Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Name Games

There's often confusion about island names. The last of the Small Isles, below Skye, is Hyskeir or Oigh-sgeir - maiden or virgin rock in Gaelic - to the south-west of Canna. Some way to the north are the Monach Islands, which are also known by their Old Norse name - Heisker or bright skerry. They lie about five miles west of North Uist.  Then there's Haskeir or wild skerry some eight miles west of the Sound of Harris. It's pictured here by Nigel Winn whose article on this 'reclusive' outpost will be appearing in the September / October 2011 issue. He runs Island Expeditions

Scottish Islands Explorer - where the Hyskeirs, Heiskeirs & Hasgeirs feel at home

Monday, 30 May 2011

Light Cast on Old Norse

Shetland place-names mainly derive from the Old Norse language of the Viking settlers. The Out Skerries are only 200 miles away from Norway. Skerry comes from sker - a rocky islet or reef. Out derives from both austr, meaning east, and utsker, referring to outer.  Locally the small group is referred to as Da Skerries - not to be confused with Ve Skerries, some eight miles to the north-west of Papa Stour on the other side of Shetland., with the ve coming from the word for west. The Ve Skerries Lighthouse (above) was constructed and completed as recently as 1979.

Scottish Islands Explorer - where place-names proliferate

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Ash Analysed

Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano is being investigated from far and wide. The Edinburgh-based, British Geological Survey, appealed to members of the public to send in what they considered to be samples of ash. A scanning electron microscope revealed that this pollen-sized particle (above) submitted by Kirkwall Grammar School, Orkney, had come from the volcano to a part of Britain that's relatively close to its source. Read more on these volcanic particles.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has a wider circulation than this volcanic ash

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Breaking Out .... and Bagging

Spare a thought for Seumas Morrison, who runs Sea Harris and operates sea cruises. For most of May he has been unable, owing to adverse weather conditions, to take parties to their Hebridean destinations. His 'Islands Bagging' trip - planned for the last two days of this month is fully-booked and prospective passengers look forward to seeing and landing on some of the following: Soay, Shillay, The Monachs, Boreray, Killegray, Ensay, Hermetray, Tahay, Flodday Mhor, Ronay, Wiay, Scotasay and Eilean Liubhaird. Sheep may be restricted to fanks, such as these on St Kilda (above); humans want out ... and fast !

Scottish Islands Explorer - where island-baggers feel wanted

Friday, 27 May 2011

From Zero to Hero on Orkney

Edwin Harrold, from Stenness,Orkney, died in 2005, but his legacy gives pleasure to many. From 1948, he took an unnoticed piece of land, comprising boggy hillside, and quietly cultivated it. His 'Happy Valley' - originally called 'Bankburn' - became a miniature forest with 700 trees, glades and paths for visitors to use. Continued access is assured. Read more via the BBC - about a part of Orkney that is rather rare, woodland.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a magazine that encourages access

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Going to Extremes

Some people go to extremes and Andy Strangeway is one of those who loves doing so. He and his fellow-travellers have recently trained in Orkney in preparation for their impending trip to that extremity of the British isles, Rockall. All berths have been taken and the expedition will be followed keenly by island-watchers. Join the action - from the comfort of a computer chair - via Rockall.

Scottish Islands Explorer - also ready to go to the ends of the British Isles

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Off-shore, on-line, in Skye on a September Saturday

The Celeste, a glittering sailing boat made up of 60,000 inch-square mirror tiles, will be sailing into Portree on Saturday 10 September and cruising purposefully around the coast of Skye. It will be broadcasting songs, stories and suggestions - via the local radio station, Cuillin FM - to people tuned in on-shore. The intention is to create interest in arts and events as well as to re-create the excitement of the 1960s pirate radio era when ships broadcast from moorings off-shore around the UK and Ireland. Internet connections can access local radio which, in turn, becomes world-wide. Further details will follow.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to get around the islands as well

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Community Buyout Contested

The Community Buyouts that have taken place so far in the Highlands & Islands have been unopposed. The proposed Pairc Trust's Community Buyout is being contested by the landowner. Details are on the website of the Pairc Trust - an organisation which is appealing for financial assistance. Please look into this - for the future of the attractive South Lochs area of Lewis is being shaped. The image above is of the Ravenspoint Visitors' Centre at Kershader, a focal point on the Estate.

Scottish Islands Explorer - supporting island communities

Monday, 23 May 2011

Really Getting Away

The Islands Book Trust enables people to learn about and visit many places in and around Scotland. On Friday 10 & Saturday 11 June the focus of attention will be on Sula Sgeir (above) and on North Rona (below).  A programme of informative events will be held in Ness, at the top end of Lewis, and, weather permitting, trips will be made to these islands. There is an annual guga-hunting expedition to Sula Sgeir where men stay in a bothy. North Rona was inhabited for many centuries - including when St Ronan established one of the oldest places of worship in Britain, in the 8th Century. An unfortunate end to one, albeit temporary, settlement came with the only two inhabitants dying, probably in the winter months of 1884-85. More images are available through the Lonely Isles website and Northern Light Charters.

Scottish Islands Explorer - covering even the most distant places

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A Grand Trip for Under a Grand

Scottish Islands Explorer magazine is able to offer two tickets for a grand  trip to Canna, Mingulay, St Kilda and The Shiants for £999 each. It's for nine days from 25 June - 4 July 2011 and is with a reputable company that regularly sails from Oban to the Islands and beyond. These photographs of St Kilda by the National Geographic magazine photographer, Jim Richardson, provide inspiration as well, perhaps, as the aspirations to go. Don't delay, for here is a genuine offer with the usual price discounted by over 25%.  Contact editor@scottishislandsexplorer.com for full details.

Scottish Islands Explorer - offering you more than a read

Saturday, 21 May 2011

A New Comfort Zone

Birds get around easily, even in difficult weather conditions. Bird-watchers tackle long distances and put up with hardships to see what they want. Getting to Fair Isle, something of a birders' paradise, is not so arduous as it was and the new Bird Observatory is positively luxurious. The roles of observer and observed are getting closer! Take a look at this special site for remarkable sightings.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a magazine specialising in fine places

Friday, 20 May 2011

Convergence on the East Side of South Uist

Up to a hundred pilot whales have converged on Loch Carnan, on the relatively empty north-east side of South Uist. Rescuers are endeavouring to reach and re-direct them to the open waters of The Minch. Sightseers will obviously be interested. View the BBC report while the photograph above comes from an incident on the north coast of New Zealand.

Scottish Islands Explorer - where islands converge

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Following in the Footsteps, Footnotes and Fotos!

When the acclaimed photojournalist, Jim Richardson, went to Orkney for National Geographic magazine, he was accompanied by Bill Bryson who, subsequently, nominated Papa Westray as his favourite of the British isles. See Notes from a Small Island. Some observations of that trip are evident on this National Geographic report.

Scottish Islands Explorer - where the favourites of many people feature

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Attractive Sights from Special Sites

The Hurdiback Hostel on Papa Stour, to the west of the Shetland Mainland, is an idyllic place. It caters for the needs of both the active and inactive because it is on an away-from-it-all island of abundant wildlife, including the appealing puffin. The self-catering hostel is sited on a working croft of 180 acres, within easy distance of 22 miles of coastline adjacent to Marine Conservation Areas. It is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The estblishment is well-run, warm and reasonably-priced, even offering a remarkably attractive rate for senior citizens. Take a look at the Hurdiback Hostel to engage your island-enthusiasms.

Scottish Islands Explorer - for birds and more, much more

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Enough to Make One Gulp

According to The Times 'a whisky has gone on sale at a price guaranteed to make your head spin. The Original Isabella's Islay, a 30-year-old single malt distilled in the Hebrides, comes in a jewel-encrusted crystal decanter and costs £3.8 million. Each customer is entitled to 50 refills. The one-litre decanter is handmade and covered with more than 8,500 diamonds and almost 300 rubies. The stopper is made of white gold.'

Scottish Islands Explorer - cheap at twice the price

Monday, 16 May 2011


The founders of any enterprise or organisation like to think that their venture will last. So when Free Church of Scotland on Fetlar, the fourth largest of the Shetland islands, was opened in 1846 there was optimism that it would withstand both the elements and secular forces. Within the last few years the building has been converted - into a community hall.  When the Carinish Inn was established in the mid-19th Century, it was part of the staging posts for people crossing from North Uist to Benbecula. The causeway was created in the 1950s and gradually trade slipped away for this place of hospitality. In 2008 it began a new life, having been puchased and converted for ecclesiastical purposes by ... the Free Church. Here's a reminder of the days before conversion took place.

Scottish Islands Explorer - converting rocks to words

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Minority Interests

Island-enthusiasts are a relatively small group and accustomed to being in a minority. However, scientific research tends to be conducted among another minority - of about 10% of the world's population - those who are western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic - also known as WEIRD. The full article on this topic is available through the New Scientist.

I wonder whether there are enthusiasts for local islands among, say, South-east Asians, or do they go without saying? The enthusiasts above are for Harley Davidsons and are photographed at Rhodes ... rather than on roads!

Scottish Islands Explorer  - for that niche market

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Past Times

Some people have the knack of being able to re-create the past and bring it to life. The journeys of Wallace Clark to the Hebrides had remarkable qualities and these are described in his obituary that appeared in the Daily Telegraph. Read all about him here

Scottish Islands Explorer - bringing islands to life

Friday, 13 May 2011

Days Do Come and Go

The International Date Line was created in 1880 and gave the starting and finishing point for time zones. Those countries bordering the line that runs through the Pacific can opt whether to be on the east or west side and the line will be changed to accommodate this.

Samoa has decided that later this year it will align itself more with Australia and New Zealand. Consequently it will switch to being three hours ahead of Sydney rather than 21 hours behind it. The day selected is Thursday 29 December and, if you have a birthday on that day while in the island-nation, it will be difficult to celebrate. The day will  just disappear.

In 1892 Samoa had turned the other way, towards San Francisco which they considered to be a more important trading contact. This was achieved by having one day repeated and that was, Monday 4 July, American Independence Day. This was something of a challenge for visiting Americans who had to party for 48 hours.

Scottish islands do seem to have a different time zone - especially in the months of May and June when night-time recedes to just a few brief hours.

Scottish Islands Explorer - appears one day in every 56

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Gatliff Hostels

The Gatliff Hostels in the Outer Hebrides excite me. Berneray is pictured above. Now I have seen some fine workmanship by Alba Virtual Tours - now displayed on the website of the  Gatliff Hostels -  I want to return to use these relatively basic places at which to stay and compelling havens about which there is much to enjoy. Here are The Tours

Scottish Islands Explorer - with a commitment to touring

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Starting Somewhere, Sometime

There's nothing like a well-rounded date to start on anything - so 11 May 2011 is apt, for it indicates two sets of straight lines within the repeated number eleven. They symbolically head out and back to the Scottish islands, which I have found absorbing for some 25 years, on which I have written for eight years and about which I have edited this magazine, owned by me for almost 18 months. Here's to the start of a journey ... in this case from Barra Airport.

Scottish Islands Explorer - started on 2 January 2000 - a real millennium magazine