Monday, 31 October 2011

Time Zone Focus

The clocks changed yesterday and a few hours later we were acclimatised. Residents on Scottish islands may face some further changes if the UK follows Europe and makes daylight-saving a permanent feature. The BBC's Time-Zones item is worth looking at - for it gives insights into the workings of this system and the quirks that have arisen. To think that before the coming of trains and the introduction of railway timetables, it was the sun and unsynchronised public clocks that had to be used as the time-keeping devices.

Scottish Islands Explorer - sells in all time-zones

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Clocks Back

The clocks went back earlier this morning and more hours of darkness will feature in our lives until next February. This photograph of the old boats on Salen Bay, Mull, serves as a reminder of the changing times and tides. It was taken by Andrew Pennill whose images form a fine gallery. Older residents of the village of Salen, mid-way between Craignure and Tobermory, recall the mailboat service from Oban to Mull when the Lochinver called at the pier. This ceased in 1964 when larger boats came onto the route and were unable to use the facilities.

Scottish Islands Explorer - trying to keep up with the times

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Last Boxes Ticked

Red boxes concluded - rather like this derelict one on Soay. The image comes from a blog-watcher in the Pacific North-west of the USA interested in many aspects of life in the North-west of Scotland. He also refers to the defunct telephone box on Scarp; to the one that looks like new, but with no phone in it, on Tanera Mor; to the one by the waterfall at Carsaig on Mull that featured in the film, I Know Where I'm Going!; and to the working one on Canna that has special status because of there being no local mobile coverage.

Scottish Islands Explorer - in full working oder

Friday, 28 October 2011

No Human Callers

Telephone boxes continued - well, not all of them. There are 5373 payphone boxes in Scotland, but last year 451 of them did not have even one person making a call. The Western Isles had 40 boxes completely unused; Shetland 26 and Orkney 24. The march of the mobile has left these installations marooned. Full details of use and non-use are available through this Deadline account, here obviously featuring dead lines.

Scottish Islands Explorer - calls welcomed from all phones

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Red Light District?

One blog-watcher responded to yesterday's item by saying he was much amused and by sending these two photographs. The telephone box was, obviously, set up by some joker selecting the top of Beinn Chaorach  (the Hill of the Sheep), some 257m above Arduaine, on the south shores of Loch Melfort, south of Oban. The door is apparently bolted, although some wag has recently put cards in the kiosk advertising the services usually associated with a red light, rather than a red box, district. Mull is in the background.

Scottish Islands Explorer - appropriate advertisements displayed

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


A feature from the website of Countryfile magazine is about how telephone boxes have been adopted throughout the country. There is a reference and picture of a box being taken to an island, but no write-up about the specific use one has been put to on a Scottish island. Perhaps, mobile coverage in these parts means that the kiosks are still being used for ... telephoning. Ideas, please.

Scottish Islands Explorer - on the end of a line

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Between Weathers

Fetlar is both fertile and these days full of hope for the forthcoming days of increasing daylight ... next Spring. This may be the time that the film crew arrives to shoot local scenes for Between Weathers, a film in the making. Things are still apparently at the pre-production stage, but the full story is available in The Shetland Times.

Scottish Islands Explorer - regardless of climate

Monday, 24 October 2011

Deaths on a Beach

Saturday's item on this blog was right in anticipating Sunday Times Scotland coverage of the slaughter of goats on Rum. It also attracted these two photographs of goat carcases, taken by a hill walker on the beach at Harris on Rum, close to the mausoleum in the Greek temple-style evident at the top of the image above. Ironically it was built to house the sarcophagus of John Bullogh who owned the island from 1888-91. The goat carcasses have been crudely netted and badly hidden. This cull of around 60 goats, which took place last week, served no apparent purpose for neither records were taken nor investigations made in relation to the climate-change project in which these animals have been a part. Can anyone add anymore to this dismal story?

Scottish Islands Explorer - investigating

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Geocaching is Catching

The daily-blog, Across the Minch, has introduced several interested parties to Geocaching. It deserves investigating for it could well lead you to make investigations of your own. The scene above is of the entry into Rhenigidale on North Harris.  On the right the track begins, taking hardy walkers over the Postman's Path towards Tarbert. Within a short distance and before the zig-zag ascent, there is a former settlement called Garraidh Lotaigear, situated on a backwater of the loch and mentioned on the blog. Is anyone able to supply any more information about this place and the community that once resided there?

Scottish Islands Explorer - 'islecaching', if nothing else

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Alleged Slaughter on Rum

There have been feral goats on the island of Rum since the 16th Century. From the year 2000 a number of them have been monitored to assist in studies of climate change. Apparently last week an order was given, through Scottish Natural Heritage, to kill 30 or so of these animals not as part of these investigations, but as needless slaughter. The carcasses were not recorded, nor examined, nor added to the larder. It was a waste of time ... and life.  This subject is reported to be covered in tomorrow's edition of the Sunday Times Scotland.

Scottish Islands Explorer - covers causes for concern

Friday, 21 October 2011

Go to Zetland Street

These pebbles were photographed by Peter Leeming and are on the home-page of his blog. Next week (Friday 28 October) sees the opening of a new attraction in Northallerton, the Joe Cornish Gallery, in which his work will feature alongside that of Ruth Fairbrother, a fellow photographer. Take a glimpse at Peter's blog and consider at least a virtual visit to Zetland Street and, perhaps, have a view of Skye, below.

Scottish Islands Explorer - saves making some long journeys

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Boat Burial Comes to Light

Sanna Bay (above) is on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. This is the most westerly part of the Scottish mainland and certainly has an island feel. The Vikings must have sensed something special for they involved themselves with an elaborate boat burial that has only just come to light. Take a look at what the archaelogists have pieced together about the life, and death, customs of these people who were here over a thousand years ago and certainly did not disappear without trace.

Sottish Islands Explorer - alive and well, with a new issue just released

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

More Than Just a Sign?

If this sign at the start of the B887 on North Harris looks difficult, then the prospect of what John MacLeod of An Comunn Gaidhealach proposed at the Royal National Mod could be daunting for many. The BBC carries the story. Would it promote and protect or repel and retreat? Any views on the matter?

Scottish Islands Explorer - singular in outlook, monolingual in style

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Light on Murky Past

This image of Gruinard by Rachel Husband Photography displays a remarkable contrast between the strength of light on the subject and the dark side of its history. In 1942 the island was a test-bed for anthrax in order to estimate its potential and to calculate protection from it as a biological weapon. Decontamination processes started in 1986 and in 1990 it was moved from the status of being an island in quarantine to becoming an accessible place only a kilometre from the mainland. Its 48 years of isolation were over. It has not, however, been inhabited since the 1920s and its population peaked at six residents in 1881.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has potential, tries to protect

Monday, 17 October 2011

The First Drops

You may have drained the last drop from a bottle this weekend. Some of those attending the Royal National Mod in Stornoway last Friday will have had the first drops from the three-year-old single malt supply produced by the relatively new distillery on the Isle of Lewis, Abhain Dearg. It's right out at Uig and so the supply had to travel quite a way across the island even to reach the centre of Mod activities. The spirit is 46% proof and just 2011 bottles have been produced to mark the occasion. The full story appears in HeraldScotland and so try to acquire a dram now while supplies last. The picture below, of an earlier blend, implies drinks all round. The next cask, of single malt, may take a couple of years to come around.

Scottish Islands Explorer - cheers, when it appears

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Surveys and Safeguards

There are constant wildlife movements on Loch Stiapabhat Local Nature Reserve at Ness, pictured above on the north end of the Isle of Lewis. Yesterday saw increased human interest with a Biological Recording Activity Day. This was part of the new Outer Hebrides Biological Recording Project, promoted by Curracag, that will play a significant role in safeguarding the local environment.

Scottish Islands Explorer - also a written record

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Island Chestnuts

Help required, please.  Teams at the Universities of Bristol and Hull are enlisting the help of the public to survey, and help stop, the spread of a disease to chestnut trees caused by a non-native moth. There are relatively few trees on Scottish islands, let alone horse chestnuts. However, if you feel able to help, then contact Leaf Watch and see what is required. It would be helpful to the survey team were you to send this request to any of your friends living in areas where chestnuts proliferate.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always prepared to survey 

Friday, 14 October 2011

Short of a Length

This pygmy sperm whale became stranded and died at Ellenabeich on Seil earlier this month. It is only the fourth to have come ashore in Scotland, and the eleventh in the UK, since 1913. Pygmy sperm whales are rarely sighted and identified alive at sea, and therefore studying the carcas allows scientists to find out more about a particularly elusive species. Once again the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust has been involved in the rare movements of these creatures.

Scottish Islands Explorer  -  not rare, once every eight weeks

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Crossings Off?

There's a possibility that next year's local elections on Orkney may involve electors being unable to cast their votes in person, but having to use postal or proxy systems. A report in The Orcadian indicates that public consultations will take place before a decision is made to cease the late-night crossings by pilot boats bringing back the ballot boxes to the count in Kirkwall. I have not missed voting in an election since I was 21 years-of-age, but, now having a permanent postal vote, have not entered a polling station so far this century.  Any strong feelings on this issue?

Scottish Islands Explorer - (de)voted to these islands

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Down (and Up) to Earth

I have been drawn to Google Earth and cannot get over how remarkable it is. I started by finding the Gatliff Hostel on Berneray (aove) and then zoomed up to Rhenigidale. When I tried to find a photograph of Howmore, on South Uist, I became distracted by an interesting image - of what could be the most floral football field in the country. It's on the machair close to the Atlantic shore. Discover by loading up Google Earth and getting around.

Scottish Islands Explorer - plenty to discover

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Gaelic / Nordic Divide

When there are initiatives announced to support and spread the Gaelic language, there is often disquiet in Shetland, Orkney and Caithness. Here linguistic traditions are different. The University of the Highlands and Islands (with outposts features above) recognises this and has set up a Centre for Nordic Studies. Their website displays several facets, including an archive of the articles appearing in The Orcadian under the title of Mimir's Well. This is a reference to a Norse mythological giant who incorporated physical height with depths of wisdom.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of deep traditions

Monday, 10 October 2011

Log-books On-line

This Old Schoolhouse on Mingulay closed in April 1910. Within two years the island had been completely evacuated and some 2000 years of continuous human settlement ended. Some 20 years later St Kilda was evacuated and its school abandoned. However, the school log-books were retained and have recently been made available on-line. Details are available through Am Paipear, the community newspaper of the Uists.

Scottish Islands Explorer - each issue stored at the British Library


Sunday, 9 October 2011

A Milestone for Sale

It looks near from this photograph, but is actually ten miles off Girvan in the Outer Estuary of the Clyde. It looks relatively small, but is two miles in circumference and 1110' high. This is Ailsa Craig, the volcanic plug of an extinct volcano. In historical terms it was to be significant were there to have been a Spanish invasion to re-establish Catholicism in Scotland in the late 16th Century. By the 18th and 19th Centuries it was a prison and from then, into the 20th Century, it became a source of granite for most of the curling stones made in Scotland. Now it's a bird sanctuary and is up-for-sale. The mid-way point it occupies between Glasgow and Belfast has provided the name of 'Paddy's Milestone'.

Scottish Islands Explorer - studies stones set in the sea

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Fire in the Skye Sky

This image is featured on the website of the West Highland Free Press with the caption: 'Spectacular aurora  borealis were photographed by Andy Stables above Lower Milovaig in Skye late on Monday 26th September. The lightshow was caused when a powerful coronal mass ejection from the sun hit the earth's upper atmosphere earlier that day.'

Scottish Islands Explorer - looking up, looking up at things, looking things up

Friday, 7 October 2011

Four Storey Waves

Waves can reach remarkable heights and research that took place earlier this week, about five miles off the coast of Lewis, indicated that 60' high 'monsters' were evident during a storm. That's equivalent to a four-storey building. Imagine being able to capture some of that energy.

Scottish Islands Explorer - makes waves, on a relatively small scale

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Are You Pulling My Fin?

This bluefin tuna responded to the recent October heatwave by finding its way to a beach on Mull. The photograph by Roddy Wyness is featured by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. Fish farmers are aware.

Scottish Islands Explorer - similar to the tuna

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Stuff of Stock Exchange

Here's a story to delight. The Port Ellen Hotel on Islay hit difficult times and was virtually due for demolition. Along came a group of enthusiasts, followed by a 104 shareholders making timely and welcomed investments. Now the refurbished hotel is enjoying its first full week of business. Follow the events on Islay Hotel to open on October 1st and rejoice how parts of the solid teak floor of the old London Stock Exchange now provides its bar fittings.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to look inside

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

World First in Waiting

This empty ferry terminal at Sconser on Skye is waiting for the arrival - in 2013 - of the world's first 'hybrid' ferry-boat that is due to sail to and from Raasay. The West Highland Free Press covers the story.

Scottish Islands Explorer - accustomed to island crossings

Monday, 3 October 2011

News from Yesteryear

Walking to School, yesterday's blog, drew two comments. Going back 135 years to consider aspects of island life through the items in a local paper puts more everyday matters into context. Take a look at this feature in The Shetland Times and the way we live now suddenly appears ... rather exciting.

Scottish Islands Explorer - attempts to move with the times

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Walking to School

This abandoned house at Loch Skipport could well have been the childhood home of a man, now in his early 60s, who each day walked to school in West Gernish on the other side of South Uist. There are still people alive who walked from Steimreway to Lemreway in the South Lochs, Isle of Lewis, to attend school. Their expenditure of energy on this activity was arduous and is thankfully no longer required by present generations. However, the prospect of a walk to school has an adventure that is missing from being taken by car or bus. Consider the issue facing councillors and parents on Lewis in this account.

Scottish Islands Explorer - likes to keep pace

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Looking There and Back

This property - Bridge House Cottage - is in Breanish on the north-west side of Lewis. The views are far out to sea and, on clear days, St Kilda will be in sight. The distance is too far to glimpse the properties there, renovated by the National Trust for Scotland and pictured below, with their views back towards Lewis. The differences in facilities are countless.

Scottish Islands Explorer - moving with the times