the Croydon area and want to go a little further on foot, just turn up and enter. It's a significant occasion, for within a couple of weeks the Gatliff Trust will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding and remembering the work of Herbert Gatliff, a person who liked getting around - on foot where possible - and who relished getting things done. Rainbows all round!

Scottish Islands Explorer - running on

Friday, 25 November 2011

Stay-at-Home Weather

There were once 30 people living in five 'houses' such as this on North Rona. Now there is none. The current severe weather forecasts make one realise just how difficult conditions can be on this isolated nature reserve. For a more benign look at the place consider this BBC programme extract.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a good read at home

Thursday, 24 November 2011

New Magazine Coming

David Knowles and Sharon Blackie, the owners of Two Ravens Press - not to be confused with Ravenspoint Press, the publisher of Scottish Islands Explorer - has announced the Spring appearance of a new quarterly, Earthlines. A detailed report is to be found in the Stornoway Gazette. We look forward to learning more and to there being a new mag on the block.

Scottish Islands Explorer - keen to report

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Fifth Largest Airport

If you count airport-use by the number of international travellers passing through, then Scatsta Airport on Shetland is the fifth largest in Scotland. Its facilities are minimal - there is no bar, for example - and it is not served by other transport links. Norwegian and Faroese passengers predominate.

Scottish Islands Explorer - the largest circulation magazine featuring the Scottish islands

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Top Table Treats

The organisation, Orkney Quality Food & Drink, is featuring some of their products at the BBC Food Show that opens in Birmingham tomorrow - 23 November. They have come quite a way to display and will provide a taste of something very special.

Scottish Islands Explorer - food and drink to some readers

Monday, 21 November 2011

Prolonged Life

For the past seven years a study of the habits of the midge by the Scottish Midge Forecast Service has concluded that October is the last month of the year when some species of the insect bite humans. 2011 has been different for they have continued to afflict people into November. Continue to take precautions.

Scottish Islands Explorer - influences humans throughout the year.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Lost Routes

The islands are criss-crossed by routes established for all sorts of ways and means. Many are now lost. A BBC programme, to be screened in January next, considers an old drovers' route from Glendale on Skye to Falkirk. Details are to be found in the Oban Times

Scottish Islands Explorer - focuses on ways and means of all varieties

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Social Experience

Higher education should involve at least three features - the acquisition of knowledge, the cultivation of advanced skills and a sense of wider social experience. Those students living in remote places obviously have problems with the last area. The University of the Highlands and Islands has addressed this in some practical ways following a survey.

Scottish Islands Explorer - making some places seem less remote

Friday, 18 November 2011

Woods on Lewis

Plans are afoot to create Diamond Woods at Loch Arnish on the Isle of Lewis to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Queen's accession to the throne. The trees may take time to adjust and grow, but are certain to give pleasure.

Scottish Islands Explorer - ready to be celebrated, ten years on

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Shelter on Fetlar

An extension has been approved for the Fetlar breakwater which will mean that a new haven will be created for more small boats in an area of north-east Shetland. More venturing to the islands is in prospect.

Scottish Islands Explorer - encouraging people to get away

Argos on Lewis?

Argos will have been exclusively mainland-based until January 2012 when a new store is opening ... in Stornoway. So this style of retailing will have some customers new to the concept of selecting from a catalogue or computer-screen, placing the order, waiting and being called, before walking out with the purchase in hand or under arm. Not that shoplifting is a major problem on the islands, but in an Argos it's not possible for customers to 'half-inch' anything! Eighteen jobs are being created. Take a look at the Stornoway Gazette account.

Scottish Islands Explorer - not currently stocked by Argos