Thursday, 30 June 2011

Direct Buying

The internet allows purchases to be made immediately from the most unexpected places. Take Auskerry, for example, the 'eastern sea rocks' of Orkney where one family has farmed for 35 years. Their flock of North Ronaldsay sheep provides a range of fabrics that may be purchased on-line.

Scottish Islands Explorer - providing a range of islands in each edition

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A Gnat on the Flannans

This image, courtesy of the Northern Lighthouse Board, shows a Gnat in action on Flannan Isle. Richard Evans explains: 'This three-wheeled vehicle was used by the 'keepers in the 1960s to ferry gas bottles and stores from the landing-stage up the steep incline to the lighthouse. It replaced the trolley running on tramlines along the same track, with ascent and descent controlled by a pulley-guided wire powered by a winch at the top. The tramlines were ripped up and the track smoothed to let the Gnat's small pneumatic tyres run on it. Production of the Gnat - a four-stroke, 400cc, cross-country vehicle by Aimers McLean of Galshiels - began in the late '60s and continued for ten years.'

Scottish Islands Explorer - always devising ways of getting around islands

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Postal Outposts

This image 'Towards Hamnaway' comes from the 'back of beyond' at the south-west extremities of the Isle of Lewis. Postmen used to serve the few settlements in these parts and Calum Macaskill, who retired in 1949, walked 42 miles a week during his 47 years delivering, at first, to Hamnaway, and then for many years to Luachair, Kinlochresort and Morsgail Lodge.

Scottish Islands Explorer - subscribers wait for the post to come

Monday, 27 June 2011

One of the Seven Wonders

The Bell Rock Lighthouse has been described as one of the Seven Industrial Wonders of the World. Robert Stevenson built it between 1807-10 on the frequently-submerged Inchcape Reef that is 11 miles off the Angus coast. It is the oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse in the world and some of its integral features have never been replaced during a history that now exceeds 200 years.

Scottish Islands Explorer - dates back to the Year 2000

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Island Games

Here is the Orkney team ready to compete in the 14th NatWest Island Games, which was opened on the Isle of Wight yesterday by Lord Coe. 25 island groups are represented by 3000 competitors taking part in 14 sports over six days, beginning today. Full details are to be found on Island Games.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always game for islands

Saturday, 25 June 2011

See Area Forecasts

Conditions in the Shipping Forecast Sea Area of Rockall are sometimes benign, as above, but you can't count on them. You can count on looking at many current and prospective aspects through the GFS Weather Charts that come via  Go to the 'Select chart type' button and in the drop-down menu click onto 'sea level pressure'. The numbers in the boxes above it refer to the hours ahead. Mission Rockall  2011 will during the next five weeks be hoping for high pressure, with the isobars well spaced.

Scottish Islands Explorer -  broadcasting as well as forecasting island conditions

Friday, 24 June 2011

Landing Craft Included

The Island of Shuna, 20 miles south of Oban, has accommodation that includes something rather special as an addtional feature, at no extra cost. Shuna Farm Cottages supply each holiday let with a 19' aluminium-hulled, open-assault craft with a small outboard motor. Each will take six people with ease and enable them to explore around the island and take the 20-minute trip across to the mainland. Life-jackets are provided, but not for standing on the verandah of the Boat House (above).

Scottish Islands Explorer - helps get people around islands

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Nearhouse

If you are looking for a property quite close to Orkney's Brough of Birsay, there is a so-called 'ruinous dwellinghouse' at the nearby Northside of Birsay. It has the fine name of 'The Nearhouse' and can be viewed via The Orkney Property Centre. The small image below gives an impression of the ratios of site, sea and sky.

Scottish Islands Explorer  - tries to be a good buy

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Island Dynamics

Next April will see another conference, from the Island Dynamics Organisation, on the ways and means of revitalising personal, social and economic life in island communities. The image above is of the Out Skerries, in the Shetland group, where people earn their livings in a variety of ways. The conference will be held in Saxa Vord on nearby Unst. Read a full account in this Shetland Times article.

Scottish Islands Explorer - will cover the conference

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

New Ship on the Dock

There's more than a new kid on the block; CalMac has a new ship on the dock. The Kennacraig to Port Issac route between the Mainland to Islay is now served by the £24 million, Polish-built MV Finlaggan. It has a different feel for passengers and many television screens to divert attention from the scenery, but the same hearty food and consistent service. So consider a cruise to Islay by starting with a scrutiny of the CalMac timetables.

Scottish Islands Explorer - taking you between islands

Monday, 20 June 2011

Big on Islands

It's strange how relatively small islands attract epic projects. The Third Marquess of Bute wished to showcase his interests in the artistic, religious, astrological and ... 300 acres of garden. So he had Mount Stuart built, now the most outstanding Victorian Gothic mansion in Britain. It's a work of art in itself and may have a function that fulfils your needs for accommodation, as a wedding venue, or as a remarkable place for viewing and visiting. See something of Mount Stuart here for yourself.

Scottish Islands Explorer - outstanding, but on a different scale

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Boreray For Tenacity

The isolated St Kilda group was thought to have only one island on which humans had ever settled, Hirta. Archaeologists have now suggested that Boreray (above), its near neighbour some four miles away, once had a colony of  permanent residents. Life here must have been on the shores of survival and the edges of existence, as suggested by the image below. Read more of the old Boreray.

Scottish Islands Explorer - the latest issue is now on the edge of newsagents' shelves

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Sheep May Safely Bathe

There are around 3700 semi-feral, northern short-tailed sheep living on North Ronaldsay. They are largely unchanged  from their original type, but have different characteristics from other breeds. A long wall prevents their straying from the shoreline; they are adept at extracting the sugar-content from seaweed; have access to fresh water ponds, but have feeding and ruminating patterns governed by tidal movements; have a distinctive flavour as meat. They are bred elsewhere and have enthusiastic owners.

Scottish Islands Explorer - taken by enthusiasts

Friday, 17 June 2011

Top of the Classes

Scarp lies to the west of North Harris. Its last permanent residents left in 1971. The highest population recorded was 213 in the 1881 Census. The School, pictured above, must have started around then and finally closed in 1967. The number of pupils who achieved eminent positions from this school was remarkably high - owing, perhaps, to several outstanding teachers, insular genetic factors, the lack of distractions for pupils, an urge to leave the island well-qualified and equipped? Read more about Angus Duncan, one of Scarp's school-teachers.

Scottish Islands Explorer - full of distractions

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Far More Than a Spoon

Sanda is off the Kintyre Peninsula and can be seen, on a clear day, from the Isle of Arran, where it is known as 'Spoon Island'. From this angle it resembles an upturned spoon. More table cutlery, cuisine and hospitality features are now available on this private island  that has new owners. They will certainly welcome you to their Island of Dreams set between Southern Scotland and Northern Island.
Scottish Islands Explorer - dealing in dreams

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Great Western Rails

This image of the now unmanned Flannan Isles Lighthouse shows the embedded pattern of the rails used to haul supplies to the installation from the quay. It was the 'rail system' farthest to the west within the UK. It was also the scene of a disaster involving the disappearence of the three 'keepers that W W Gibson recounted in his poem Flannan Isle

Scottish Islands Explorer  - still to be read in a hundred years time?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Going, Going ... Gone?

Ben Fogle, the television presenter, has, apparently, failed in his bid for the island of Taransay, with its Rocket Beach pictured above. Full details are available through The Independent.

Scottish Islands Explorer - is not for sale

Monday, 13 June 2011

Peat Preserves

In the 1950s, Tammy Umphray, a Foula man, found a mitten buried in the peat.  It appeared to be ancient as it had been woven, suggesting it was made before knitting was devised. Earlier this year, the Shetland Museum sent it to Glasgow University for radiocarbon dating. It was found to date back a thousand years to 970. So while it is early Norse in origin, the wool from which it was made looks just like present-day Foula wool. So something has remained constant despite the millennium of sheep-breeding that has taken place.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has been preserved for 1% of this time

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Side Schools

This former side school at Achlyness in north-west Sutherland looks run-down, but most of its equivalent schools have disappeared without trace from the Highlands & Islands. When the 1870 Education Act became law every child in Britain was to receive elementary schooling between the ages of 5-12. This presented problems in the most remote settlements. Several organisations, including the Ladies' Association of Edinburgh and the Free Church of Scotland, helped establish these side schools to cater for the needs of children living in hill country and isolated stretches of coast. Teachers, often unqualified, would live with families who would adapt a room or create a primitive classroom. Two or three lasted until 1955, when transport facilities became more accessible. However, there are comparatively few records of these simple, temporary places of education - partly because paper was regarded as a luxury and children's work was undertaken on slates - erased by the end of the school-day.

Scottish Islands Explorer - made to last

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Scots Can Go to Extremes

Emigration has been a feature of Scottish islands since global travel was first undertaken. The most influential settler on Tristan da Cunha, the most remote indigenous human settlement on Earth, was William Glass, from Kelso. It is not surprising that the only township on that mid-South Atlantic volcanic island is named Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.  A new website takes a closer look at some of these extreme islands.

Scottish Islands Explorer  -  sometimes going to extremes

Friday, 10 June 2011

On the Sunny Side of The ... Minch

Members of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust had quite a surprise earlier in the week when a massive leatherback turtle appeared alongside their vessel, the Silurian. It was a first for them and the details of this sighting between Skye and Harris can be read about here.

Scottish Islands Explorer - constantly off the West Coast

Thursday, 9 June 2011

On Display; Not As Old

John Bulmer made several working visits to the Highlands and Islands in the 1960s & 70s to document life and society for the then new Sunday Times Magazine. An exhibition of his work - Orkney in Colour -started last Monday at The Pier Arts Centre, Stromness. It continues until Saturday 9 July. Further information is here.

Scottish Islands Explorer - was a new publication in the year 2000

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

As Old As They Come

Frank Bradford, the Orkney photographer, has sent in this picture of what could be a Palaeolithic hand-axe. An archaeologist investigating the find has commented, 'These are very rare in Scotland. We understand that these axes date to the Ice Age. However, this continued for a very long time, and it is hard to tell to which specific period this axe belongs. How it reached Orkney is another problem. It was found on the shore near Kirkwall, and it is just possible that it was an import with ballast. We hope to visit the 'find spot' to check out whether other flint nodules present may have come in as ballast. If not, then we have a real mystery on our hands. The axe could prove to be the Orkney Islands' oldest artifact, possibly dating back 100,000 - 450,000 years.'

Scottish Islands Explorer - over eleven years old

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Devices and Desires

Kinloch Castle (Sunday's blog) and Wee Cumbrae (Monday's) have seen devices employed that endeavoured to make life easier and safer. When the remote house (below), overlooking Loch Seaforth, on the far side of the North Harris settlement at Rhenigidale was either built or renovated, this ingenious 'roller-coaster' device (above) was constructed. It allowed materials, furniture, fridges and a Stanley range to be delivered directly from a boat. The desires of the person in charge of this project must have been fulfilled.

If you want to see for yourself, the nearest accommodation is (below) at the Gatliff hostel at Rhenigidale. A virtual tour may be taken.

Scottish Islands Explorer - fulfilling certain desires

Monday, 6 June 2011

Lights Out

This image is of the original coal-fired lighthouse constructed on Little Cumbrae in the middle of the 18th Century. The coals were lit at the top of the tower and warned shipping of dangers. The only problem was that heavy rain would put the fire and light out. This somewhat haphazard arrangement lasted for 42 years until a new lighthouse, employing then up-to-date technologies was introduced. Time, indeed, makes ancient good uncouth.

Scottish Islands Explorer - lighting up islands

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Featuring a Family Fortune

Even with grand islands there is a tradition to try to make them even grander. The creation of Kinloch Castle, on Rum, started in 1897, took three years to complete and the efforts of 300 craftsmen to construct. Among its innovative features was the supply of electricity from a purpose-built, hydro-electric scheme. It was the first private residence in Scotland to have power of this sort. The scale of expenditure has been calculated at £15 million, and rising, at today's rates. Switch to Kinloch here.

Scottish Islands Explorer - switched on to islands

Saturday, 4 June 2011

An Island Given Away

Thursday's blog was a feature on the island of Taransay, with its price tag of £2 million. The image above is of John Lorne Campbell (1906 - 96), a man who declined to sell his island. It was Canna, the most westerly of the Small Isles, and the subject of Ray Perman's book, The Man Who Gave Away His Island. One click and you are there for the story, sights and sounds of a place where a farmer, environmentalist and Gaelic scholar showed generosity of spirit.

Scottish Islands Explorer - worth looking into

Friday, 3 June 2011

Top End, Cliff Edge Training

The preparations for the Andy Strangeway Expedition to Rockall are in the final stages. Recently the team was on Cliff Skerry at the top end of the UK in order to replicate the climb up the country's most westerly outpost. The leader is pictured here on Cliff Skerry, with the well-known lighthouse on the next islet, Muckle Flugga, and Out Stack, sometimes referred to as 'the full stop at the end of Britain' beyond that. Andy's personal preparations have included a training venture in his native Yorkshire.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a magazine to take on board

Thursday, 2 June 2011

£2 million to Castaway?

Islands have associations and Taransay is linked in the minds of many with castaways, albeit on a reality television show. Soon it could change hands as a piece of real estate - for it's on the market. Here it is, captured (above) from Harris by Andrew Pennill and there it is (below) with the chalet accommodation that is included with other buildings on its 3474 acres.

Scottish Islands Explorer - retailing at a mere £3.75

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Featuring a Follower

One of this site's followers is Andrew Pennill and his website, featuring a Summer Newsletter, gives insights into mastery of the web, photography and computer training. Take a look, just as he looked at Horgabost, on Harris, and produced the image above. Alternatively, just twitter

Scottish Islands Explorer - where more of Andrew & Nicola Pennill's work can be viewed and read