Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Sizing Up?

Pentland Ferries runs a fast, all-year-round service from Gills Bay, Caithness, to St Margaret's Hope, South Ronaldsay, Orkney. They are considering (and want people's views) on an alternative route to Burwick, a few miles closer to the Mainland.

At present the small port is used by the summer-only passenger service from John O'Groats. After sizing up the potential for a 30-minute ro-ro service, there would have to be an up-sizing of the facilities pictured below. The Orcadian has the details. Incidentally, 30 September is the final day of the summer season for the 40-minute crossing from John O'Groats - so hurry along as the next boat is not at 20.15, but in 2015.

Scottish Islands Explorer - surveying the scene, as ever

Monday, 29 September 2014

Drawn to the North

Doug Allan, pictured here with a husky in Greenland, is the third polar venturer featured on the blog during the past five days. Commemorative events for John Rae were mentioned; the talks by Craig Mathieson were reported; now the presentation in early December in Lerwick by the Scots-born, Bristol-based wildlife photographer, Doug Allan, whose book Freeze Frame can be partly downloaded from his website. Look into Shetland News which carries an item on the forthcoming event.

Scottish Islands Explorer - promotes exploration beyond the Scottish shores

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Two Ceremonies

Next Tuesday - 30 September - is the 201st anniversary of the birth of the Orkney-born, Arctic Explorer, Dr John Rae. This will be marked by ceremonies - one at Westminster Abbey where a plaque will be unveiled; the other at his graveside followed by a service at St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall. The former is private, by invitation only; the latter is open to the public. Details appear in The Orcadian.

Scottish Islands Explorer - available in both areas; aware of his achievements

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Whale in Weisdale

You, too, can become a whale-watcher by accessing Shetland News and clicking onto the video clip of the pilot whale which was a visitor to Weisdale Voe, Shetland, two days ago.

Scottish Islands Explorer - On a similar mission of discovery

Friday, 26 September 2014

Michelin Matters

Scotland has 15 hotels and restaurants with Michelin Awards. These now include the Isle of Eriska Hotel Spa & Island, (above) beyond Benderloch, north of Oban, and The Three Chimneys & The House Over-By, beyond Dunvegan, Skye. In 1900 there were only 3000 cars in France and the Michelin brothers, producers of tyres, wanted to assist motorists get out and about ... and burn more rubber in the process. They devised manuals, maps and guides of places to eat. In 1926 they set up an inspection system of assessing the quality of restaurants. The rest is a matter of history, acclaim and coveted accolades.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has been short-listed, but not by Michelin

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Inspiration ... Exploration

Earlier this week the polar explorer, Craig Mathieson, was in Lerwick to give motivational talks to pupils at the Anderson High School and at an induction day at Shetland Youth Enterprise. He referred, as reported in Shetland News, to his travels as well as to the charity with which he is associated. This is The Polar Academy with its endeavour to encourage inspiration through exploration. The Arctic Circle is closer to Shetland than, for example, the Mediterranean.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Also endeavours to inspire as an 'Explorer'

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

From Nigeria to Uig

Uig Sands, in the north-west of Lewis, is usually quiet and the way in which the roof of the

Uig Community Centre is raised is normally when the prevailing winds are strong. However, last Saturday saw (and heard) an 80-strong group of Nigerians come from their Aberdeen church to give a concert. The Stornoway Gazette reports on an unusual mixture of cultures.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Admires those who make long journeys

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Isle Martin

Isle Martin, at the head of Loch Broom, near Ullapool, has seen activity in recent years. In 1952 the flour mill's owner, not best pleased with the authorities' refusal to allow him to build a causeway, dismantled his plant. In the 1960s restoration of four of the 388-acre island's houses took place and they have been donated to the Isle Martin Trust. A new pontoon has been built to assist visitors.

The building below looks like the side-school that functioned until 1949. There were few of these small schools that continued in the Highlands & Islands after the Second World War and because of their temporary condition, their remains are seldom evident. The presence of Ben More Coigach does remain, as the top image indicates

Scottish Islands Explorer - Likes charting island revivals

Monday, 22 September 2014

No Playing Around

War-time installations on Flotta, one of the Orkney islands in Scapa Flow, can still be seen - at Stanger Head (above) and at Roan Head (below). During the First World War, the Royal Navy constructed an 18-hole golf course

at Roan Head, but this is no longer visible from ground level. It has, however, been subjected to aerial photography as have a number of Scottish courses which have simply disappeared. Some of the findings are to be found in the BBC website item, Forgotten Greens.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Scores recorded for past issues

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Imagine an Island

The photography and observations of Barbara Sellars have appeared in Scottish Islands Explorer magazine during the past year as she continues to feature her capturing images of Iona during the course of a complete year. There is to be an exhibition of her work, entitled Imagine an Island, at the Lillie Art Gallery in Station Road, Milngavie from Saturday 4 October until Friday 7 November. This will open during afternoons from Tuesday - Saturday with free admission. You may have seen her work published; now to see it displayed.

Scottish Islands Explorer - images islands in every issue

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Going Places

Above is a German adventurer, Markus Adam, and below is a Yamaha Waverunner jet-ski. Neither is designed for long-distance or ocean travel, but the man is defying the odds with his machine. The first part of his journey was from Norway to Lerwick.

Then two days ago he completed a difficult six-hour crossing to Kirkwall, where he was photographed and featured in The Orcadian. He is now on his way to Rotterdam, via Arbroath and Lowestoft. It's part of his preparation for a trip next year, wait for it, from Germany to ... Canada. His prospective destination there will be Montreal. This name of this city originates from 'Mount Royal' - not often reached by jet-ski.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Sailed and flown between Shetland and Orkney

Thursday, 18 September 2014

No Came Out Outcome

There was little chance of Orkney and Shetland doing other than following the instructions here. The 'No' supporters in the Western Isles were also in the majority, but by considerably less of a margin. The media made the outcome look uncertain. However, the bookmakers, Betfair, closed their books and paid out the backers of there being an all-Scotland wish to 'Stay Together' some three days ago.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Does not run a book

Changing Times

Next week will see the last of the season's cruise ships coming to Orkney when the expedition ship, the Hanseatic, docks at Stromness. It has 184 passengers and is certainly one of the smaller vessels on the routes to the Northern Isles. Next year there are five visits planned for a 4,300-carrying giant - for details see The Orcadian. How the Hanseatic League merchants operating between the 12th - 18th Centuries would have been bemused at these prospects.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Aware of the North Sea's carrying potential

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Looking for Scalpay?

These seals are looking at you and you may be looking for Scalpay. There are two to choose from - the bridged one from Harris or the off-shore island from Skye. The latter is surprisingly large at some 10 square miles and has its own website and photo gallery.

There is accommodation available and the Garden Cottage interior does look most inviting.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Choosing the right island

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Corncrakes Return

Corncrake numbers have soared in Orkney and the place which has attracted most is Westray, where 16 males have been reported by RSPB Scotland this summer. Details appear in a BBC website item. The island has 17 sandy beaches that appeal to humans, but why the birds have been flocking is possibly explained by a change in farming practices.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Also calls from island settings

Monday, 15 September 2014

Follow the Cravadale Trail

The 2014 Isle of Harris Mountain Festival is taking place this week and on Saturday 20 September there will be a Community Walk from Amhuinnshuidhe to Hushinish via the spectacular Glen Cravadale. Better to go in person, but you can follow, electronically, in the footsteps of the Schools Hebridean Society taken in 1965, with one member supplying the photograph above,  or

in the company of Marc Calhoun who describes his walk and took the above photo from the top of Scarp or

with advice from Scottish Hills and their image of a once permanently-inhabited house en route. Be warned that this route is so well documented here through these links that work may have to be put on hold until the walk is completed!

Scottish Islands Explorer - leading you astray on a Monday morning

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Levels of Accommodation

Scarba, to the north of Jura, is 3,642 acres in extent and rises to 1,473'. In the 18th Century it was home to some 14 families, but since the 1960s is inhabited only occasionally. Places to stay range from Kilmory Lodge (above) - if you know the owners - to

a bothy used by an adventure school and to the hi-tech, though basic, ways of camping. The place obviously suited some of the earlier residents with tales of longevity indicating ages up to an unauthenticated one of 140. The ways of access are complicated by several factors, including the

Corryvreckan Whirlpool to the south and the Grey Dogs tidal race to the north. However, once there the levels of accommodation are clear - from the spartan to the sheltered to the solid.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Aiming for longevity

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Eye Birds' View

The facilities at the Papa Westray airstrip are limited, but seen clearly by passengers as well as by birds. The sea close to Moclett Pier on 'Papa' may not appeal to passengers, but is home-from-home to the island's birds. There is, this afternoon, the chance to view some 500 models or interpretations of birds, eye-to-eye at a display in the old coastguard hut on North Hill. Read about the Orkney Seabird Heritage Project in The Orcadian.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Taking close-up views whenever possible

Friday, 12 September 2014

Red Roof; Warm Welcome

Whether approached from the landward side, with Jura stretching out behind you to the south, or from the sea, with Scarba in the north to the stern, the Mountain Bothies Association dwelling at Glengarrisdale is a welcome sight. It was once a small settlement, but is visited now by outdoor enthusiasts, those interested in the history of the Macleans and the estate gamekeepers. Let Marc Calhoun take you on his journey to this outpost.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Here the emphasis is on the explorer

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Quite a Catch(er)

What is now largest trawler in Scotland, the Researcher, is in Shetland waters having recently been refitted and extended by 7.8 metres. It will be based in Whalsay, but is pictured below in

Lerwick, next to the Shetland Catch facility where its 78.5 metres becomes evident. What a change there has been in storage space since the distant days of the Hanseatic League, at its most successful in the Middle Ages, and its bod or trading booth (not built until the 18th Century) in the harbour at Symbister, Whalsay.

Scottish Islands Explorer - At present requires bod-sized storage

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Isay Isolated

Isay, between Dunvegan Head and Waternish in the west of Skye, had a population of 90 and a street of 18 houses in 1841. Everyone had been evicted within 20 years.

The main building (below) was the scene of a series of murders in the early 16th Century when Roderick MacLeod of Lewis disposed of two entire families at the culmination of a family meal.

Two 'trips' are available from this Isay item - in a manner of speaking. The top photograph comes from the the gallery of Skye Light Images and the bottom image was taken by Marc Calhoun whose well-illustrated blog takes you a little further afield along the West Coast.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Where isolation is in demand

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Full Force at Fall

The sky and sea to the west of Eday looks capable of generating considerable forces ... and certainly is. The European Marine Energy Centre is undertaking trials for harnessing the strong tidal powers here at the Fall of Warness, Orkney.

These massive devices operate in a variety of ways and The Orcadian features two video-clips which clearly present what is happening and, to an extent, what will happen next. Apparently 10% of the world's energy requirements could be met from sources of this style.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to make an impact as well

Monday, 8 September 2014

A Virgin Island

At the top of the Trotternish Peninsula, Skye, is Tulm Island (above) and in the middle distance is Fladda-chuain, also pictured below. The name derives from the Old Norse for 'flat island' and Gaelic for 'ocean'. It's the latter that is now up for sale and led to an interesting introduction appearing in a Sunday Times article published yesterday. The owner of the island has apparently never set foot there, making it, in a way, a virgin island.

Scottish Islands Explorer - acquired by many and well-handled