Friday, 28 February 2014

Just Concentrate

Whether you are wondering about the future, witnessing the Northern Lights, working out what to do next, wandering into memories of the past, the secret is to concentrate. If you want to return to previous days and events on the Isle of Lewis, click onto the Back in the Day slideshow through the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Islands Explorer - reviews and records

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Snappy Landings

The Daily Mail has compiled views of 26 airports throughout the world. They are all linked by that special element, the unusual approach. One that is featured, of course, is Barra - where sand and water have not combined to produce concrete.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries a variety of approaches

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Past Post Path

It's now over 25 years since the Postman's Path, Rhenigidale, had to be used professionally - after the Land Rover track and then the road were opened to the remote North Harris settlement. However, it continues to draw people, including Mick Blunt, of Hidden Hebrides, who gives this account in the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a postage stamp could have provided great value then

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Colonsay Conference

It is not difficult to see why Colonsay attracts a high number of returners to visit and stay. From 6 - 9 June The Islands Book Trust will be holding a Conference on and about the island. Places are limited and so consider carefully, book early and anticipate keenly.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always ready to cover Colonsay

Monday, 24 February 2014


The lens of the camera photographing the archaeological site at Deerness shows the compactness of the Orkney area being uncovered and the proximity of the sea. The recent storms have created more exposure and this is revealed in the current issue of The Economist. It's a tale of how the past is being brought to life one moment and being in danger of destruction the next.

Scottish Islands Explorer - attempts to record and preserve

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Smile, Please

It will have to be iPlayer to watch the BBC Alaba programme on the discovery of glass negative plates relating to the life, times and work of Dr Norman Morrison of Shawcross, Lewis. They certainly give insights into the profiles of people and families of over a century ago. See more in the Stornoway Gazette and read the full magazine-article on the topic, by Euan Ferguson, which appears in today's edition of The Obeserver. What would these individuals above have made of our modern techniques of presentation?

Scottish Islands Explorer - how will it be regarded in 2114?

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Mouth-watering March

Savouring in the Spring, with plans for a major Orkney Food Festival towards the end of March. Read something about it in The Orcadian ... or just take in the images above and below.

Scottish Islands Explorer - knows where to focus ... on food

Friday, 21 February 2014

Rescued on Raasay

This type of gully, on Raasay, is no place for man or beast to become stranded. When Jan, a sheepdog, was unable to extract itself, the Portree lifeboat was called and all was well. The Stornoway Gazette has the story.

Scottish Islands Explorer - explorers sometimes present problems

Thursday, 20 February 2014

You Can See Why

We sometimes have hazy notions of why we are attracted to a place and then it becomes clear. People are drawn to islands and TripAdvisor enquired as to which ones particularly appealed. Lewis and Harris were rated top by those who responded. This transition from abstract feelings to definite selections is expressed by two of the images (a 'sea- plus land-scape' and of Toe Head)  taken in the Outer Hebrides by Ruth Fairbrother.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always drawn by the impact and images of islands

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Quick and the Closed

Scapa Beach, Kirkwall, serves the Orkney capital as an attractive stretch of shoreline, but within the past few days sections of it have been closed because of ... quicksands. They are not a feature of the local landscape, but recent tidal and weather conditions have caused changes that could have had serious consequences. The Orcadian reports on what happened.

Scottish Islands Explorer - seldom off-limits

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Impressions ... Memories

Here is Harris - 'set in a silver sea' - and it will feature among many impressions, moments and memories to be presented by Ruth Fairbrother. She will be considering 'Hebridean Images & Music' while her professional partner, Peter Leeming, will be giving an illustrated lecture on 'Mountain Landscapes'. Make a note of Friday 28 February at Danby Village Hall and Thursday 13 March at The Wilson Centre, Long Newton , between Stockton and Darlington. An impression of their work is available by clicking onto Peter Leeming Photography and to Ruth Fairbrother Photography.

Scottish Islands Explorer - trades in 'impressions,moments and memories'

Monday, 17 February 2014

Estuary to Flow

In 1992 four guns were lifted from the Thames Estuary and three were transported to the Scapa Flow Visitors' Centre & Museum at Lyness, Hoy, Orkney. The fourth was taken to Fort Gravesend, Kent. Military historians probably know about these places which commemorate some of the armament, engineering and human efforts during the conflicts of the 20th Century.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of endurance throughout the islands

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Killing on Coll?

Regular readers of the blog, David and Margaret Gartside, have sent the above image of the Naval Gun on Coll. We hope that another reader can supply more information about it. The photograph below, showing the ferry terminal at Aringour in the background, was taken by Jim Fraser. There is something incongruous about military equipment appearing on one of the most peaceable of islands. The first crime ever to be reported there - the vandalising of the public toilets - took place in 2011.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has plenty within its sights

Saturday, 15 February 2014

I-Spy St Kilda

The image above has an I-Spy aspect and the one below highlights the gun on St Kilda. The island was briefly bombarded in 1918 by a German U-boat, but four years previously some espionage had been carried out there by one, Gustav Flick, who had manned the wireless telegraph and who, apparently, was delighted to leave in January 1914. The details, which have recently come to light, are at deadline. 

Scottish Islands Explorer - always trying and spying

Friday, 14 February 2014

Long Arm of War

Last weekend saw both action and inaction on Gress Beach, Lewis (above). What turned out to be an old submarine marker was discovered and the area around it was cordoned off on Sunday. The following day the device was dealt with in a controlled explosion by a bomb squad from the Royal Navy. It is a reminder of how the conflicts of the 20th Century continue to make their mark - with the Centenary of the 1914-18 War, the 75th Anniversary of the 1939-45 War and the continuing discoveries of relics that pose dangers.

Scottish Islands Explorer - resurrecting the past; celebrating the present

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Eiders Down

According to ornithologists there has been a sharp decline in the numbers of eider ducks in Shetland. Possible reasons are given in a Shetland News item - including that of the voracious appetite of the killer whale. The image here is by Hugh Harrop and his Shetland Wildlife website presents many aspects and opportunities for visitors.

Scottish Islands Explorer - plenty of copies available

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Killing the Goose

Read this item from The Herald to see why the days of numerous Greylag Geese are numbered on the Uists and Benbecula. Will the restaurants supplied consider the meat to be a delicacy or a staple? 

Scottish Islands Explorer - one of these days copies may have to be culled

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

To Be Released

This evening - 11 February at 19.30 - there will be a release, of the Real Lady Grange, the Much Maligned, Much Romanticised Prisoner of St Kilda at An Lanntair, Stornoway. It will be performed by Margaret Macaulay, the author of The Real Prisoner of St Kilda, at a presentation promoted by The Islands Book Trust. Unable to attend? Then buy the book through Luath Press.

Scottish Islands Explorer - encourages St Kilda goings as well as comings

Monday, 10 February 2014

Hebridean Hostelling

Hostelling in the Hebrides continues to attract many on foot, bicyles and in vehicles. The Gatliff Hostels have served visitors and communities for over 50 years and the 55th issue of its Newsletter, Hebridean Hostellers, can be accessed with a click. Full information is to be found at the website of the Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust and its parent body, the Gatliff Trust.

Scottish Islands Explorer - recommends these hostels in the Outer Hebrides

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Kilda-style Cry

A method used by the former residents of St Kilda , the mail-boat, is being used by a Shetland group - CURE (Communities United for Rural Education). Six boats were launched yesterday from various sites on the archipelago as a cry for attention to the closure, actual or proposed, of some schools. Details are to be found either in the boats themselves or through this Shetland Times item.

Scottish Islands Explorer - be watchful for news from the North (Sea)

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Flying the Flag

The Paible flag is hoisted at the School - at Bayhead on the west side of North Uist. Plans are in place, and approved by the Education Committee, to build a new school on this site. It should be open in August 2015 and will mean the closure of schools at Carinish and Lochmaddy. So Bayhead is due to become something of an educational hub.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a hub for island information

Friday, 7 February 2014

Top Ten to Treasure

Richard Clubley, an island-enthusiast and regular contributor to the magazine, has submitted his top ten memories to treasure. Please feel free to supply yours. 

Camping at Ulva Ferry, Mull with the full moon illuminating the Gribun cliff
Exploring Staffa for the first time
Landing on St Kilda from a wood hulled sailing boat
Staying in the school house, Mingulay and having visit from a Barra school party
Birding on Fair Isle and getting eleven life ticks
Exploring Iona and feeling the peace
Running the 8 miles round the road circuit on Colonsay.
Exploring Arran, in 1959 aged 8, and going to the cinema, in a tent, in a field
Staying in Kinloch Castle, Rum with Bev, then crossing to Eigg 
Staying in a cottage on Tiree, then sailing home between winter gales

Scottish Islands Explorer - in your top ten magazine selection?

Thursday, 6 February 2014

200-Mile Message

The residents of St Kilda had a custom of sending 'mail boats' over 40 miles to Lewis and Harris. However, an 11-year-old girl from Northern Ireland sent a message in a bottle from Torr Head which reached Galson Beach, Lewis, some 200 miles away. Details are in the Belfast News Letter - a publication, founded in 1737, which claims to be the oldest English language, general daily newspaper in the world. So it has been reaching people for some 277 years. Two achievements here.

Scottish Islands Explorer - dispatching messages for only 15 years

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Stornoway in the Sun

This photograph of Stornoway was taken by Thomas Stewart, reader of the Stornoway Gazette in which there is an account of flooding in the town 40 years ago. They are timely reminders of how extremes of weather are persistent features.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of changing conditions

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Fiaray for Fairy?

The next time you are crossing the Sound of Barra by ferry (above) look up to the clouds and then out to the west. The 101-acre Fiaray, an island that has apparently never been inhabited, is to be found on the Atlantic edge.

It has a western shoreline (below) and a seaweed-covered headland called Gruagach (Gaelic for 'beautiful head of hair'). There are two lochans, a drying reef that completely surrounds it and, supposedly, a fairy woman occasionally seen from passing boats. The name of her home comes from the Gaelic feur, for grass or pasture; and the Old Norse for island.

Scottish islands Explorer - hopes to visit Fiaray in the future

Monday, 3 February 2014

Millennial Marker

Welcome to the 1000th consecutive daily issue of this blog. Of the thousand pieces about places and people,  features and futures, where should one start? Undoubtedly at the Ravenspoint Visitors' Centre (below) or by accessing the Scottish Islands Explorer website for the magazine. Ravenspoint, with its commading views of countryside and sea-loch, houses a shop, tea-room, hostel, museum, archive and fuel pumps as well as the back-office of Scottish Islands Explorer. The centre has changed remarkably in recent years as improvements have been implemented. The magazine and its daily blog have striven to do similar.

Scottish Islands Explorer - now in its 15th year

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Hiatus on Harris

Not one, but two bus services in Harris have been temporarily withdrawn and they involve two of the most beautiful scheduled routes in Britain. One involves the 18.35 weekday and all Saturday buses to and from Tarbert - Scalpay; the other is the carrying of members of the public on the school services to and from Tarbert - Rhenigidale. They both convey passengers on relatively new stretches of highway. The Scalpay Bridge opened in 1997, while the road to Rhenigidale carried vehicles from 1989. The latter is frequented by travellers using the facilities of the Gatliff Hostels.

Scottish Islands Explorer - hopes that normal services will be resumed asap

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Real Off-shore Banking

There are times when off-shore banking gets a bad name, but there has been much acclaim for the services of a vessel, The Otter Bank, which sailed between the North Isles of Orkney. This was how banking reached remoter islands in the group in the 1960s and now things have been restored, at least in terms of the renovation of a craft. Read more in The Orcadian about how business was transacted and enterprises floated.

Scottish Islands Explorer - banks on readers' interest