Monday, 30 April 2012

Down to Two

Fara lies between Flotta and Hoy in Scapa Flow. It, a fertile and cultivated Orkney island, was occupied until the 1960s and here, photographed by John Bulmer, are its last residents, Gordon and Ina Watters. Apparently there is no full publication dealing with this settlement that features on the Lonely Isles website, which includes Dave Simpson's photograph of an abandoned house.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a full publication 

Sunday, 29 April 2012

An Airbrushed Garden?

Today, a Spring Sunday, will see millions in their gardens, but no members of the public visiting Jura House Gardens. They have become both a no-go and a no-news area. Their new owner seldom visits and the local newspapers, despite being asked, have not indicated any interest in the closure of a much-appreciated feature of Jura life. If anyone reading this blog can help with our enquiries, then please make a comment. Just look at what is offered above and below and realise that a valuable asset is, perhaps, being airbrushed from the landscape.

Scottish Islands Explorer -  aware of how assets can be lost

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Foula No Go

The sign may read 'Foula: go' but the residents of Britain's most remote permanently-settled island have not been faring well. They are supposed to have a renewable energy system that gives endless supplies, but for the past five months they have had to have the old generators primed. A full account from the news portal, Shetland Daily, indicates just how easy it is for things to go wrong in a place where difficulties are not uncommon.

Scottish Islands Explorer - renewed every eight weeks

Friday, 27 April 2012

Another Era Ending?

The untimely winter image of Goathill Farm, Stornoway, perhaps, symbolises the somewhat bleak ending of a tradition. Here is the last dairy farm on Lewis and milk production is proving to be an expensive business. The concerns surrounding what is now a unique operation are voiced in a Stornoway Gazette item.

Scottish Islands Explorer - no end in sight for this operation

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Contrasting Islays

Here are contrasting images and pieces of news concerning different places with the same name. The island of Islay off the west coast of Argyll now has a new hide for bird-watchers on the RSPB Loch Gruinart Reserve and it is officially opened today; the Shetland oilfield of Islay some 87 miles east of Unst is producing its first supplies of gas.

Scottish Islands Explorer - given to hiding and gassing

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

An England Beyond Skye

If you look to the right soon after crossing the Skye Bridge on the A87 to Broadford, Pabay appears. It is a low-lying island that continues to attract attention in a number of ways. Around 1549, Dean Munro described it as, 'Full of woods, good for fishing and a main shelter for thieves and cut-throats.' The Victorian, Hugh Miller, considered it to be, 'The only piece of flat, level England in the entire landscape.' Now it is known for its own stamps (or 'carriage labels'), ham radio links and historical connections. The house on the island, shown below, looks modern and gives its owners a far different lifestyle from that experienced by the priests who came here in the 13th Century. The contact address given on the Isle of Pabay website is of a house in Martock, Somerset, a far cry from this part of Skye. It is, however, not far from the Somerset Levels, a famously flat area of England. The photographs have been provided by Richard Evans.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

'A Machine of Magic'

Albert Winstanley (1917 - 2012) has died and an era has ended. He not only lived for cycling, but, through both his personality and books, encouraged others to get on their bikes and go places, including the Scottish islands. In Golden Days Awheel (1991) he devotes a chapter to visiting and journeying between the Gatliff Hostels in the Western Isles. He described the bicycle as 'a machine of magic' and this, as well as many other insights, are presented in the obituary by Tim Dawson which features in yesterday's edition of The Guardian. Many continue to follow in his tracks.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to be 'a magazine of magic'

Monday, 23 April 2012

Fast Forward

Today marks a long wait being over - since 22 December 2011 when the A890 road between Lochcarron and the Kyle of Lochalsh was closed by rockfalls. This blockage of a key route to the islands meant a 145-mile detour for some unfortunate travellers. There was ingenuity, of course, to get around the obstacle - involving the use of the railway line, the re-introduction of the Strome ferry and, on one occasion, the use of long-distance coaches to get members of a wedding party to the church, in one direction, and to the reception, in the other. 24-hour opening of the road means that life is back to normal and the detours will become a matter of memory and a topic for conversation - just as the old Strome Ferry has become. Look at the car models in the picture below, identify them correctly and you are probably middle-aged, at least!

Scottish Islands Explorer - appeals to all ages

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Paris, on Orkney

It may be the first round of the French Presidential Election today, with many eyes set on Paris. However, our eyes are on Jill Paris, who is an acclaimed writer and who travels for what she calls 'the inexplicable human connection.' Her blog here on the Orkney Folk Festival certainly explains everything in clear and memorable prose, taking us to an island that has great appeal - to musicians, poets, artists, divers, drivers, walkers ... et al.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to explain the inexplicable

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Working for the Explorer

There are four jobs on offer related to the expansion of Scottish Islands Explorer. They are for people from Shetland, Orkney, the Outer and the Inner Hebrides. The magazine is attempting to attract individuals who see themselves as enterprising and capable of selling copies, subscriptions and advertising space. Explore more and, if it's applicable, do fill out the form. Please draw this opportunity to the attention of any prospective, suitable and interested parties known to you.

Scottish Islands Explorer - offering something different

Friday, 20 April 2012

Want Work in Walls?

Walls is on the west side of Shetland and is the terminal for the ferry to and from Foula. In 1988 Charles and Angela Hodge arrived to take over the Walls Bakery, then housed in a converted church and offering a limited range of products owing to cramped conditions. Four years later a new bakery was built. Above it is the Baker's Rest Tearoom  providing, among many features, the opportunity to taste and test the company's products. Appetite whetted?  Then there's a job advertised there for the Summer months. Most readers would have to go (a long way) for it!

Scottish Islands Explorer - has four jobs on offer, including one covering Walls.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Modern ... in a Way

Here is Gigalum, viewed by these sheep from Gigha. It is one of those many islands that fulfils a dream for some people. It is described on the web as having a 'modern house on it', and Richard Evans has sent in a photograph and description of the property on its 30-acres: 'Star-shaped, turf-roofed home with three double-bedrooms, three bathrooms, octagonal living-room, built in the 1970s. It is a quarter-of-a-mile from Gigha and has its own spring water supply.' Any would-be takers, were it on offer?

Scottish Islands Explorer - not even thought of in the 1970s

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Powering On ... Again

This unusual-looking building on the River Snizort, Skye, was constructed in 1926 in order to create hydro-electric power. It continued to do so until 1954 when the National Grid's supplies became available. Now it has been refurbished and fitted with a new ten-and-a-half tonne turbine. Soon power will be provided from here to the hatchery, beyond to the hotel and, with surplus, to the grid. The story appears in the West Highland Free Press and the history of the project in a website feature on Three Esses Ltd, the company behind the scheme.

Scottish Islands Explorer - powered by topics

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Storming to Summer

The above image is of the surf off Ness at the north end of Lewis; the one below is of the waves at Beag Dhail Mor on the west of the island. Here is that transition from the malign-looking to the benign-feeling. However, the indication that summer is coming is evident when Surf Lewis courses commence. Surf-boards, kayaks, tuition and the excitement of going places by wave- and paddle-power become compelling for many.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of pleasures around the shore-lines

Monday, 16 April 2012

Hi-tech in Highlands

There was a time when telephone boxes, such as this, were the ultimate in hi-technology in the Highlands and Islands. That was long ago. A presentation by Interface shows just how much communities and companies based in relatively remote situations can be part of a revolution that is gripping the world. A figure that astonishes concerns the number of mobile applications expected to have been downloaded worldwide by 2014 - 77 billion. Where is this done and where are they created? Answer: anywhere and everywhere.

Scottish Islands Explorer - part of the process

Sunday, 15 April 2012

New Face of Gatliff

Of the three Gatliff hostels, Berneray (above) records the highest number of visits. It is as close to the sea as possible and on an island that is idyllic. Last week, the Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust launched on Facebook. So far, the interest has been underwhelming. If you know the hostels, have stayed and actually enjoyed the experience, then please take a look and, perhaps, make an entry. It will help extend social networking for an organisation that has  fostered social contacts for 50 years and continues to provide a small network of places to stay in the Western Isles.

Scottish Islands Explorer - keeping in touch with people and places

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Seawall and Sea-mark

Fladda - from the Old Norse for 'flat island' -  is in the Sound of Luing and close to Belnahua. It has a seawall that is, in places, up to 30' high and as wide as 15'. It was constructed at the time of the lighthouse building, 1860, and remains, of course, under constant threat of erosion by the elements and the sea. This aerial view, coutesy of Nigel Callaghan, indicates something of why this is a local, well-known sea-mark

Scottish Islands Explorer - engages with landmarks and sea-marks

Friday, 13 April 2012

Post Ice-Age

The Minch side of Harris has much to offer, but as it says in the flyer of  Lickisto Blackhouse Camping - 'Orchids and many other flowers cling to the land to give a pre-history feel where not much has changed from the ice age.' This area is so worth visiting and this camp site has something profoundly elemental about it.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of both history and pre-history

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Images of Islay

This cottage on Islay was probably photographed some years ago, but you can rest assured that little of the idyllic scene will have changed. For details about it and of the beach image below, take a look at the Islay Blog where island insights are refreshingly presented.

Scottish Islands Explorer - gives glimpses of a large landscape

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

130,000 Houses in Range

There's a campaign on to get people to stay at home. Well, at least to remain in the UK to take their holidays or, as it is now said, to 'staycation'. 130k of British households will be targeted soon to arouse interest in the variety of destinations on offer in the Outer Hebrides. Help get the word out, but let's hope that Blackpool and blackhouses do not become interchangeable.

Scottish Islands Explorer - if only 1% of these were to become subscribers

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

High Connections

Eilean Righ is in Loch Craignish, some 300 yards off the Argyll coast and in the Islay group of islands. The occupants of its two Iron Age forts would not have dreamt that it was to become entitled the King's Island and that its later occupants would come with high social standing. In the 1930s it was the home of Sir Reginald Johnston, the retired tutor to Puyi, the last Chinese Emperor. A retired Indian army officer, Major Campbell, purchased the property and lived there until 1939. It was then acquired by Lord Wilfred Brown, sold to Viscount Chewton in 1992 and seven years later to Christian Siva-Jothy, a partner in Goldman Sachs.

Scottish Islands Explorer - yet to receive a By Appointment status

Monday, 9 April 2012

Spring Closure

Easter Monday is the day when some people's minds turn from planning their own gardening to seeing what others have done. Alas, this no longer occurs on Jura where the Gardens have given pleasure to many for many years. Its relatively new owner, who has apparently visited his Estate only twice, has had a key entrance to the grounds blocked by further extending its walls. This suggests a permanent arrangement. Any information or insights will be appreciated.

Scottish Islands Explorer - anticipating increased visits this year

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Lewis to Afghanistan

The parents of aid worker, Linda Norgrove, have visited Afghanistan, the country where she died in 2010. Their journey from Mealista, on Lewis, to Kabul and beyond is certainly an arduous one. The details of the event are to be found on the BBC's website

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of the contributions of others to life

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Lifeboat Link

The lifeboats at Stornoway and Barra would take two hours at full-speed to reach Leverburgh at the south end of Harris and so the imminent launch of the new Mersey class lifeboat there is a vital link. 18 people have been training to crew the vessel and the story appears in the Stornoway Gazette

Scottish Islands Explorer - launched every other month

Friday, 6 April 2012


There's nothing like a new acronynm or two to start the day, especially when you are not involved in the arduous activities that surround them.  All is revealed on this website of news from Shetland

Scottish Islands Explorer - SIE to the frequent handlers of the product

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Seventy Years On

It was during the Second World War in 1942 that tests were made concerning the vulnerability of Britain to a germ warfare attack and the viability of conducting one in retaliation. Scientists from Porton Down in Wiltshire experimented with anthrax on Gruinard Island between Gairloch and Ullapool. 48 years later the island was declared to be de-contaminated. Some remarkable colour-film-footage exists of the original experiment and can be watched now. The obvious secrecy of the war-years contrasts with public access today.

Scottish Islands Explorer - access at all times

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Long Holy Tradition

Christianity came to Holy Isle, off Arran, in the 6th Century while Buddhism made its appearance here in the 20th. A Tibetan Buddhist Centre, one of the first in the West, hosts retreats in the north of the island, while the Pillar Rock Lighthouse, photographed here by John Mobbs, is restricted to some of the community's monks and nuns. They live in the former-lighthouse-keepers' houses. There is a passenger ferry from Lamlash on Arran.

Scottish Islands Explorer - throws light on remote rocks for readers

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

From Right to Left

Inch Kenneth has a long history from neolithic times until present private ownership. It's named after St Kenneth, a follower of St Columba; was visited by Boswell and Johnson in 1773; had a house that was enlarged in the 1930s by Sir Henry Boulton; and then became a country seat of the Redesdale family. Unity Mitford, a Nazi sympathiser, spent her final years there after which it passed eventually to Jessica Mitford, formerly a communist fellow-traveller. She quipped that this outpost of Mull could well become a base for Soviet submarines.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a non-political publication

Monday, 2 April 2012

Colonsay Constituents

Scalasaig on Colonsay (pictured above) contains many of Colonsay's voters who will have to make up their minds soon on a divisive matters involving fish and cash. Yesterday's Sunday Herald contains the report. How would you vote?

Scottish Islands Explorer - purchased with pocket money

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Take a Thousand Miles

From Falmouth, at the south end of Cornwall to ...

Stromness, at the southern end of Orkney ... is a thousand miles. Flights can be made in half-a-day, car journeys in two days, but cycling times depend on strength, resolution, kit and prevailing winds. Edwin Cooper achieved it in seven days and must be feeling relieved when he wakes this morning. It may be All Fools' Day, but his intentions have been fulfilled.

Scottish Islands Explorer - on sale in both places