Tuesday, 31 July 2012

No Cars, No Cares

This image is of the interior of the Summer Isles, off the west coast and beyond Ullapool. The largest of the isles, Tanera Mor, is inhabited and Summer Isles Enterprises offers an attractive range of both accommodation and activities. Here there are no roads and, as explained on the home-page, you leave both cars and cares on the mainland.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to get along without excessive car use

Monday, 30 July 2012

Raasay Rocks

Just being on top of Raasay would give most of us satisfaction, but those seasoned mountaineers who savour the routes to the summit look for special excitement. Find out how the Lochaber-based professional climber, Dave MacLeod, ascends.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always trying to climb circulation heights

Sunday, 29 July 2012

North Rona Relic

This may appear to be just a pile of stones, but it is probably the third oldest place of worship in the UK. It was built by St Ronan on North Rona, the most isolated of the British off-shore islands ever to be regularly inhabited by a resident population. Something of its sad history is conveyed on a flickr page which features something of the island cemetery.

Scottish Islands Explorer - takes readers places

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Weekend Watch

The choreographed displays at the London Olympics may have a marine equivalent in the off-shore waters this weekend when ordinary individuals are asked to report on the extraordinary activities of dolphins and whales. These bottlenose dophins have been pictured close to Cromarty and the Black Isle and, if they appear between now and tomorrow evening, details should be sent to Sea Watch Foundation

Scottish Islands Explorer - regular reporting from the nation's off-shore waters

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Pars of Jura?

Two four-letter words that do not appear to mix readily are 'Jura' and 'Golf'. There is a suggestion that plans are afoot to build a golf course on the island. The walkers above could be heading for the 12th ... or whatever? Any views?

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to keep ahead of the game

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A Conspiracy of Elements

You can from this image see why peace campaigners chose the beach at Valtos on Lewis to promote their cause during the build-up to the Olympic Games. The beauty of the place would probably appeal to most humans from most nations. Alas, the weather conditions that prevailed during part of the event were neither benign nor peaceful.

Scottish Islands Explorer - promotes peaceful places

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

High and Happy

A home of one's own, in its own grounds, with views, the safety of sheep grazing, a rainbow ... and in Shetland. Is this a recipe for happiness? Some of the findings of the 2001 Census suggest these could be factors.

Scottish Islands Explorer - happily put together    

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Stand and Stare

I first came across the photographic work of James Smith soon after I started visiting the Hebrides over 25 years ago. The colours that he captures are amazing - and the time he waits for them to appear is incredible. It's all about the craft of the consummate professional.

Scottish Islands Explorer - trying to seize the moment

Monday, 23 July 2012

Face the Week Ahead

There's a face in these clouds over Shetland and plenty of photographs to muse over through the Muckle Shetland Blog. It makes an illuminating way to start the week ahead.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looking at ordinary things in extraordinary ways

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Shark Spotting

Yesterday it was the turn of the puffin to be featured on-line; today the basking shark has its turn. The movements of basking sharks are being studied closely now that eight of them have been tagged. Their whereabouts are close to Coll, Tiree and Hyskeir and details are to be found through a site promoted by Scottish Natural Heritage and the University of Exeter. This promises to be an on-going study worth following.

Scottish Islands Explorer - ears to the ground; eye on research

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Birds Behaving Sadly

The 'puffincam' operated by Visit.Shetland.Org has led to awareness and anxieties expressed by viewers from as distant countries as Chile, the USA and Australia. Sumburgh Head Nature Reserve is relatively easy to visit, but never has it been focused on by so many from so far.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of new techniques and trends

Friday, 20 July 2012

Jura by Design

Scottish Islands Explorer magazine is designed on Jura and here are some stunning images of the island through the lens of Niall Colthart. It's a place where the design of the landscape and the patterns of sky leave the imagination to grasp elevation, angle and dimension - all captured here.

Scottish Islands Explorer - the product of hours of work, not of countless years

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Outstanding Walking

There are many reasons why walking in Unst, Shetland, is so attractive. There are numerous vistas, more Viking sites than in any comparable area of Europe, 420 million years of geological evolution, 60 miles of coastline, 10 beaches and 19 hours of daylight per day at around Midsummer. Go to Walkers are Welcome and see for yourself why some of the 650 residents of the island have chosen to live there. Look at Skaw Beach below and up to Saxa Vord (above) for here are two locations with pulling power.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to harness the pulling power of islands

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Island Priest Dies

The BBC's Island Parish series on Barra, Eriskay and South Uist attracted large audiences. One of the draws was the personality of the late Father Calum MacLellan, the Eriskay priest who worked well beyond customary retirement years. He has recently died and his obituary is a reminder of a man who recalls the excitement involving the SS Politician which sank off his island and the understandable addiction of people to the television programme which featured him.

Scottish Islands Explorer - personalities assist communities

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Centenary Celebrations

This is the now-defunct slipway at Suisnish in Raasay, off Skye. It was originally built for the iron ore works and the village that serviced them, Inverarish. Celebrations for the centenary of the settlement have taken place and are reported on the BBC website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - will celebrate its centenary in 2100.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Out and About

Dunnet Head is the most northerly point on the Scottish mainland. It juts out further towards the Arctic than John O'Groats and was the scene of recent activity for a correspondent of the local newspaper. It's worth following Ralph and his Out and About column for he gets to some obscure places and reports back with vigour and insights.

Scottish Islands Explorer  -  tries to be vigorous and enjoys insights  

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Killer Apps

People go to islands for many reasons, including the search for wildlife. Those who went to Stroma yesterday and retuned on the final boat-crossing had value for their fare. A pod of orcas or killer whales appeared in their search for food, probably seals. Here is the 'killer app' for prospective sightseers - caught on camera.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always on the look-out for opportunities

Saturday, 14 July 2012


The Islands Book Trust promoted a trip to Stroma that was organised by Caithness Horizons. The Boy James (above) made three round-trips to the now deserted island close to Gills Bay and much observing was completed. The more intrepid made their way to the Gloup - a collapsed sea-cave which provides a glimpse of the Pentland Firth from a position well inland.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Represented on board and on shore

Friday, 13 July 2012

Retail Battles

There was a time in Orkney when warriors met in head-to-head battles. Now it's retail-to-retail clashes which, in Kirkwall, take place in Pickaquoy Road. The otter sign (above) is there to alert motorists and pedestrians passing between Tesco and the Co-operative Supermarkets, while in the other direction there is apparently no animal movement between Tesco and Lidl. Customers must benefit with this competitive

set-up until they want to leave in their cars. Then there is congestion.

Scottish Islands Explorer - only limited competition

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Catamaran Crossing

Orkney has been settled for many centuries and is something of a paradise for archaeologists. However, the claim of Pentland Ferries is to convey people and vehicles to and from the Orkney Mainland and the Scottish Mainland by a means of transport fit for the 21st Century. The Pentalina, a high-speed catamaran, cuts a distinctive shape on its route from St Margaret's Hope, South Ronaldsay, to Gills Bay, Caithness.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always after distinctive ways  

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Fine Beach Property

Places that appeal soon lead to speculating about properties. Here is one close to Tresta Beach, Fetlar. It's the West Manse and illustrates how ministers of religion used to be housed in buildings that resembled mansions.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has a home / office and a back-office

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Growing North

The Unst Regeneration Growers Enterprise is well worth a visit - in person or via its website - for here is an opportunity that has been taken to convert food miles into food inches.

Scottish Islands Explorer - covers many island miles

Monday, 9 July 2012

January in July

There was a paradox in Lerwick yesterday. Most of the streets were empty during the Wimbledon Men's Final, but the very centre was packed with ... Viking warriors. A film crew was there to re-create the Up Helly Aa event that usually takes place on the last Tuesday of January. The Norsemen and their children looked splendid; the town band played on; the crowd extras were animated. The only problem was the weather - for it was, according to a local police officer, more wintry than is customary in January!

Scottish Islands Explorer - always on sale at Conochies in Commercial Street

Sunday, 8 July 2012

So Far and So Near

The ferry service operated to Papa Stour by the Snolda (above) is remarkable. I was greeted by name, having booked in advance. When I arrived, I was able to greet Jane Puckey, the island's Community Councillor, by name for she has contributed to Scottish Islands Explorer. We then chatted at length about this fascinating place and her blog will now become a source of much interest to me. As I was at the waiting room for the Saturday evening boat which came out empty from West Burrafirth to collect  me, the only passenger, something rather errie happened. I received an email message on my phone from a current contributor suggesting a prospective topic about a recorded dispute on Papa Stour in the year 1299. Time and distance were elimated. The road on the island will be travelled again.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always tring to connect

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Fired Up

I feel fired up for I hope to be travelling to Papa Stour in Shetland at around 9.00. The population has fallen to below single figures and, perhaps, all could be accommodated in the island's fire station, the image here belonging to Charles Tait.

Scottish Islands Explorer - ready to give the place cover

Friday, 6 July 2012

Noss Off, Much On

The Shetland Amenity Trust building was once an ice-making factory and store. The organisation's Shetland Nature Festival was due to begin tomorrow with the Noss Open Day, but this event has been cancelled owing to a poor weather forecast. However, some 35 events are due to take place between Sunday 8 and Sunday 15 July.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looks forward to covering the events

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Take a Sea-Gap Year

To the west of Fort William is the Ardnamurchan Peninsula which, although an integral part of the Mainland, feels like an island. Its name derives from the Gaelic A'Mhorbhairn - meaning Sea Gap. Reaching islands can involve convoluted journeys and so, for once, including this part for a holiday could be something of a sea-gap year.

Scottish Islands Explorer - getting away with it 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

On-line, On Time

The combination of retail requirements and on-line opportunities have meant that some residents of Barra are doing their grocery shopping at ASDA in ... Glasgow. The story is delivered here and the image above is of a Barratlantic lorry boarding a ferry. It could be taking island produce south or bringing  back supplies.

Scottish Islands Explorer - bringing home the goods

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Shetland by Storm

The letters - SSFP - stand for Shetland Storm Force Photography and its blog features wildlife, landscape and seascapes. Do browse from the calm of your computer screen.

Scottish Islands Explorer - presents wildlife on land and sea

Monday, 2 July 2012

Extreme Waves

I set off for Shetland on Wednesday and have been looking at sites about the group of islands. A blog that interested me concerns Extreme Wave Theory in that area. It is to be hoped that, as I shall be travelling by sea, the concepts presented by Janette Kerr (below) will be theoretical rather than experienced.

Scottish Islands Explorer - covering land exposed to countless waves

Sunday, 1 July 2012

EarthLines Essay Prize

Announcing the EarthLines Essay Prize, an exciting new annual essay prize for writing about nature, place & the environment from EarthLines magazine. 2500-5000 words. Writers of any nationality may enter. The prize will be £500 and the judges are writer Sara Maitland, John Fanshawe (New Networks for Nature), James Canton (University of Essex) and Sharon Blackie (EarthLines editor). Entries for the 2013 prize from 1 July to 30 November 2012, online only. For more information please view here.

Scottish Islands Explorer - no prizes for guessing its contents