Friday, 31 August 2012

Drift Bottle Record

This bottle drifting in the sea featured in an advertisement. A drift bottle dating from 1914 has been caught by a Shetland fisherman and his catch has been confirmed as a record. The details are here in Shetland News. In fishing terms, it's not something that long, but something that long ago?

Scottish Islands Explorer - catching up some years later

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Golgotha Factor

Something appeared at Hillock close to the Bight of Baywest (above) in Stronsay earlier this week. It was a human skull. The Orcadian reported it in a non-dramatic, somewhat deadpan way, indicating it was probably that of a resident from the Iron Age. The eerie aspect is that the monks of Papa Stronsay, who featured in the news a week ago, reside in the Golgotha Monastery, named after the small hill outside Jerusalem that was known as 'the place of the skull'.

Scottish Islands Explorer - delving into the past; featuring the present

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Something New

Something interesting is always turning up on St Kilda. Earlier this summer, scientists announced the discovery of a new species of dandelion on Hirta. It is thought to have developed from seeds brought by birds or human voyagers from Iceland. It has been named Dandelion Taraxacum Pankhurstianum and its seeds were first collected for investigation about two years ago.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to come up with something new

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Harvest Time

Mareel, the most northerly music, cinema and creative industries centre in the UK, has opened in Lerwick, Shetland. It has been years in development and construction, but this is harvest-time for the energy and resources invested. The name mareel comes from the Old Norse for 'sea-fire' and refers to the sparkling, luminous light seen on the water at hairst or 'harvest', particularly under a harvest-moon.

Scottish Islands Explorer - extends congratulations

Monday, 27 August 2012

Quintessential Images

It's Bank Holiday Monday and so beach scenes should feature. Last week marked the 250th Friday Picture on the Islay Blog and the above photograph of Machair Bay featured. Another recent quintessential image was of Saligo Bay (below) from the same source. Enjoy the computer screen, for real life may not provide such pleasures.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a collector of coastal impressions

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Papa for Pope

The number of Roman Catholic monks in Scotland has increased significantly this month with the admission of abut 15 members of a religious order based in the Orkney island of Papa Stronsay, off-shore from Stronsay. These are the majority, seeking full communion with Rome, within an estranged traditionalist group that has been in dialogue with the Vatican for four years. Details are in the current issue of the Catholic Herald.

Scottish Islands Explorer - not sure about such men wanting to be off-shore

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Red Relics

Once upon a time, before mobile phones, public telephone boxes were in demand and sometimes provided much relief to those in distress. Now they are relics of bygone eras, except in remote places where landlines have not been supplemented by mobile coverage. The box above is in Lewis and this BBC website item is about Canna.

Scottish Islands Explorer - remains in contact

Friday, 24 August 2012

Shorn of Papa

This early 20th Century photograph of the Horn of Papa shows the complete geological phenomenon that featured on Papa Stour, Shetland, until its destruction in a storm of 1953. A hundred years before the population of the island had been well over 350, but by the mid-20th Century it had fallen to just over 50. Now it has declined further to only nine residents. A complete way of life - involving customs and dialect, crofting and fishing - has ended. A local folk song began 'Oot bewast da Horn o Papa' referred to fishermen going to the west beyond the Horn and its chorus was 'Rowin Foula doon!' - an allusion to rowing to a point where the high cliffs of the island of Foula (below) were no longer visible over the horizon. That meant getting to fishing grounds some 60 miles off-shore.

Scottish Islands Explorer - features and is read on both islands

Thursday, 23 August 2012


Help is on its way for those wanting to see and photograph the Aurora Borealis in the UK. The University of Lancaster has a team of scientists behind AuroraWatch, which will assist people finding the best places to witness the Northern Lights. Look them up.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always looking out for items of interest

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Little Has Great Appeal

The residents of Great Bernera are interested in a community buyout of their own island as well as of Little Berneray, close by and uninhabited. You can see why by looking above. In the past the island graveyard was highly regarded and much in demand, although its appeal diminished during the 20th Century.

Scottish Islands Explorer - continues to be demanded by the living

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Late Seasonal Excitement

The mellowness and/or vigour of late September and early October could feature in a proposed trip by Yacht Corryvreckan. It is entitled 'Golden Autumn Colours, Roaring Stags and Early Sunsets Cruise' and is due to leave Oban on Saturday 29 September, returning on Saturday 6 October. So the conditions could be as splendid as above and as exciting as below. Do make direct contact with the company for only a few places are left on board for what promises to be a special voyage. Mention this blog if you are enquiring.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Plain and Exciting

A sandy plain at Bornais, on the west coast of South Uist, does not look particularly inviting from this angle. However, recent archaeological research by teams from the Universities of Cardiff and Sheffield have indicated that significant Iron Age and Viking settlements took place here. Some details, including images of 'exotic items from abroad', are carried by the BBC.

Scottish Islands Explorer - both paper and CD Archive versions have been laid down

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Canned Rabbit?

Behind this house on Canna, in the banks and their burrows, were hundreds of rabbits. They have caused destruction of sorts, but not of the house, which fire destroyed last year. The island has thousands of the creatures in residence. One solution has been the serving of rabbit pie and pate in the island's small restaurant. However, their eradication requires large-scale action and a BBC News Item focuses on the process.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looking for opportunities

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Discount or Premium?

Should island properties, such as Shuna in Loch Linnhe, be offered at premium prices because they are special, or at discount rates because they are relatively inaccessible? You can judge for yourself about this seven bedroomed detached property in a detached setting. The passengers on the PS Waverley had a good position for viewing as they passed the island.

Scottish Islands Explorer - new issue now on sale in the shops at ... £3.75

Friday, 17 August 2012

Some Wait

Nobody has ever been a permanent resident on Stac an Armin, the highest sea stack - at 643' - in the UK. However, there have been involuntary stays on the islet in the St Kilda Group. 285 years ago, on Friday 15 August 1727, three men and eight boys from Hirta were landed on the islet. They had come to collect seabirds and eggs, expecting to be there for days before being picked up. However, a smallpox outbreak back on Hirta meant that there was no one sufficiently fit to make the four-mile crossing. They were there on the 24-acre rock until rescue came ... wait for it ... on 13 May 1728, which happened to be a Thursday. The image of gannets on Stac an Armin indicates that there were plentiful supplies of food, but how was it cooked throughout the long, dark winter? They were closer to Boreray, as Rob Woodall's image below, indicates, but there was no one there to assist.

Scottish Islands Explorer - once every two, not nine, months

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Hold on Tight

Here is one of the two now disused stairways, once lined with tracks for small trucks, from the jetty to the lighthouse on Eilean Mor, Flannan Isles. It will be appreciated by roller-coaster fans. Those who prefer a view of the entire island from a helicopter should indicate here now.

Scottish Islands Explorer - endeavours to depict as well as to describe

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

New Heads on Shetland

Two new headteachers of Shetland schools have been appointed and both will experience some downsizing in the numbers for which they are responsible. Samantha Wishart has had 14 years of experience in Dundee, some of it in large schools, and will now be in charge at Cunningsburgh with a roll of 83. Nicholas Lucas has been in charge of a 350-pupil school in Toronto, Canada, and will be heading Foula Primary School (above) with its seven pupils. The approach to Foula (below) indicates how different it is from an urban appointment.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of differences

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Night Light

Here - continuing the theme of 'looking up' - are noctilucent clouds photographed above Rousay, Orkney. Read about these sky-at-night features and more via Orkney News.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always looking something up

Monday, 13 August 2012

A London Airport

The airport that serves the Orkney island of Eday is situated close to the Bay of London and, naturally, attracts the name of London Airport, at least locally. Its terminal building, above, puts Heathrow, Gatwick, City, Stansted and Luton facilities into perspective. The island population in 1841, over half-a-century before the invention of the internal combustion engine, was 944, and by 2001 had fallen to 121. Old Red Sandstone is the major geological feature of Eday, from the Old Norse for 'isthmus island', and its northern extremity is the appropriately-named, Red Head.

Scottish Islands Explorer - also small in comparison with some titles

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Looking Up

It is or was a time to look up - perhaps for a a show of the Perseids, maybe for the fireworks of the Olympic Closing Ceremony, or from a ferry close to Islay and Jura. The Islay Blog has featured some views from the ferry that are worth seeing for the light and dark segments caused by sunlight, elevations and clouds. Here are two of them.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looking out as well as up

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Vatersay Cow

David Wilson was a production designer in television and is now a professional photographer, with his recent work featuring many parts of the Western Isles. His image of a cow in Vatersay was taken at one end of the island chain and several of his photographs are on display at the Morven Gallery at the other end, in Barvas, Lewis.

Scottish Islands Explorer - endlessly looking at islands

Friday, 10 August 2012

Windows 2006

In the Summer of 2006, the Scottish artist, photographer, designer and writer, Alice Starmore, took this photograph through Dollie's Sheiling Window and of Isabella's Crag and the Barvas Hills on the Isle of Lewis. She returned a year later and the entire wall had collapsed and the window gone. A feature article about the people and places on this Lewis moor appears in the first issue of EarthLines.

Scottish Islands Explorer - capturing significant moments

Thursday, 9 August 2012

An Invitation to Excite

The organisers of Faclan, the annual book festival that has been running in Stornoway for some eight years, have invited Professor Richard Dawkins to speak at an event next November. His acceptance has apparently upset at least two local religious leaders, although, for all we know, many may well welcome his coming to this Presbyterian stronghold where many traditional Christian practices are observed.

Scottish Islands Explorer - where strong views are usually held about ... scenery

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A Short Stay Recalled

This beach on the Monach Isles, some seven miles off North Uist, looks idyllic. Grimsay resident, Lachie Morrison, recalls living there for four years when he was a young man. At one time the island was relatively well-populated and this 1911 photograph indicates something of the lifestyle of residents a century ago.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a bi-monthly record

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Touring from Yell

The Shetland Camping Bods offer a range of facilities. Windhouse Lodge (below), on the the main road through Yell, is probably the best equipped of them. It is well placed as a base to explore the island, including the fine Breckon Beach (above), and to go north to Unst and Fetlar, where cars and passengers are free on the ferry.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always a range of ideas

Monday, 6 August 2012

A Lost World

The last inhabitants left Swona, in the Pentland Firth, in 1974. They left a herd of cattle - one bull and eight cows of a cross between Aberdeen Angus and Shorthorn. Five generations later these animals have become feral, continue to thrive and have been classified as a new breed. For a visit to this Lost World there is a YouTube clip that has a professional style.

Scottish Islands Explorer - wishes to be seen as a pedigree among publications

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Olympic Overshadowing

The Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games attracted vast viewing figures. Around the time of this performance many television channels must have had tiny audiences and blogs on Scottish islands were probably not in great demand. However, that evening the usual presentation of the Friday Islay Picture took place. Here it is, ready to reach a few more watchers and to give pleasure to them. Join the admirers of this picture of nesting shag at Sanaigmore.

Scottish Islands Explorer - attracting some Olympic viewers

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Tense Past

The image entitled The Revival of Scottish Gaelic Through Education would not have been appropriate back in 1872 when 'Revival' could have been replaced by 'Elimination'. Take a look at the themes of a forthcoming conference to be held at Balivanich Primary School, Benbecula.

Scottish Islands Explorer - would love to have a Gaelic edition

Friday, 3 August 2012

Counting Down

The Seallam! Centre, pictured to the right of the houses in Northton, South Harris, has recently launched its Hebrides People website. This is a fully-searchable facility which will eventually have the records of everyone who has lived in the Western Isles during the past 200 years. That's some 200,000 people. Researchers on-line will have extensive views of family-trees; those who visit the Centre will have fine views in addition.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has a CD-archive of its own

Thursday, 2 August 2012

New Nicolson

There are around a thousand pupils at Stornoway's Nicolson Institute, the largest of the secondary schools in the Western Isles. When they begin the school-year later this month, some £55 million will have been spent on new buildings and facilities. The clock tower remains and serves as a reminder of old times - in fact its founder was born in 1832. The Stornoway Historical Society has a feature on this educational establishment.

Scottish Islands Explorer - working towards having new premises

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Stands Out and Shines

The Rubha Reidh Lighthouse, near Gairloch, does stand out significantly with outstanding views of the sky as well as across to Skye, to Harris and Lewis. Its adjacent accommodation is up-for-sale, was featured in The Press and Journal and is being promoted by Strutt & Parker. Rubha Reidh is Gaelic for 'smooth point' - a reference to the rocks washed by the waves.

Scottish Islands Explorer - attempts to stand out and shine as well