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

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

From the Bu of Hoy

James Sinclair was born at the Bu of Hoy in 1913, attended the local school and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. His great interest was Botany and he, allegedly, discovered a new species of plant on his home island while still a schoolboy.He trained as a teacher and returned to appointments on Stronsay and in Kirkwall. War service took him to Burma and then his post-war careers were at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and in the Herbarium, Singapore. An intense application to work led to many discoveries, books and academic papers. He died, aged 54, and is buried on Hoy. His achievements feature in a winter exhibition at Stomness Museum.

Scottish Islands Explorer - considering islands; celebrating people

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Pulling the Wool?

These Shetland sheep come in many sizes and shades, but a recent European Union gives Natural Shetland wool a singularly protected status. However, be wary about the way comparable products have similar protection. A Shetland Times article gives the causes for celebration, but one reader, John Hein, presents a more cautious case.

Scottish Island Explorer - tries to project and protect

Monday, 14 November 2011

Ending of Eras

Anna Adams (1926-2011) was an acclaimed poet who died on 2 October. In 1970 she and her husband, Norman, purchased a croft on the island of Scarp. This was at the end of a phase of a settlement off the west coast of Harris. The school had closed and the shop was soon to shut, bringing permanent residency to an end. Her anthology, Island Chapters, considers aspects of living there. Norman, who became an established artist and Keeper of the Royal Academy, died in 2005. Here is some of his work featuring Scarp that, of course, complements her poetry. Now her life has ended.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tracing successive eras

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Far and Here

When, last year, a tourist organisation in Thailand published a photo of a Berneray beach as their own, they almost got away with it. Here are some walkers on that North Uist shore getting away from it all. When this YouTube clip of the western beach is seen, you can understand their desire to walk and to experience something remarkable - the idyllic in the UK.

Scottish Islands Explorer - look away now

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Loose on Lewis?

If you happen to be wandering on the moors near Carloway on the west side of Lewis, then be aware that there has been a recent sighting of a panther. It has yet to be officially reported, but there is an account of the alleged occurrence in this week's edition of the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Islands Explorer - its animal coverage tends to be on the domesticated

Friday, 11 November 2011

A Lot of Islands

Representatives of NORA - Nordic Atlantic Co-operation - are visiting Orkney at present. They will be considering matters of mutual interest for Greenland, Iceland, the Faroes and the Scandinavian countries. A distinct region that is represented is that of the Aland Islands, between Finland and Sweden. It is an autonomous part of Finland which has 28,000 residents served by a devolved parliament. Swedish is their language. Here the number of islands in this archipelago is significantly high - 6757. That's an average of one for every four people. Plenty of scope for an Aland Islands Explorer?

Scottish Islands Explorer - focusing on about 200 islands

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A Long Occupation

This view of Grenitote, North Uist, has understandably appealed for many centuries. One of the longest archaeological digs of its type took place at the Udal, Grenitote Machair, by Professor Ian Crawford and his students from 1963. This site has been described as the complete history of the Hebrides from Neolithic times until it was finally evacuated after a great storm in the 1690s. A Charles II coin issued in 1663-68 was discovered and it marks the end of the occupation of the Udal. Interest remains today as this Stornoway Gazette article indicates.

Scottish Islands Explorer - digging into the past, examining the present

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Dark Reserve Lights Up

Take a small glass and disregard both wine and whisky. Go for the prize-winning Dark Reserve Ale of The Orkney Brewery. It has caught the judges' eyes and tongue and won a remarkable accolade. Its 10% proof-tag does help. Then look at the image below of the North Ronaldsay lighthouse and see whether it resembles a dark island beam or a glimpse of magic from a bottle.

Scottish Islands Explorer - ready for laying down

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Remote Access

This image of the St Kilda stacks by Roger Hiley is featured by Nothern Light Charters. Soon this and many other images could be presented as part of a scheme to have World Heritage Sites - of which there are 936 - made more accessible ... by internet. Read something about the proposals in the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Islands Explorer - bringing the remote closer

Monday, 7 November 2011

New Life for Old Church

The Across the Minch blog gives some illuminating details of the Thomas Telford church on Berneray that is being given a new lease of life. It was apparently built in 1829 and its working / worshipping life ended one hundred years later with the amalgamation of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church. Its slate roof was dismantled, but soon it will have a new working use with people making their way to its doors once again.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looking for opportunities that work

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Shoreline Perspectives

This shoreline shot, taken by Martin Padget on a Vatersay beach, makes the fishing equipment resemble rocks. It symbolises a return to nature. Yesterday's issue of The Herald carried a piece about excavations on a site for new houses revealing the extent and scale of prehistoric homes up to 6000 years ago. How did these early residents of Oban Bay regard the islands beyond? Were they the subjects of adventurous dreams or of an accepted horizon?

Scottish Islands Explorer - looking out to sea and back to land

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Feeling at Home

When the Romans and the Norman French came to Britain, they must have been somewhat disheartened by the climate and terrain. However, when the Vikings arrived, they must have felt at home, particularly in Scotland and on its islands. These photographs, sent in by a Scottish Islands Explorer subscriber, were taken in Norway a short time ago and could be from a trip by CalMac or NorthLink Ferries.

Scottish Islands Explorer - where cultures matter

Friday, 4 November 2011

Travel, Taste and Touch

Do take a look at the blog of Jacqui Ferguson, who lives on the Isle of Lewis and who produces The Barefoot Crofter - its banner is displayed above. The entries started in November 2008 and now number over 300 - so there is every internet opportunity to travel to the island to enjoy her insights, to have a taste of her interests, including fine photography, and to be in touch with her family and everyday experiences.

Scottish Islands Explorer - keeping contacts

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Great Expectations

We should be taking our hats off to the ladies, especially to those of the Western Isles who are living longer than their counterparts on the Scottish mainland. When it comes to gender comparisons within the Outer Hebrides, there is a remarkable difference of some 12 years. They are worth studying in this Stornoway Gazette article which outlines key life expectancy rates throughout Scotland.

Scottish Islands Explorer - 13-years-old in January

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Naming of Parts

This road on Unst once served a purpose ... at RAF Skaw in the most northerly Shetland isle. Whether it had a name is another matter. In fact, the naming of existing parts is no longer a widespread pursuit, now that most places have been discovered. However, geologists are still having to find names for underwater revelations. Ken Hitchen reveals how this has been done, on occasions - particularly when he was helping to survey the sea-bed and reefs to the north-west of Unst.

Scottish Islands Explorer - keen to identify

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Bird Numbers Dropping

Last week it was announced that the global human population has reached seven billion, while surveys of Scottish seabird colonies in the Northern and Western Isles indicate a serious decline in numbers. This photograph is of a gannet off Bass Rock where, as in the east of Scotland in general, there have been higher figures for the breeding season. The full details are in The Herald.

Scottish Islands Explorer - steady with numbers