Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Once in Walking Distance

Here are the Monach Islands (or Heskeir) as seen from Balranald. The individual islands are connected at low tide and, until the 15th Century, could be accessed on foot from Baleshare, five miles away on North Uist. Occupation ceased in 1942, but a new lighthouse has been constructed, the old schoolhouse restored for accommodation and the white beaches, together with the most exposed dune system in the UK, are inviting. Take a look below at the ruined settlement as well as the attractive situation.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to create the wish-you-were-here feeling

Monday, 30 January 2012

What's in Store?

Here's a well-known stopping point for travellers on Skye and to the Western Isles. It's the Co-operative in Portree. However, there may soon be more on offer - by way of supermarkets themselves. The West Highland Free Press reveals how planning applications have been submitted by both the Co-op and Tesco. Trolleys galore are forecast.

Scottish Islands Explorer - remains something of a monopoly

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Half-hour at Rodel

There's been much attention paid to the northern skies recently and this image of Rodel, captured by Andrew Pennill, shows why. A trail of stars photographed over 30 minutes creates an appropriate heavenly background to the famous church on Harris.

Scottish Islands Explorer - attempts to lighten the darkness

Saturday, 28 January 2012

They Came, Saw and ...

These Norse settlements on Rousay look substantial enough. When the Vikings invaded Orkney, as well as other parts of Britain, there was, apparently, mayhem followed by a constructive phase. A new book, From Machair to Mountains, emphasises this intermixing feature. Oxbow Books may be a useful source for this publication.

Scottish Islands Explorer - pleased to report how things settled down

Friday, 27 January 2012

Sitting by the Shore

The makers of this chair are Orkney born and bred. There is a traditional and flourishing industry on the island. Read about Scapa Crafts and the involvement of husband and wife, Jackie and Marlene Miller, together with their team. Sit comfortably ... and enjoy.

Scottish Islands Explorer - to be read, preferably when seated

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Gloss on Egg

The Scottish Wildlife Trust reports: A group of rare wetland birds has been spotted on the isle of Eigg. Six glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) have been seen. The glossy ibis (copyright photograph above by Alex Boden)  is defined as a scarce visitor to the UK, but this winter has seen sporadic sightings in the North West and South West of England and South Wales.
The glossy ibis is a wader bird that feeds in very shallow water. The ibis nests in fresh water among reeds or rushes in areas with low trees and bushes.  The isle of Eigg is a Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve. It is famous for its community buyout in 1997 and the rich amount of wildlife.
Commenting, John Chester, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Ranger on the isle of Eigg said: “Ibises  are a very noteworthy species within the UK & especially here in west Scotland. As a first record for the island they have generated a lot of interest amongst the local people many of whom have been able to see the birds.
“We’re not sure as yet where these birds originated from, though it seems that it could be Spain or France. However, as one of them is ringed we’ll hopefully be able to obtain more information on this. Why exactly they have turned up on Eigg, especially in such a wild and wet winter, is a real mystery but they certainly seem to be having no trouble finding food in the heavily flooded marshes. Hopefully they’ll continue to hang around for a while and are enjoying the Hebridean winter.”

Scottish Islands Explorer - gloss and matt finish

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Independence Issues

These offices of the Shetland Council could take on a new significance if the proposals of the Earl of Caithness come about. The same would apply to the Council Offices in Kirkwall (below) and ... to the administrative centre of Rockall, Hall's Ledge!

Scottish Islands Explorer - sometimes going to extremes

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Looking Out for Lights

The artificial lights are of Scalloway - until 1708 the capital of the Shetland group of islands - and the natural ones are the Northern Lights. This photograph by Chris Brown is featured on the website of Bairds Travel. Another series of views is to be found on the BBC website. Take a couple of trips ... moving away from your screen.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always trying to look up

Monday, 23 January 2012

Hey, Hey, Clear the Way

This photo of the derelict North Strome Ferry Terminal, taken by Neil King, shows the Strome Narrows of Loch Carron crossed by ferry until 1970. Then a new section of the A890 was built in order to give faster access to the Kyle of Lochalsh, Skye and beyond. Now plans are being considered to construct a bridge or create a new by-pass. Another scheme, many miles away, involves the by-passing of Thurso to speed access to Scrabster and the Northern Isles. The details are on the BBC website. Getting out to the islands may become that little easier.

Scottish Islands Explorer - creates passages about the islands

Sunday, 22 January 2012

An Arcadian Vision

Waves contain forceful energies and these are due to be harnessed off Mainland Orkney. The Costa Head Wave Project will be the world's largest of its type. The resources are unlimited and derived off-shore, leaving the land unaffected.. So here is a case, perhaps, of the Arcadian - natural, bountiful splendour in a largely untouched wilderness - within an Orcadian setting.

Scottish Islands Explorer - pages depicting powerful forces

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Ben Ken Run and More

Here's an ultimate race that has climbed high in the ratings. Take a look at the news item and then at the race history and work out whether you want to pencil into your diary the first Saturday in August. Just remember, when you are suffering on the ascent or in the water, where you first read about it.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to be on top

Friday, 20 January 2012

Skye Sheep Site

There are more where these creatures came from. Take a look at this illustrated sequence of sheep on Skye, taken and supplied by Andrew and Rosie Woodhouse. It's a feast of photographs for a Friday.

Scottish Islands Explorer - read by humans, occasionally devoured by sheep

Thursday, 19 January 2012

New for Auld

Here is the Auld Haa Guest House on Fair Isle. The 'Haa' on Shetland traditionally refers to the house of a laird and so it would customarily have had innovations incorporated within its construction. Perhaps the old / auld ways persist on some remoter islands and glens, but BT has counted almost a third of a million wi-fi hotspots in Scotland. The Highlands have some 26,700 and the Western Isles 2,370. This accommodation on an island famed for its birds certainly has its wireless internet connections.

Scottish Islands Explorer - keen to connect, particularly as it started on Fair Isle.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Fuel Good Factor

Islanders always need fuel to get places. The price differences with the mainland have traditionally attracted the attention of visiting motorists and the concerns of residents. A new Government initiative for the Northern Isles, Outer and Inner Hebrides, Clyde islands and the Isles of Scilly has attracted some recent attention as the 5p per litre rebate due on 1 March has, according to some, already be nullified by the raising of prices in anticipation. Read on with relief, if you are not having to purchase the liquid. The appropriate image above is not directly applicable, as it features Achill, off the western coast of Ireland. Thank you for your good-will messages as I now feel relief at having returned from a 48-hour stay in hospital, following a condition that required emergency treatment on Monday.

Scottish Islands Explorer - relieved to continue reporting

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Run Aground

John is currently in hospital but will be shipshape once running repairs have been made. Please stay posted for further details.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Now for One over the Eight

If you are in the Christian Presbyterian tradition, then living in or visiting Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, must offer a challenge - which of its churches to attend? The Church of Scotland traces its origins as a sect to 1560 and has two places of worship in the town. The Free Church of Scotland (1843) has two; the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)  (2000) has one; the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (1892) has one; the Associated Presbyterian Church (1989) has one. Now there's a newcomer with a congregation of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland (1690) setting up in the Culregrein Mission Hall (pictured above) on the Perceval Road. Its presence is probably connected with a doctrinal issue that is troubling some members of the Free Church - namely the approval by its own General Assembly of having psalm-singing accompanied by music and the introduction of hymns, if individual congregations wish. The FC congregations in Stornoway are, apparently, not interested in adopting live music, but the RFC has set up ... just in case. Will there soon be another comparable sect entering the Stornoway scene and there being one over the eight?

Scottish Islands Explorer - avoiding schisms ... as yet

Sunday, 15 January 2012

An Island Parish

The approach to Barra is always exciting - for Castlebay looks, from a distance, like a miniature city. The current BBC series, An Island Parish, gives insights into the ways of life of a priest and his parishioners. It is possible to catch up on the series through iPlayer.

Scottish Islands Explorer - time to catch up with the now 250 items on this blog

Saturday, 14 January 2012

A Divided Kingdom?

This letter appeared in yesterday's issue of The Times and raises a significant question about a consequence of a 'Divided Kingdom'. Sir, What will become of Rockall if Scotland goes its own way? It is part of the United Kingdom (not specifically Scotland), indeed the only bit acquired since the 1707 Act of Union. Who will own it if the UK ceases to exist? As the cormorant flies, it is nearer to the Republic of Ireland than it is to any non-Scottish part of the UK. The seas around it are of immense importance in respect of international maritime security, natural resources and conservation.  The Rev Peter Ridley  Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria

Scottish Islands Explorer - change of content is unlikely

Friday, 13 January 2012

An Ancient of Days

Archaeologists have been busy in the Western Isles and unearthed some exciting settlements south of Lochboisdale on South Uist, at Loch Euphort in the isolated centre of North Uist and at Loch an Duna between Barvas and Carloway in the north of Lewis. Among their methods of research was to ask local people  about the whereabouts of possible findings. It does make such a resident sound like an 'ancient of days'. The image above is of an abandoned settlement on Harris and makes one wonder why anyone left a place that looks particularly idyllic.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always asking for local knowledge

Thursday, 12 January 2012

It's an Ill Wind

It is certainly an ill wind that blows nobody any good. The refurbishment of, and disruptions to, the NorthLink ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland means that Flybe and Loganair will be increasing their services in February and March. Talking of increasing trade, yesterday this blog clocked up its 12000th visit during its eight-month existence.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looks forward to increasing its services

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Going for a Skye Boat

This young man understandably looks bemused by this contradictory road-sign, but local school-children and select motorists will feel relieved that their journey time may be reduced under the unexpected conditions prevailing so far this year. See how a Skye Boat is, perhaps, going to continue giving fine service in its eighth decade.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always dependent on ferries

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Lighting Counts Again

Light has featured on this blog for the past two days. On Sunday, it was definitely Winter; yesterday's item had a Summer feel; today's image is an Autumn one of distant Mull from Jura. It was taken by Iain Thornber who, among many residents of the West Coast, looks forward to the coming of Spring when the dark, cold and wet days of the past few weeks are over.

Scottish Islands Explorer - trying to lighten dark moments

Monday, 9 January 2012

Land & Light

Here is a treat in store - when published on 31 May 2012. Scottish landscape photographer, Craig Aitchison, has brought together over one hundred images that he has taken of the well-known and seldom-visited, the accessible and remote, the ancient and modern parts of the Highlands & Islands. The Highlands - Land & Light is a portfolio of panoramic photographs each with a fresh perspective. This publication by Frances Lincoln already has a listing on Amazon. Yesterday's blog considered light on Lewis; now look at the light and colours on the Mainland, above, and, below, at the southern end of the Western Isles captured by Craig Aitchison from the hill above Castlebay on Barra.

Scottish Islands Explorer - keen to capture colour

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Best of Light

There is something about the light at Loch Aline, situated close to the back office of Scottish Islands Explorer at Kershader in the South Lochs. The image above was taken by Edward Graham at 13.00 on 19 December 2011. Then an image of the Pairc from Loch Aline appeared on computer screens during the afternoon of Saturday 7 January 2012 courtesy of Across the Minch. It is remarkable how scenes seldom seen by people in the past can now appear around the world in an instant, observed by many.

Scottish Islands Explorer - endeavours to provide good, light reading

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Cars on Rails

The landslip on the Lochcarron to Kyle of Lochalsh road, on 22 December 2011, has meant quite a detour for those wanting to cross over to Skye and on to Uig for the Tarbert / Lochmaddy ferries. The solution of allowing vehicles onto the railway is both innovative as well as potential time- and distance-saving. Read more on the BBC site.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always considering short-cuts

Friday, 6 January 2012

Island Incentives

Here are four attractive features. A Highland Councillor has proposed that everyone in Scotland should be given the opportunity of having a free trip to its islands. If this were to occur, think how many would enjoy such scenes as this evening view of Luskentyre beach, photographed by Andrew Pennill. Enthusiasms for photography often needs professional encouragement and Andrew's Winter Newsletter 2012 does supply details relevant to camera-users everywhere. Incidentally, today is the final day on which to make an application for employment on the Summer Isles later this year.

Scottish Islands Explorer - pointing people in the right directions

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Discovery Made Easy

There are many ways of getting around Scotland and exploring its islands. The dramatic photograph of Muckle Flugga (above) indicates why people are attracted to the place in all sorts of ways, including trying to reach it physically (below). A more simple approach to exploration is to go straight to the website Undiscovered Scotland and to let your mouse loose on the maps. The wealth of information and images is impressive.

Scottish Islands Explorer - determined to discover

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Wind Up

This view from the Eishken Estate across Loch Seaforth to the hills of North Harris is close to the proposed Muaitheabhal Wind Farm. The original planning application was for 133 turbines, but 33 were granted. Now this has been increased by a further six. It's difficult to picture more inaccessible countryside and to imagine how construction and maintenance will take place in one of the remoter parts of the UK. The workers will feel like early settlers.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a comparatively minor source of power

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Life on a Small Island

Graemsay looks empty from this angle depicting the Point of Oxan. However, there are around 27 people living  on this Orkney island on the western approaches to Scapa Flow, including Sian, who produces a lively blog called Life on a Small Island. Her entry last Wednesday serves as an interesting introduction.

Scottish Islands Explorer - would like to be considered as 'versatile'

Monday, 2 January 2012

Rum Watching Required

Kinloch Castle on Rum is a monument to the ways in which families sometimes have an urge to create something 'remarkable, impressive and permanent' - an architectural RIP. The 19th Century dream of the Bullough family becomes something of a nightmare for succeeding generations when it comes to maintenance, restoration and preservation. SNH - Scottish Natural Heritage - has that unenviable task, but it is their responsibility and they need both support and watching. Within the Castle there is a hostel and the SNH has recently applied to build a new, temporary hostel while the original is being repaired. We hope that the word 'temporary' is heeded - for the priority is to preserve the permanent, not to replace it.

Scottish Islands Explorer - presenting places of permanent appeal

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Era; New Pleasures

When you like football and live on Raasay, the minimum one-a-side matches can have maximum appeal. If you like exploring places, then here's a blog that will keep you stimulated. It's Straight from the Den and its photographs are so impressive. The 'Fitba' one (above) has that compelling sensation, while 'The Old Lazybeds at Loch Crabhadail, Huisinis' (below) reveals a sight seldom seen. A happy time lies ahead here for blog-rollers.

Scottish Islands Explorer - launched 13 years ago today