Friday, 31 May 2013

Sign of Summer?

The coldest Spring in 50 years is coming to an end, although this could herald a bitter Summer. One creature, in fact from second largest fish size variety in the world, the basking shark, appeared in northern waters on Wednesday last. Where was it? The Summer Isles, of course. This group has been much in the news recently with the estate agent being busy on Tanera Mor. So now can be added as a selling point, relatively warm waters. This photograph was taken from the deck of the Summer Queen, along the coast from Achiltibuie.

Scottish Islands Explorer - keen to see significant summer sales

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Dalmore for Action

Here's an archetypal beach profile which attracts people of all ages, attitudes and activities.

Children are drawn to paddle and then realise that the waves hold pleasure and promote skills.

None more so than surfing. If you are in the area, consider SurfLewis and their lessons, company and venues - such as Dalmore Beach, featured in each of these images. Rodney Jamieson, 'Cheggs' to friends, started surfing off Lewis some 17 years ago, during a February. He was both freezing ... and hooked. In June (when much warmer) 2009, he started SurfLewis. Give him the opportunity to share his passion and, possibly, extend your enthusiasm for waves by taking up the surface water sport. By the way, there's a session at 14.00 today. Hurry up, for yesterday's conditions were excellent.

Scottish Islands Explorer - endeavours to extend enthusiasms

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Rockall Recalled

Nick Hancock (below) is on his way to Rockall in order to begin an endurance feat of attempting to live there longer than the 26 May - 4 July spell undertaken by Tom McClean in 1985. The image above is of the preparations for securing his accommodation 28 years ago. It's worth recalling that the rock has attracted attention for many years as indicated in an archive from The Guardian. The Atlantic Ocean certainly appealed to McClean who rowed it single-handed for the first time in 1969 and still holds the record with a 54-day crossing made in 1987. Survival experts are a world apart from most of us, although today's blog enters a significant stage, being the 750th consecutive one.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a survivor in the waters of publishing

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Answers from Auskerry

This picture, taken at dawn, of  the lighthouse at Auskerry ('the east skerries'), three miles to the south of Stronsay in Orkney, indicates both mist and mystery. The same family has lived alone on the island for 35 years, become largely self-sufficient and developed a business. Take a look at their website with details of products that are on sale as well something of the background of this venture. Ten questions about the ways of life on the island are put to the mother of the family, Teresa Probert, in an interview. Her answers reveal some of the experiences of doing things differently. The image below is of the North Ronaldsay breed of sheep and, in particular, moorit (a brown variety) wethers (castrated males) from the island.

Scottish Islands Explorer - enjoys the varieties of people's experience

Monday, 27 May 2013

Numbers That Add Up

Stuart Linklater, featured on the BBC website, is 60 years of age today and will retire from flying his Britten-Norman Islander aircraft on the Loganair routes around the Orkney Islands. During his career he has logged 1.3 million miles and completed the world's shortest scheduled flight, between Westray and Papa Westray, some 12,000 times. The two-minute, 1.7 mile trip has several YouTube recordings, some actual and some simulated. This one is by Seth Miller. The airport terminal building below has a standard look, but for aircraft enthusiasts it has special significance.

Scottish Islands Explorer - takes off every two months

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Islands ... of Course

The authorities at the University of the Highlands and Islands have devised a course about the islands in their vicinity and some beyond. Take a look at the perspectives of this Postgraduate Course and see what you think. Where would you say the islands above are situated?

Scottish Islands Explorer - a course of words and images every eight weeks

Saturday, 25 May 2013

World's Largest Wave Farm

The world's largest wave farm is lined up to be located off Lewis. Do take a look at the ways in which off-shore power could be harnessed. It's featured on the BBC website and is an indication of what's to come. Financial centres in London, call centres in Leeds, media centres in Manchester and, to be set up, resource centres in Stornoway?

Scottish Islands Explorer - its powers will only be intellectual

Friday, 24 May 2013

Away in Ardveg

There's getting away from it all and extreme getting away from it all. The latter certainly applies here with the track leading down to Loch Hamnavay from the remains of the settlement at Ardveg, to the south of Uig, Isle of Lewis. An account of his ventures here in 2001 is outlined in Marc Calhoun's Blog which makes fascinating reading about places visited by few people. More people are likely to be exploring the vicinity on Saturday 29 June when The Islands Book Trust is organising an outing to, as well as a book launch connected with, the area.

Scottish Islands Explorer - will be represented at Ardveg, weather permitting

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Great Auk Flies In

Last weekend saw some unusual action on Papa Westray. The Great Auk flew in. This was quite remarkable for the 33" high bird is flightless and the last one in Britain was shot exactly 200 years ago on ... Papa Westray.

The story appears on the Orkney News Today website and makes good reading - for it includes references to the world's shortest scheduled air-service, a stuffed passenger sitting with the pilot, a London newspaper reporter being taken in and much fun experienced. The serious side is that a complete species - the first to be given the then new term of 'penguin' - was eliminated. Here on Papa Westray (below) in 1813 and finally the last known Great Auk on Earth was shot in 1844, off an Icelandic island.

Scottish Islands Explorer - hopes never to become extinct

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Broadsheet Bows Out

It's the last day for sales of the final issue of the Stornoway Gazette as a broadsheet. Tomorrow will see it produced in  a smaller size. Will it be termed a 'tabloid' - associated with the more sensational elements of the British press - or will it be a 'compact' - linked with the so-called 'quality-newspapers'? Let's make judgements when it's in our hands and endeavouring to feed our minds.

Scottish Islands Explorer - A4 and staying that way

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Standing Room Only

Large ships in small cities are something of a dilemma for tour operators. The Caribbean Princess, the largest cruise-ship ever to dock at the Hatson Pier in Kirkwall, arrived last Friday. So on that day the population was boosted by 3200 passengers and 1000 crew. That's exactly 50% of the number of residents.

2000 of the passengers, and some crew members, thronged the streets. The remaining 1200 passengers were taken in 25 buses to see the sights of Orkney Mainland. Did the urban and rural areas as well as the roads have an authentic feel, the sort described in the brochures? The Orcadian reports on the event.

The irony is that when everyone returned to the ship they were able to experience the sights of its interior - apparently on the same scale as St Magnus Cathedral! This was the first of five visits in 2013 by the cruise-ship with considerable capacity.

Scottish Islands Explorer - fills a more limited space

Monday, 20 May 2013

Over the Hills, Far Away

Some 15 participants joined the Islands Book Trust walk on Saturday from Urgha on the Tarbert - Scalpay road over the track towards Rhenigidale and then turned right at the elegantly-carved stone sign above.

It is quite a hike especially with low cloud and a gusty north-easterly coming head-on from whatever direction the group was facing! At least it was dry. Were the party to have been helicoptered in, then above is what they would have seen.

As it happened this is one of the views of the settlement they had. Simon Fraser was there to greet and give them a tour of his restored buildings and of the former village. It included the long-house from, perhaps, Norse times and of the side-school, established for the legal requirements for education implemented in the late 19th Century.

Scottish Islands Explorer - worth walking to explore as well

Sunday, 19 May 2013

High on Rowan

Research into the rowan tree, surprisingly prolific in high altitudes and latitudes, led to these photographs coming into view. The berries above were photographed by Mike Briggs and his gallery displays some compelling views of the area around his home - Bunabhainneadar in North Harris. The one below is of the ever-photogenic Islay.

Scottish Islands Explorer - bears fruit bi-monthly

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Tidal Power Divides

The proposals to harness the tides in the straits between Skye and the mainland have their detractors and objectors. Read about them on the BBC Website item. The Glenelg ferry has, of course, performed the function of a 'propelled bridge' at Kylerhea since there was a demand from vehicle owners for a short, fast crossing. The vessel goes admirably backwards and forwards - suitable indeed for the longest place-name palindrome in Britain.

Scottish Islands Explorer - keen to get across the variety of interesting places

Friday, 17 May 2013

House Hunting

Archaeologists in Orkney are, as ever, house-hunting. They are currently uncovering a Neolithic (New Stone Age) settlement within the vicinity of Kirkwall and the house that is being exposed appears to be in good, appropriate shape, although constructed in the very distant past. Details are at The Orcadian and further information of a technical nature is linked. The image above is of the burial mound from the same era at Maeshowe.

Scottish Islands Explorer - often features unearthed relics

Thursday, 16 May 2013


Two Shetland schools are due for closure following consultations. Their roll-numbers hardly add up. Olnafirth Primary School, which was built for 125 children, now has 13 pupils, decreasing soon to eight. The Out Skerries (above) barely supports the smallest secondary school in the UK, with three pupils currently attending. The details are in an item from Shetland News.

Scottish Islands Explorer - prints over 5000 copies per issue

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Follow the Trail

Had St Columba seen Orinsay (above) in the South Lochs of Lewis before he discovered Iona in 597, history could have been different. The Islands Book Trust is presenting a Conference on St Columba's Trail from Thursday 22 - Saturday 24 June 2013 and it will be held at the Mission Hall, Orinsay, and at

the Ravenspoint Centre, Kershader, where it is based as an organisation. Here is an opportunity to follow the progress of a key figure in the progress of Christianity from the time that he left Donegal in 563, 1450 years ago. Slighe Chaluim Chille will be stimulating, as is the stunning scenery.

Scottish Islands Explorer - leaves a paper trail

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Broch Dreams

Being inspired is a great human attribute. There's no accounting for the cause of curiosity and compulsion. Gilbert Goudie was a schoolboy living in Edinburgh when he became fascinated by the Broch of Levenwick, some 17 miles below Lerwick on the east side of Shetland's South Mainland.

He went on to explore and become an authority on the structure. His diagram of the construction, before it was damaged in a gale of 1900, is a centrepiece of a new exhibition at the Shetland Museum and Archives.

Brochs have their devotees; beaches their enthusiasts. The Beach of Levenwick (above) has the look of a place that will attract many. Young Gilbert went to the broch with his spade and 'kaishey', while others would be delighted just to take these pieces of kit to the sands.

Scottish Islands Explorer - this blog has its 98 'Members'. Make it a ton?

Monday, 13 May 2013

Looking to Spend ...

... time on the Summer Isles, in charge of a thriving business? It has nine houses, three jetties, stamp-issuing facilities, a cafe, a range of activities and a steady stream of visitors. Then there's its history, connections with Frank Fraser Darling and

the care and attention supplied during the past three decades by the Wilder family. At least download the details supplied by CKD Galbraith and reflect on what the new owner will acquire. He or she will be looking to spend ... £2.5 million. That buys something relatively ordinary in London. Here it will purchase something extraordinary.

Scottish Islands Explorer - covers this island in each issue

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Who's Watching Whom?

Yesterday saw the RSPB's Wildlife Walks in the Western Isles being featured. Now that organisation is behind the First Orkney Nature Festival which begins this weekend.

It has a wide range of components and will enable local people and visitors to relish what is on offer in the Northern Islands.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of Nature's potential

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Wildlife Walks

The RSPB has launched an extensive programme of Wildlife Walks to cover those parts of the Western Isles where they have a strong presence. Some of the details are available in this Stornoway Gazette article which will point you in the direction of coast and lochs, machair and mountain.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always walking on the wildside

Friday, 10 May 2013

Full and ... Free?

At present, the Pentland Venture conveys passengers between Burwick, Orkney, and John O'Groats from May until September. Pentland Ferries, would like to lease the Burwick Terminal (below) and establish a full, all-year-round service. Its owner, Andrew Banks, has gone a step further and offers free use to Orkney residents if awarded the £10 million subsidy that is currently paid by the Council to Serco for operating the Stromness- Scrabster service. The details are on Orkney News Today.

Scottish Islands Explorer - yet to receive a subsidy

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Special Stornoway Status

Trading standards can incorporate geographical locations. So Champagne should come from that region of France and Cornish pasties from that county of England. However, Cheddar cheese does not have to originate from Somerset, for it's a recipe or process rather than a product defined by boundaries. Now the European Union has ruled that Stornoway black puddings have to come within a specific territory and four butchers are celebrating this special status. Naturally the Stornoway Gazette has the account.

Scottish Islands Explorer - focuses on an area with special status for many

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Get Away

Some people, often men, like to get away - either to remote places or to sheds. This tendency can be observed with the temporary living quarters and workshops of the group from St Andrew's University engaged on wildlife studies on North Rona. It is the loneliest of the UK islands ever to have been permanently settled.

Scottish Islands Explorer - some read in sheds

Being Transported

The new BBC four-part series - Hebrides: Islands on the Edge - started last night and will transport many on virtual journeys. It could be considered to be a part of 'The Year of Natural Scotland' theme that has featured in the media and on displays in recent months. The glimpse of the Corryvreckan Whirlpool will be one of many sights to be cherished. Have iPlayers at the ready!

Scottish Islands Explorer - a part of the discovery process