Friday, 30 November 2012

New from Stromness

There's something about Stromness, the Orkney entry port for NorthLink ferries from Scrabster, that has great appeal. The proximity of the port to the town; the main street that appears to go on for ever; the variety of shops, galleries and businesses within it; historical and cultural dimensions; and now a website that has just been launched and which certainly has much to offer - insights into the life and times of the town. Take a look and be prepared to be hooked.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looking and hooking

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Time for a Trip

There are easier ways to reach Foula, Britain's most remote permanently-inhabited island, than by sea. The most simple approach is through an Originart webpage which offers detailed images and a trip around the island by plane. It may not match meeting these residents below in person

although it feels more secure than some people's idea of having a good time.

Scottish Islands Explorer - going to lengths

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

New ... Wildscape

The work of Tim Wootton - bird artist - will soon have a new nesting-place - for the Wildscape Gallery is opening in the Anchor Buildiings, Kirkwall, this coming Saturday, 1 December 2012. A year ago - the last Saturday of November 2011 - marked the opening of the gallery of the same name in Stromness. The artist has won significant awards for his avian images and engaged in brilliant timing for the painting of his new shop front in the Orkney capital. Watch out for ... wet paint!

Scottish Islands Explorer - landscape, seascape, wildscape and ... escape

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Escape & Landscape

I started wandering beyond Hushinish, North Harris, a couple of days ago, and I found myself looking down Glen Cravadale (above) and having vistas of the fishing lodge at Cravadale (below). On my computer-based travels I have encountered landscape photographers Tom Richardson and David Fleet with their galleries. I shall be gone some time!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Last Heard Of

The basking shark can be as large as a bus, but the whereabouts of one of them, last heard of beyond Skye, is giving cause for concern. It had been fitted with a tracking device which signalled that it was close to Glendale. Since then all has gone quiet. The battery has probably failed and, perhaps, become detached. So the search is on for either a washed-up battery or a beached creature or both. The details have been broadcast by the BBC and the public has been asked to assist.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tagged by a barcode

Sunday, 25 November 2012

This Trail Rocks

A new discovery by this blog is a winner. EveryTrail looks so good that I cannot wait to explore further. As far as today is concerned click on above to go a few miles north from Hushinish on North Harris, keeping Scarp on your left. If you are so inclined, get the route and details on an iPhone. Here is a sharing of routes, worldwide. Do comment and direct followers if your browsing picks up a memorable sequence of steps through the website recommended here.

In the meantime, look below at a couple of views of what you are missing in remote Harris, at Hushinish.

Scottish Islands Explorer - here is a way to explore and direct

Saturday, 24 November 2012

A Long Trail and Trial

Niall Iain Macdonald has his sights set on a long, long trail, with certainly many elements of a trial - by rowing single-handed from New York to

Stornoway ... alone. His efforts to raise sponsorship are gruelling, but there are generous organisations and individuals ready to assist him raise money for his project, which will when completed benefit the charity, SAMH - the Scottish Association for Mental Health. His route will probably be a direct one, across 3,400 miles, with no land in between except, perhaps, the two well-known outcrops below.

Scottish Islands Explorer - knows the trails and trials of publishing single-handed 

Friday, 23 November 2012

When Eagle is Goose

The Golden Eagle oilfield, some 60 miles off Aberdeen, will be sending output to Flotta in Scapa Flow, Orkney. This will double the volume of oil handled there as some 140 million barrels will be processed from late 2014 for 18 years. This is something of a 'Golden Goose' for the island, the name of which derives from the Old Norse for 'flatter isle'. The Vikings of old would be surprised by the structures of new, detailed here in Shetland News.

 It had a strategic significance in the Second World War though its cinema (photographed here by Craig Taylor) is certainly weathering away.

Yet the wind and the rain have not prevented the cultivation of crops where the flatter fields give tractors a relatively easy time.

Scottish Islands Explorer - well aware of social and economic changes

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Similar Shores

The shorelines of some Hebridean islands are remarkable for their composition and colours and, according to a group of scientists, they are similar to certain parts of the coasts of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. The BBC carries the story and outlines various connections. The pictures here are of the South Uist machair on the Atlantic coastline and the image below is of the shore at Howmore.

Scottish Islands Explorer - copies flown to the Eastern Seaboard

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Still on sheep

Apparently there are on North Ronaldsay some 3,700 sheep whose grazing land is restricted to the beach and its immediate vicinity. There is understandably a tinge of iodine in their taste. A small flock of sheep between Grimshader and Liurbost on Lewis attracted the attention of a Stornoway Gazette reader and her photograph appears in this week's Beautiful Islands feature.

Scottish Islands Explorer - some sheep; much else

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Soay Far and Away

One of the earliest European breeds, Soay sheep, has been on this island in the St Kilda Group since the Bronze Age. They have long attracted scientific interest because those that remain on the isolated 240-acre Soay are feral rather than domesticated. There is a fascinating website about the Sheep of Soay and Boreray and it is part of the studies and research of Christine Williams from Wales and Kathie Miller from Oregon. They are authorities on the subject and are always looking for new insights about these animals that have both the gregarious ways displayed by flocks and the singular habits of island-dwellers, especially on perpendicular grazing sites.

Scottish Islands Explorer - interested in isolated habitats

Monday, 19 November 2012

More Light Needed

The low winter light has picked out these lazy beds at Rodel, Harris (above), but more light needs to be cast on the old settlement here. Across the Minch has full details, larger photographs and asks some interesting questions. Lazy beds (below on Harris and Lewis) are not aptly named as they were the product and location of much hard work. After the Sabbath, the day of rest, crofters traditionally returned to toil on Mondays.

Scottish Islands Explorer - 'put to bed' (for printing) like all publications

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Above Us, the Clouds

The background features of our lives are ever-changing and none more so than above us, the clouds. Two images here of the sky over Skye indicate relatively benign and malign conditions. For an impressive gallery of the shape and sensations of these features go to the website of The Cloud Appreciation Society. It's an organisation that speaks for itself and currently has 31, 451 members. Will there be more by the end of the day?

Scottish Islands Explorer - well aware of specialist interests

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Gallery Browsing

Whether it's the local colour of Applecross in the Autumn or

of girls involved in a charity project in Portree or

of views of themselves, the team at the West Highland Free Press brings out a newspaper week after week. The Gallery of Photographs produced is well worth a browse, at least to transport you to their circulation area.

Scottish Islands Explorer - covers this area as well, but differently

Friday, 16 November 2012

Coppice Crofts?

Crofting land has long been associated with grazing and basic cultivation. An innovative project is considering how woodland may be developed and, perhaps, allow the image above to be seen from a property such as the one below.

Scottish Islands Explorer - produced from a woodland source

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Even More Connected

When it comes to connections, Dalmore in the Isle of Lewis seems to have circuitry above and broad-sand links below. Now new fibre optic cables give new dimensions to the technical circuits of broadband as reported fully in the Stornoway Gazette. Take your electronic path by clicking on and finding more.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to emulate the speed of the internet

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

An Appeal

The most remote permanently-settled of the British isles is Foula. The contributions of the Holbourn family to this Shetland island are immense and now we learn that a senior member of the family, John, died on 8 November 2012. He was the former-husband of the late Isobel Holburn, lived in his later years at Bradford-upon-Avon and had been a subscriber to this magazine. More information about his life and times would be appreciated.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of how individuals assist small communities

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Abandoned Boats

Two islands in the Pentland Firth have similar names - Stroma and Swona. They have Old Norse origins with the former referring to the 'streams' or 'currents' and the latter to the 'swine' that were kept there. Both islands are now depopulated, although there remain visible signs of the formerly-occupied houses and a few examples of the boats that were in service. Above is all that is left of the Hood, built on Swona, and below  is a vessel now close to house number 28 on Stroma. Lifelines at one time; now deadstock. The livestock on Swona survive, however, in the form of feral cattle which were not moved when the island was abandoned in 1974. Lost worlds, indeed.

Scottish Islands Explorer - for living settlements and places now lost

Monday, 12 November 2012

Off to Carna

It may look safe, steely and steeped in mystery, but this is the pier at Laga Bay in the Ardnamurchan, which enables you to visit Carna, a special island in Loch Sunart where there is accommodation that awaits you. Take a trip by internet; then consider the real thing.

Scottish Islands Explorer - one of its journalist has stayed there

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Sun on Sunday

The customary Friday picture on the Islay Blog was delayed slightly and appeared early yesterday with the sun out at Sanaigmore on the west coast. The image of the cliffs was taken back in June and acts as a reminder that we are only 40 days off the shortest daylight hours of the year.

Scottish Islands Explorer - the same length throughout the year

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Heading Out?

You cannot go much further east in the UK than heading out from the Out Skerries Airport. The island has been in the news (and on this blog) recently and Shetland News carries an in-depth item on the trends and tensions, opportunities and opinions about its future. Once an isolated place has been permanently settled, it obviously has to be constantly supported.

Scottish Islands Explorer - copies are flown in to some residents

Friday, 9 November 2012

Skimming Goes Dutch

They used to export quarried slate from Easdale; now its local sport of stone-skimming has found its way to The Netherlands. The report in The Oban Times explains how Maggie Young brought home one of the medals.

Scottish Islands Explorer - sells to the Dutch

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Scalpay Affirms

The residents of Scalpay were asked two questions in a referendum concerning community ownership. They voted overwhelmingly to take advantage of a gifted estate and narrowly to collaborate with the North Harris Trust that operates across the bridge from them. The details are given in this item in the Stornoway Gazette, the Lewis-based newspaper which will carry more information about the topic in today's issue.

Scottish Islands Explorer - public interests, but privately owned

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Piech of a Portrait

Tomek Piech is a Polish film director, script writer and freelance photographer. A chance encounter at an event in west London last weekend led to his undertaking an assignment for Scottish Islands Explorer magazine and photographing its editor and owner, John Humphries. The work of Tomek has appeared on screens and in publications throughout Europe. The gallery of images in the Piech Portfolio is well worth a visit. Take a look and see aspects and angles of life wherever he goes. On the other hand, get hold of an Explorer and you will be transported to ... the Scottish islands.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always seeking something new

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Seals and Seagull

There are always seals wanting to see you, although the internet traffic on Sanday is usually the other way around because you can take

a bird's-eye-view of them on this Orkney island. Here there is a sealcam operating, thanks to the Sanday Ranger. The story is put in context by The Orcadian.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always taking a view.