Thursday, 31 July 2014

'Egypt of the North'

Further research through the exploration and excavation of the Ness of Brodgar archaeological site has suggested that the cultures being uncovered were not simple, but sophisticated. Some of these findings from Orkney feature in an item in The Scotsman. The phrase 'Egypt of the North' suggests the significance of the work being done. Click on; dig down, discover more.

Scottish Islands Explorer - plenty to uncover here

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Watching Jura

There is so much to see on Jura - through your own eyes, assisted by binoculars or with advice from a companion. Take a trip there in the company of a local photography with an international reputation - Konrad Borkowski. His ePhotographica supplies many insights.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Jura, where this magazine is designed

Tuesday, 29 July 2014


The reference, three days ago, to Helen's Reef, off Rockall, was incorrect - for this submerged feature is some two kilometres from the islet. It was an image of Hasselwood Rock, 200 metres to the north, and evident here to the right of the sheer face of Rockall and below in the turbulence. The skerry is, at low water, a metre above the surface and has a diameter of 13 metres. Its geological composition has apparently never been analysed for 'landings' have never taken place or specimens secured. Here's an ultimate geological challenge - for a piece of Hasselwood is rarer than that of the Moon.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Some back copies have become rare specimens

Monday, 28 July 2014

A Significant Number

Some members of the Kilmarnock and Loudoun Amateur Radio Club worked relentlessly for 24 hours in an international competition with their morse- and voice-transmitters. Between 13.00 on Saturday until 13.00 yesterday they occupied a site on Gigha and managed, from this island, to make contact with 1314 other islands worldwide. The results of the competition will not be known for some time, but all participants from the Ayrshire club were pleased with the tally they achieved on air.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Would like to sell one copy on each of the islands  

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Gaelic Decline

The welcome in Gaelic is becoming weaker in the Islands, apparently, Read the West Highland Free Press article for insights into the trend.

Scottish Islands Explorer - alas, no bi-lingual issue being planned

Saturday, 26 July 2014

After Rockall

There is an informative account in the Stornoway Gazette, of Nick Hancock's departure from Rockall and his arrival, by Kilda Cruises, at Leverburgh. Is this a rare image of Helen's Reef, the usually submerged rock off the iset where Nick survived for a record-breaking 45 days?

Scottish Islands Explorer - interested in reefs off islets

Friday, 25 July 2014

Watercolour Music

Mary Ann Kennedy and Scott Macmillan: Aiseag on Saturday 2 August 2014  21.30  Main Auditorium Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

New Music Biennial 2014: Mary Ann Kennedy/Watercolour Music     
Strings of Scottish Festival Orchestra; Inverness Gaelic Choir
Mary Ann Kennedy and Scott Macmillan: Aiseag (The Ferryboat) for seven musicians, string orchestra & chorus.

Commissioned by Watercolour Music Aiseag (The Ferryboat) is connection. A lifelong fascination creates a journey between the Highlands and Canada's Gaelic diaspora. Electronica and found sound, Cape Breton and Scottish Highland musicians, a Gaelic choir and a Glasgow string section all aboard with composers Mary Ann Kennedy and Scott Macmillan, audio designer Nick Turner and poet, Aonghas MacNeacail.

Here are the details of a concert and above is an image of Cape Breton Bay. So check out the photographs of Declan McCullagh.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of colours and sounds of the sea 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Wild Cats' Home?

One of the few havens for the Scottish Wildcat is the Ardnamurchan Peninsula and at its hub is the island of Carna. Endeavours to preserve the species continue and are reported on in this BBC item

Scottish Islands Explorer - keen to conserve and preserve

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Following On

The current, July /August 2014, issue of Scottish Islands Explorer has the Sumburgh Lighthouse complex on its front cover. Yesterday it was visited by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, as part of his first official visit to Shetland. The last time a serving British Prime Minister came to the island was 34 years ago. A full report on what was a 'surprise' appears in Shetland News.

Scottish Islands Explorer - the PM follows SIE

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Restoration Work

One of our regular blog-observers has sent in a recommendation - for the photographic restoration work of Richard Haines. Here are some of his images of Colonsay and here at

 PhotographsForever are the details of the services available. Giving old images a new lease of life for record-keeping or memory-stirring has so much to offer.

Scottish Islands Explorer - cherishes records and memories

Monday, 21 July 2014

Faray Brought Near

Faray was featured in this blog some weeks ago. It now makes a welcome return through the lens of Premysl Fojtu, an amateur photographer based in Kirkwall. Take a look at his work through his Facebook entry. Be transported.

Scottish Islands Explorer - accustomed to looking through the lens

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Going ... Gone?

Here's a house that has 19 acres around it and then sea. In 1986 it was for sale at £40,000; on 19 April 2012 it was featured on this site in an item 'Modern a Way'; then on 31 May 2014 it was on rightmove when advertised at £550,000. See what you think and do let us know if Gigalum moved ... in the property market, that is.

Scottish Islands Explorer - does / did the house command the price?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Built to Last

When constructions have been made on Hoy - the 'high island' - in Orkney there has been a longevity about them. Work on Dwarfie's Stane (below) relates to the era of 5000 years ago.

The house at Rackwick has been brought up-to-date, but probably was commenced a couple of hundred years in the past. Now there is talk of reviving the oil tanks built in the Hoy hillside for protection during

the Second World War. Northern Oils, from Banff, will be investigating whether these 60-year-old facilities, which appear to be in remarkably good condition, can have their usage revived. Continue with The Orcadian report. 

Scottish Islands Explorer - some 15 years of information in store

Friday, 18 July 2014

Record on Rockall

Nick Hancock has beaten the record for surviving alone on Rockall after 43 days. He acknowledged Lord Kennet's description - 'There can be no place more desolate, despairing and awful' - when taking his RockPod there over six weeks ago. Now he knows ... but has achieved.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looks forward to seeing this speck of ultima thule

Thursday, 17 July 2014


These puffins on the Isle of May seem in fine fettle. Their mates in Shetland are prospering as is the general seabird population there. Take a look at the Shetland News item which focuses on the high hopes about the breeding cycle as the numbers of surviving chicks are well up on previous years.

Scottish Islands Explorer - quietly prospering as well

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Off Course

There are, apparently, 658 golf courses in Scotland and Alan McPherson decided to try to play them all. His blog gives details - including one of the more difficult to reach - Stroma in the Pentland Firth. Taking a look around with him gives insights into the history and condition of the now abandoned island as well as its occasionally-used and challenging course.

Scottish Islands Explorer - plays six rounds a year

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Ten Per Second

Every minute there are approximately 600 new websites added to the global tally. So that's roughly ten per second of each hour of the day and night. It's relentless. So do be among those who stop to consider the new website of poet, writer and Scottish Islands Explorer contributor, Mavis Gulliver. She has included information about herself, features about her work and a blog to access after registration. There's a welcome awaiting you.

Scottish Islands Explorer - recommends going from one blog to another

Monday, 14 July 2014

Work Needed

If your work-load feels heavy this Monday morning, consider the intensity of labour needed to restore Uyea Hall, a five-bedroomed house on the Shetland island of Uyea, Unst. It was owned by the former Member of Parliament for Orkney and Shetland from 1935 - 1950. He had five names, lived from 1888 - 1974 and when knighted became Sir Basil Hamilton Hebden Neven-Spence. He was a medical physician, served in the Middle East assisting the Egyptian Army during World War One, became a specialist serving in the Royal Medical Corps at Aldershot before becoming involved in local and then national politics. His family were land owners in Shetland. The photographs of the now derelict houses are from a long-standing blog, Robbie's Northern Exposures.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of its workload ahead of the next issue

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Nightmare and Dream

An experienced 61-year-old female walker told friends last Thursday that she intended visiting the tidal island of Uyea, Northmavine, Mainland Shetland. When she failed to return by 9.00 pm the alarm was raised..

She was found, safe and well, on Friday morning, having spent the night on nearby Ronas Hill, Shetland's highest point. Rescue services from several districts had been in action, confused by conflicting information. The details are in Shetland News.

Confusion, through similar place-names, occurs for us with the Uyea off Unst. It is regarded as a beachcomber's dream owing to the convergence of currents. We will return to this topic, but are relieved that a nightmare, on Mainland, is over.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of similarities; endeavours to clarify

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Inuksuk on Islay

Islay has much to offer by way of navigation and reference points, but here is a new one based on devices used by the Inuit peoples of the Arctic regions and called Inuksuk. Click on for an explanation. It is to be found at Bruichladdich, an area well documented by the Islay Blog.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a sort of literary cairn in itself

Friday, 11 July 2014

Sanday on Sunday

January storms revealed some archaeological features of significant interest on Sanday. This Sunday a replica of a 'burnt mound' from the Bronze Age will be displayed near the Heritage Centre. The details are in The Orcadian which also focuses on the site at Meur at the north end of the Orkney island. Here are some water tanks that were exposed there.

Scottish Islands Explorer - digs without exposing

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Bright Night

Earlier this week - over the night of 7 / 8 July, Noctilucent Clouds became evident over Orkney. Low clouds had featured since Midsummer, but suddenly they lifted and the spirits of sky-gazers rose. See more at the Northern Skies website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to brighten daylight and nocturnal reading

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Scapa Flow Football

This cup was awarded to a football team formed from members of the ship's company of the battleship HMS Dreadnought. Long periods of boredom were features of inaction and, during the First World War, Admiral Jellicoe encouraged the development of sports facilities at Scapa Flow. The Old Red Sandstone of Orkney was the source of some complaints - for the new football ground was considered to be boggy. More stories of sporting events of one hundred years ago are on the Imperial War Museum website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - not underwriting sports events, yet

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Ensay Endeavours

The Islands Book Trust can be trusted to arrange visits of a compelling nature. On Saturday 19 July you are invited to join members on a relatively short journey into the Sound of Harris to see more of Ensay, including its now deserted House (above). Among the island's many aspects are the separate endeavours by Jessie Scott and John David, in the early- and mid-20th Century, to restore Christ Church Chapel (below). Members of the Harris congregation of the Scottish Episcopalian Church make an annual pilgrimage to hold a service in the building. Read more in this Stornoway Gazette item and consider taking advantage of having a stimulating day out.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a bi-monthly pilgrimage to various sites and sights

Monday, 7 July 2014

A Welcoming Hand

The Stone of Setter on Eday is 15' high and resembles a giant hand with three lichen-encrusted fingers. It is at the north end of this 15-mile long Orkney island, between the settlements of Calfsound (below) and Millbounds where a former Baptist chapel was recently converted into the community centre. Access to the island is either by sea at the ferry terminal of Backaland or by air at the remarkably-named London Airport. This is close to the isthmus which resembles a pinched waist. In 1841 the population of the island was just under a thousand; by 2001 it had fallen to a little over a hundred. However, the last few years have seen a revival in resident numbers and there are now 160 people living there. Find out more about 'The Heart of the Northern Isles' through its community website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has a subscriber on the island

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Decks, Not City, Deserted

Yesterday saw 'The City and Royal Burgh of Kirkwall' coping ... with up to 7000 visitors from the decks of three liners moored at Hatson. The streets were thronged and coaches plied the routes to the various Orkney attractions. The footfall per square foot of the shopping area well exceeded that of Oxford Street - at least for the time that the cruise ships stayed.

Scottish Islands Explorer - perhaps all 12 copies in the shops were sold?

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Mendelssohn on Mull

The 26th Mendelssohn on Mull Festival begins on Monday 7 July (and continues until Saturday 12) and once again gives a new generation of musicians the opportunity to perform alongside professionals in venues that are exceptional. The island, in general, and Staffa, in particular, inspired Felix Mendelssohn. The images by Sam Jones in her Islandscape Photography illustrate why.

Scottish Islands Explorer - encourages reflection and participation

Friday, 4 July 2014

Four Barrels Off

This photograph of a wave hitting Rockall with full force was taken in March 1943. Comparable ones have been evident since then, including the last few days during Nick Hancock's stay - he is 28 days into his 60 planned - on the islet. Four barrels of rations were wrenched from their secure positions and cast out to sea. He remained safe in his RockPod. The details are in a Stornoway Gazette report.

Scottish Islands Explorer - relieved to be sound and secure on Mainland

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Endure and Transcend

The shores of Sanday are to be seen to be believed; the endurance of an ultimate-marathon runner and Sanday-resident, William Sichel (below), is almost beyond belief. His aim to run 3,100 miles in 52 days in the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Race is going well and The Orcadian covers the event. Sri Chinmoy (1931 - 2007) was an Indian spiritual master who taught meditation and encouraged athletic involvement, including running long distances.

Scottish Islands Explorer - travels long distances, mechanically-aided

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Elusive, As Ever

Once again the St Kilda group of islands has proved elusive. This time to the team of swimmers who left North Harris, but who encountered conditions that were characteristically difficult. A report in the Stornoway Gazette gives the details.

Scottish Islands Explorer - accustomed to swimming in deep waters

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Extreme Ends

The top end of Sanday, with North Ronaldsay beyond, has many features to attract as an outpost of Orkney. A natural phenomenon is Whitemill Bay (above) and a man-made structure is the deserted village of Ortie (below), where patterns of stonework have been captured by photographer Elaine Smith.

Scottish Islands Explorer - finds far-flung features