Thursday, 28 February 2013

Two Island Winners

Lottery Funding will be received by two projects with Scottish Islands Explorer connections. One will assist the Pairc Community Trust provide a 24-hour fuel pump at the Ravenspoint Centre, Kershader, where the magazine has its back-office. The Centre, above, already provides the community and visitors with a shop, cafe, archive and hostel. The other will enable the Isle of Jura Development Trust to purchase the island's shop and post office, which has been open at Craighouse for over 160 years. The magazine is designed some three miles north, at Knockrome, and is on sale at the Jura Stores.

Scottish Islands Explorer - congratulates the winners

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Top End Catch

The image above has an ultimate feel and is, indeed, Muckle Flugga, among the rocks which mark the top end of the Britain. James Isbister was fishing there last Saturday when he caught a massive ling, measuring 6' in length and weighing 67 lbs. This fisherman's story of a top catch that awaits recognition as a record achievement is to be found on the BBC's website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looks forward to being a catch for more readers

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Shadow Lifting

Research continues into the whereabouts of Alexander MacLeod's Lifting Stone on North Rona. In the meantime enjoy this mock-up of the action in question that was captured on camera in the walls of St Ronan's Chapel on the island. The photographer and 'shadow-he-man' is Marc Calhoun who has written about his visits to this Atlantic outlier in both his book, Exploring the Isles of the West, and in Scottish Islands Explorer.

Scottish Islands Explorer - what would St Ronan make of it all?

Monday, 25 February 2013

Way-out Uplifting

In 1689 Alexander MacLeod was returning from St Kilda when a storm swept him from those islands, 41 miles off-shore, to North Rona, the most isolated island in Britain, 44 miles off-shore, ever to have been permanently settled. He, his wife, and crew discovered that the residents had all died from an epidemic. It was suggested to MacLeod, then about 30 years old, that he use his renowned strength to lift a stone into a prominent place in order to mark this significant event. He did so and consequently a landmark was created. The stone, called Ultach Fear Hiort - St Kildan's Lift - apparently stood the test of time, despite the ferocious winds that strike that island. However, where on North Rona is it? The image above is of the remains of the village with, perhaps, the St Andrew's University Researchers' Hut, and certainly the light installation beyond. Martin Martin published the story in 1703. Please supply the specific location 310 years later.

Scottish Islands Explorer - likes pinpointing stones as well as settlements

Sunday, 24 February 2013

February Delights

Here's a 23-second video clip of Traigh Mhor, Tolsta, taken last week in the summery conditions that prevailed in the Isle of Lewis. Bask in it on this Sunday morning.

Scottish Islands Explorer - delights in this, too

Saturday, 23 February 2013

A New Kid on the Blog

There's a new kid on the blog - it's Marc Calhoun, the acclaimed author of two books on the Isles of the West and a regular contributor to magazines, including Scottish Islands Explorer. Do take a look and send him a message to complement his interests from the shores of Puget Sound across the Atlantic Ocean to The Minch, Pentland Firth as well as the Irish and the North Seas.

Scottish Islands Explorer - welcomes a fellow-blogger

Friday, 22 February 2013

Before and After

Some school-pupils brush up well and look presentable, whatever their actual disposition. The same can be said of this dilapidated building at Craignure. It has the hallmarks of a side-school - small, corrugated-iron construction and standard design. However, someone wanted to have a holiday cottage in this part of Mull and ... lo and behold! Thanks to Norman Willcock for his archive photographs.

Scottish Islands Explorer - strives to maintain a lasting impression

Thursday, 21 February 2013

A Site To Be Out of Sight

Eilean Shona (from the Old Norse for Sea Island) is in Loch Moidart and access is governed by tides. J M Barrie leased it in the 1920s and while there wrote a screenplay for the 1924 film adaptation of his Peter Pan. Many children on the island soon grew up to be robust and fit because of the two-mile walk they had to make to attend school. In the 19th Century the schoolhouse had been deliberately sited in a detached setting, down a track, because the wife of the owner apparently had an aversion to children and did not wish to be disturbed by them. They were neither seen nor heard.

Scottish Islands Explorer - seen and heard

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Top Ten

The Stornoway Gazette is compiling a list of the top ten historic buildings in the Western Isles to appear in the Summer issue of their Island Life magazine. Their journalists would appreciate your views on the matter and so please consider this invitation. Here is an outside image of St Clement's Church, Rodel, as well as an inside feature of a craft that brought visitors to these Harris shores centuries before this church was constructed.

Scottish Islands Explorer - based in the South Lochs, Isle of Lewis

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Going Elgol

Getting to Elgol, on the shores of Loch Scavaig and towards the end of Skye's Strathaird peninsula requires an effort. The tide, however, makes the trip twice-daily and here is the incoming version photographed by Donnie Mackay. It is part of his Photo Hebrides gallery which captures the scenery and expresses the essence of locations.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always looking around

Monday, 18 February 2013

From Count to Community

Community Buyouts are never straightforward, but the 230 residents of Great Bernera are being offered first refusal terms for their  7000-acre island following the death of Count Robin Mirrlees last June. The full details are in Hebrides News and, undoubtedly, meetings will be held at the Community Centre.

The appeal of a rock-solid investment has its attractions, as does Bosta Beach (below), one of the many appealing features of Great Bernera. An innovative island feature is its bridge (top image) which was constructed in 1953 when it was heralded as the first pre-stressed concrete type in Europe.

Scottish Islands Explorer - the March / April issue ready for purchasing today

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Just Go ... To Jura

It's Sunday and time to rest and reflect on the opportunities presented by the website of Jura. It opens many avenues of exploration - from the observations of Martin Martin to those of Google Streetview, with information, explanations, guides, photographs and videos en route. Just go!

Scottish Islands Explorer - takes you there

Saturday, 16 February 2013

No Longer a Hub?

Benbecula Airport (above) has acted as a significant hub in the Western Isles inter-island services. Now there is a threat to its status with the proposed withdrawal of the service to Barra (below) and the reduction of flights to Stornoway to operations on only three days of the week. A petition has been launched to maintain current services.

Scottish Islands Explorer - knows that explorers need links

Friday, 15 February 2013

No Place for a Preacher

The Flannan Isles or Seven Hunters are a small island group some 20 miles west of Lewis and have featured here during the past two days. This is the largest island, Eilean Mor, with the ruin of the smallest of  chapels. It was affectionately referred to as the 'dog kennel' by the lighthouse keepers. It, as the group, was named after St Flannan, the son of King Thomond, who became a monastic abbot, the Bishop of Killaloe and an Irish saint. He actually travelled to Rome to be consecrated by Pope John IV. This was a remarkable journey to make in the 7th Century and there is a paradox that such a diminutive building on an island with so few permanent settlers over many centuries should refer to a man revered as a great preacher. The photograph comes from the Sea Harris Gallery.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has a preference for paradoxes

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Phenomenon All

Thank you to our participants, who navigated their way through the internet to the islands, but special appreciation to Christina Macaulay who was there in person and presented this phenomenon. This is what she said:

'It was taken from Pabay Mor in Loch Roag, Lewis on the Islands Books Trust trip last August.  When I saw the islands, they did indeed look like a fleet of aircraft carriers with bizarre overhangs.  It was jaw-dropping to see them for real and even odder through our binoculars.  Looking at them it seemed that some aliens must have landed. The only thing they can possibly be is the Flannan Isles - strangely contorted by an optical illusion probably caused by the sun and the sea in some way.  It was a hot day.  You can just about see the lighthouse on the island on the far right?

I have never seen anything like this effect before.  Perhaps one of your readers may have seen this effect before?

Here (above) is a wider shot that shows Pabay Mor in the foreground.  We were at the lagoon at the north end of Pabay.   Very bizarre isn't it?  I've also put another photo below taken from exactly the same spot looking down at the beach below us - with the islands in the distance - my kids are in the foreground.'

Any readers with similar experiences?

Scottish Islands Explorer - not always what it seems

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Quite a Phenomenon

Some islands have remarkable profiles, but this somewhat hazy group on the horizon is very difficult to identify. Will anyone provide the authentic answer to the whereabouts of this image of some of the Western Isles?

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of the mysterious

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Life Inside & Out

The Glasshouse at Tingwall, Shetland, has been out of use for some years. Now the plans to revive it have been boosted by a lottery grant of £10k. While there is anticipation about the growth of plant life and employment inside the building, there was a vivid sequence captured of the Northern Lights (or Mirrie Dancers, as they are called locally) outside the structure. Watch the timelapse pictures here and enjoy the show promoted by Shetland Arts. Transition Shetland, aware of climate change and environmental issues, is one of the motivating forces behind the glasshouse project.

Scottish Islands Explorer - appreciates restoration and revival

Monday, 11 February 2013

Back on the Beach

We are back to the beach and beyond to the sky. This time it's Huisinish itself, thanks to an image by Gavin Shaw. Both today's and yesterday's venue of Mealista appear on the British Landscapes Photography website of Derek Fogg's work. Get on and bask in the pleasure.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always a beach within reach

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Up and Out at Mealista

Mealista (or Gaelic spelling: Mealasta) is a now uninhabited township at the end of a road on the Isle of Lewis. The rocky coastline continues to Lochs Tamnavay and Resort near the remote west-side boundary with Harris. It is visited by relatively few people, but many of them will look up to the skies - as  John MacLean did (above) or out to sea where Les Ellingham focused his camera. The Islands Book Trust has organised a visit to Mealista Island from Husinish (North Harris) for Saturday 3 August 2013.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looks out to sea and up to skies

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Clyde Tide

'Turning the Tide and Restoring the Clyde' is the declared intention of COAST - the Community of Arran Seabed Trust. Their February Newsletter is here to be read and the organisation's aims to be considered. Arran itself has a wide range of features which are easily observed - the mountains, pastures, settlements, castles, ferries, golf courses, hotels and hostels. However, its seabed is not usually visible, but is well worth considering especially in the Lamlash area, where restoration work has made a difference and sets high standards in low places. It's a case of the coast being clear.

Scottish Islands Explorer - interested in the submerged as well as the emerged

Friday, 8 February 2013

Queen, Princess and Papa

Here is Grobust Beach, Westray, with Noup Head Lighthouse in the background. It fronts the newly-launched website of Westray (the so-called 'Queen O' the Isles') and its near neighbour, Papa Westray, the favourite place in Britain of that high-priest of travel writers, Bill Bryson. The site is a product of Mullin Design, the company that presents the advertising for the luxurious cruises of the Hebridean Princess, which calls at Westray on some of its itineraries.

Scottish Islands Explorer - likes to resort to a beach

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Just Looking

Here is the type of property that appeals to many residents, prospective buyers and those who are 'just looking'. It has been featured by Lows, the Orkney Estate agents, whose website does have a facility to encourage looking at, dipping into and dreaming about a place-to-own. Go on ... click on!

Scottish Islands Explorer - likes speculating about residences

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Highest in Memory

Lighthouses are accustomed to taking a battering from the wind and the waves. What has just happened at the Fair Isle South Lighthouse with the impact of high, monstrous waves is considered the most severe in living memory or, perhaps, during the last hundred years. Take comfort that most of us are not directly involved ... and that the lights are now unmanned. Here, added at 19.00, are some video clips of the heavy seas as reported through Shetland News.

Scottish Islands Explorer - experiences benign conditions, for the most part

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Where in Scotland?

This image appeared in an advertisement some 30 years ago. The buildings on the islet are out of proportion to the size of the land and we assume are superimposed rather than constructed. However, is anybody able to provide us with the place and purpose of this photograph, please?

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to solve mysteries

Monday, 4 February 2013

Monday after Sun-day

The Islay blog had its Friday  image of the sunset from the ferry to Kennacraig. Now that daylight is extending towards 5.00 pm, it serves as a reminder that there are lighter times ahead.

Scottish Islands Explorer - conscious of changes

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Sunday before Moon-day

Here's an image of the Moon, over Orkney, that serves as an introduction to a fine Moon sequence supplied by another photographer, Graemsay resident, Sian, from her blog Life on a Small Island. It's worth a visit.

Scottish Islands Explorer - appreciates lunar delights

Saturday, 2 February 2013

One-Third Off

The auction for Hurdiback, Papa Stour, took place on Friday night and bids could be made in person, by phone or internet. The telephone box outside the former-hostel section of the crofthouse (above) was not in action, however. The property was featured here on Friday 4 January and had a guide price of £120k. The hammer came down at £80k, although the buyer remains anonymous at present. The factors that would repress the price of any property, probably included the expense of undertaking renovation work on an extensive, remote off-shore island croft; the declining population of Papa Stour; the future of its, and other island ferry services, that will be decided at a full Shetland Council meeting on Monday 4 February. The place certainly has its attractions, however, with compelling land- and sea-scapes, an infrastructure, a 'mothballed' school and a kirk that has been its present size since 1806, with re-roofing in 1930 and restoration work in 2006. It has withstood changes.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of sales and sailings

Friday, 1 February 2013

Get Away

One of the Summer's pleasures is to cruise around and dock at some of the Orkney islands on the special Sunday services that operate. They attract both local residents and visitors and present opportunities not usually available during weekdays. Now Orkney Ferrries is inviting people to submit their proposals as to where the boats should go. So prepare to get away by indicating preferred and innovative routes.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always open to suggestions