Monday, 31 March 2014

Cine Recall

Yesterday's item on the Military Cinemas brought a response from a regular blog reader, Richard Clubley. He provides today's piece with a photograph, taken a couple of years ago, of the former front and foyer entrance of the Flotta Cinema and of a life-long island resident, David Sinclair, who was eight-years of age when the Second World War started. David recalls being smuggled by servicemen into the cinema to watch films. By 1945 he was 14 and the action, both on- and off-screen, was over.

Scottish Islands Explorer - active, not abandoned; seen, rarely smuggled

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Military Cinemas

Some military service was packed with action and danger; some was sedentary and safer. Second World War postings to Orkney tended to fall into the latter category. The troops needed entertainment and so garrisons, airfields and naval bases were often equipped with facilities. Here is the Garrison Cinema (above) in Lyness, Hoy; and the Flotta Cinema across Scapa Flow. Both are featured on the website Scottish Military Cinemas and these relics will undoubtedly provide recollections to just a few readers.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tends to look for scenery, not seats

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Pier Problems

The residents of North Ronaldsay are alarmed about the way in which their pier at Nouster has deteriorated during the winter gales. Delicate manoeuvres have been needed and, on occasions, additional air services provided.

This photograph of the pier, with the MV Earl Thorfinn docking, was taken in 1960. Conditions appear to be halcyon, but the structures took the same battering on the exposed shores of the Orkney island.

Bewan Pier, at the north end of the island, offers no alternative. It was where the lighthouse supplied were landed. The Orcadian has the details of the current difficulties at the main harbour, close to The Bird Observatory.

Scottish Islands Explorer - shipping copies is certainly less arduous

Friday, 28 March 2014

It's Friday ... for Fish

It's Friday ... when fish and chips come to mind ... and those who know Shetland will think of Frankie's. This award-winning fish-and-chip establishment at Brae has secured another accolade in the eco-label category. Savour these images and then click onto the item in Shetland News.

Scottish Islands Explorer - needs an article on such island interests

Thursday, 27 March 2014

New for Old

Here is the old MV Loch Seaforth which carried passengers, vehicles and freight on the Stornoway - Kyle of Lochalsh - Mallaig rouyte from 1947-72. Joan Murray, the eldest daughter of the late Captain John Smith, named the new Loch Seaforth at a ceremony in Flensburg, Germany, last Friday. A video of the launch is available through the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Island Explorer - next issue to be launched on 18 April

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Puffins Will Be There

Puffins will be waiting for visitors to the 2014 Shetland Nature Festival - from 5 - 11 July. The events will include presentations by teams from Our Dynamic Earth and the Clipperton Project. The former will be examining moving plates and earthquakes; the latter moving around on a floating laboratory at various locations. Shetland News has the details and the link to the programme of dates and events.

Scottish Islands Explorer - constantly moving around from island to island

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Barrier Watch

Weather conditions on the Churchill Barriers, linking Orkney Mainland with its Southern Isles, can change from the benign to the battering. From last night it has become possible to monitor matters via the webcam services of Orkan Adventures. It's a hi-tech form of keeping a weather-eye open.

Scottish Islands Explorer - also employs a variety of ways of watching

Monday, 24 March 2014

Educational Conveyor

The closure of the Bressay Primary School, Shetland, means that from later in the year all island pupils of school-age will be using the ferry to reach their schools in Lerwick. The daily lives of four children will certainly be different. Shetland News has the details.

Scottish Islands Explorer - now past its primary phase

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Seaforth Goes Forth

The MV Loch Seaforth has been launched at a ceremony in a German shipyard and will be in service on CalMac's Ullapool - Stornoway route from next September. The vessel is named after a ship which plied this route from the 1940s until the '70s and, of course, to the sea loch which acts as one of the boundaries between Lewis and Harris. The details are to be found on the BBC website.

Scottish Islands Explorer -  ready to sail and be sold on board

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Viking Vivacity

There are days when the clouds are low in the northern waters between Aberdeen, Kirkwall and Lerwick, Scrabster and Stromness, but the new livery of NorthLink Ferries brings Viking vivacity to the scene. How would resurrected Norse warriors react to these vivid leviathans? Anyway, here's a case of designers making livery come alive.

Scottish Islands Explorer - colours replaced every two months

Friday, 21 March 2014

Power Prize

Allan Thomson, the founder of Aquamarine Power, has been awarded the Saltire Prize Medal for his contributions to ways of producing energy from the sea. A report and fine image of the Oyster 800 Wave-power Device (above) appears in The Orcadian.

Scottish Islands Explorer - powered by ideas from island waters

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Natural Winners

Luskentyre Beach, South Harris, has the 'www-factors' - wide / watery / wonderful - and has come, together with Calgary Bay, Mull, and Kiloran, Colonsay, in the 25 most acclaimed beaches in the UK as calculated by TripAdvisor. Many people must be relieved that their favourite beach is NOT listed - as there is much to be said for secrecy and lack of popularity in this area of choice.

Scottish Islands Explorer - would like to be in the top 25 magazines, however!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Castle Retreat?

Here is Lews Castle, viewed from the shore, and, subject to formal approval, to be a real retreat for many visitors. Natural Retreats, a specialist leisure and travel company has announced plans and they can be read about on the Stornoway Gazette website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looks forward to advancing here

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Go Bookspotting

Interested in books on Scottish topics? Want the stimulation on-line, at hand, in seconds? Then download the new, free app from iTunes or Google Play and Bookspotting will provide ready information and inspiration. Read all about it first at Saraband and then go for books on the go!

Scottish Islands Explorer - also for information and inspiration

Monday, 17 March 2014

Mars Ahoy!

The Orcadian Sky Notes indicate the direction of a highly-visible Mars during March and early April. Worth a read and and a raising of the eyes, even a telescope.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looks out more than up, alas

Sunday, 16 March 2014

A Dig or a Round?

Residents of Perth have a choice when they look at their own urban, river island, Moncreiffe. They can take a walk around it, play a round of golf across it or work around their allotment on it. The YouTube views of the James VI Golf Course and of the Allotments are both worth watching for those who do not live close to this distinctive island with a population of three.

Scottish Islands Explorer - good to read around

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Bear Story Covered

On Tuesday 1 April, Channel 5 will be screening a film on the events surrounding a performing bear on Benbecula and Wiay (above). The media attention, of 34 years ago, became something of a circus, giving amusement to locals and bemusement to audiences. A detailed account and video may be accessed via the Stornoway Gazette. Suffice to say, it's not a joke for Andy (left) and Hercules were real enough. The view on the television screen will not be as calming as that through the window on Wiay.

Scottish Islands Explorer - rarely covers bear stories

Friday, 14 March 2014

Y Markers

The Y chromosome marker - a piece of DNA passed from father to son - reveals that a quarter of Orkney men are directly descended from the the Norse Vikings. The Orcadian has some of the findings. Maybe it's not surprising that the Old Man of Hoy (above) has stood guard for so long and that the Orkney Brewery produces a popular beer with this name.

Scottish Islands Explorer - descended from Fair Isle stock

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Seaweed Again

Now here's a journey - on the A971 from Lerwick towards Walls, a left-hand junction along the route towards Skeld on the B9071 and then a minor road, on the left, to Sand and Garderhouse Voe, above. An application has been made by Scottish Sea Farms to modify an existing licence for seaweed aquaculture there. The details are at Shetland News. To the south, on the nearest Orkney island of North Ronaldsay, the sheep have long been famous for their diet - 'see weed and eat it.'

Scottish Islands Explorer - would like a share of this action

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Coating for Camels

The Cockney Alphabet begins A for 'Orses (Hay for Horses), B for Mutton (Beef or Mutton) and C for Miles (See for Miles). The last could now almost be C weed for Camels (Seaweed for Camels) with the news that the recently-established seaweed-processing company, Uist Asco Ltd, will be transporting dried algae to Dubai to assist camels in being sleeker and faster when racing. The story appears, appropriately, in the Scottish Daily Express. From a former quarry in North Uist comes a very different product based upon a prolific plant.

Scottish Islands Explorer - C for Yourself!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

'Taken by the Sea'

This aerial view of Samphrey, a 163-acre island between Mainland Shetland and Yell, shows the shallow Bunglan promontory to the left. This is the site of the small graveyard as well as the six houses that were occupied in 1841, but which had disappeared, together with their residents, within 40 years. The relatively few headstones testify to the tradition that 'Samphrey men are always taken by the sea'. Six, who were spared, returned in 1832 after their boat, caught in a violent storm, was taken by the sea across to Norway. They were welcomed home to the island that is named after 'Sandfridr' - a Viking woman.

Scottish Islands Explorer - taken by air, land and sea

Monday, 10 March 2014

Four Square On

'Croft Garden Cottage stands four square on the western edge of Ardvachar Point (South Uist) overlooking the north-west Atlantic.' Click on the link to find out more about the facilities offered and the features described. It one sense it's a world apart and in another ... home-from-home.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aims to be a resilient and resourceful

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Plenty to See

Hildasay to the west of the southern part of Shetland mainland is only 267 acres in extent, but has plenty to see. Its name derives from the Norse 'battle island' when it was allegedly used for single combats by Vikings who did not wish to have the possible interference by spectators. The high-quality stone was quarried and exported, some apparently to be included in the construction of some public buildings in Australia. A railway, its route still evident, linked the quarry (below)

with the jetty (below) and was worked, together with a herring curing station, until the end of the 19th Century. The population, in fact, declined rapidly from 30 residents, in five houses, in 1891 to none by 1901. However, nearby inhabitants continued to come to cut the sought-after peat and to enjoy the social occasions that these outings provided.

Features of the west side include the West Loch, with its one isle, and the cliffs giving protection from the prevailing winds.

The island was used in the Second World War for training in preparation for the Norwegian exercises as well as a meeting place for refugees escaping from occupied lands.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looks forward to a full article on the island

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Impressions and Impacts

You can see why these impressions of stormy weather - above by Cody Duncan at the Butt of Lewis and below by James Smith at Mealboist - are awesome and how reports in the Stornoway Gazette and The Orcadian indicate the impact that both weather and its forecasts can have on island life.

Scottish Islands Explorer - viewed from stable and serene pages

Friday, 7 March 2014


Above is Vementry, Shetland's largest uninhabited island. The last time it was recorded as having permanent residents was in 1841 when two people lived there. Access to it is from Vementry House (below) situated on Mainland to the north of Aith. The description of its accommodation is compelling.

Things to see on the island include the First World War guns at Swarbacks Head and the finest of chambered cairns, to be found at Muckle Ward. It is not visited frequently and has no entrance - probably having been sealed after its final burial.

Scottish Islands Explorer - worth seeing, too

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Hearach is Coming

There's time for reflection as well as preparation on the Isle of Harris. A new distillery is being created; a single malt whisky, The Hearach, is to be its ultimate brand; gin, with a far quicker method of production, will be the first liquor to appear; 20 jobs are to be advertised. Read more in the Stornoway Gazette

Scottish Islands Explorer - planning equally far ahead

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

From Ness to Pall Mall

The work of Donald Macdonald is being exhibited at Panter & Hall Fine Art 11 - 12 Pall Mall, London, from today until 21 March. Donald was born and raised in Stornoway and now works from a studio in South Dell, close to the Port of Ness (below). His Eoropie Wave (above) was inspired from just along the coast. Bring his work to life on your screen by accessing the e-catalogue of his Exhibition, Paper People.

Scottish Islands Explorer - attempts to be a paper of people and places

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Big Guns in Action

The most westerly area of Barra experienced characteristic blustery conditions for the opening of the 900 kw wind turbine in Western Europe last Friday. The Stornoway Gazette has an item and a video of the occasion when the retired local priest, the Revd Canon Angus MacQueen, unveiled a plaque. The account on the web describes him as 'Cannon' - a typo suitable for a powerful player in community matters, since he started his ministry on the island in 1952.

Scottish Islands Explorer - harnesses natural forces

Monday, 3 March 2014

Boat Below

A 40' Birlinn, similar to the replica (above), was wrecked on Baleshare Beach (below) some 400 years ago. Funding has been found to locate and investigate the buried craft, signs of which have been exposed by recent storms. Details may be uncovered in the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Islands Explorer - reveals more than it conceals

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Drawn at Random

Tickets will be drawn at random for free ferry rides to the Western and Northern Isles to celebrate and to encourage The Year of Homecoming. 8000 will be offered in an online ballot, not through a basket lottery, later this month. The details are to follow; the outline is featured on the BBC website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a definite, not a chance, appearance