Friday, 31 October 2014

Tennis on the Road

Judy Murray has visited the remote tennis court at Bunabhainneadar, Harris, in order to promote the sport for the organisation, Tennis on the Road. A full report features in the Stornoway Gazette. Some years ago, apparently, a group of children from nearby Amhuinnsuidhe rigged up a rope across the road in order to improvise a net on a court. They enjoyed playing and listening for the occasional vehicle. A wag enjoyed submitting their names for the first stages of Junior Wimbledon; the authorities were bemused; someone proposed building a court with lottery funding; and construction work took place at Bunabhainneadar. By the time the process was finished, the children in question had grown up and moved on ... either in person or interests!  However, the 'passing place' for a youthful game had, in this case, become a permanent feature.

Scottish Islands Explorer - many things have unusual ways of getting started

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Make a Note for '48

There appears to be a cloud question mark over the Earth's most remote permanently-settled island, Tristan da Cunha. There were questions about the island presented  on Barra and North Uist earlier this week when Alasdair MacEachen gave an illustrated talk, as part of the Faclan events, on his visit to Tristan and its only settlement, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas. This was in 2011, the 50th anniversary of the volcanic eruption that led to temporary, though complete, evacuation. A date to note is Saturday 5 December 2048, when a total eclipse line will centre on the island, giving a full two-and-a-half minutes of darkness.

Scottish Islands Explorer - should have 300 issues to its name by then

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Still On

The programmes by Paul Murton on the Scottish islands has reached the final two in the series. They may still be viewed on BBC iPlayer and details are available on Orkney as well as Coll, Tiree and the Skerryvore Lighthouse.

Scottish Islands Explorer - lasts longer than 28 days

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Copinsay Stay

The door is open to this deserted house on the uninhabited island of Copinsay, to the east of Mainland Orkney. Comforts will be few and so it is recommended that the area is visited via the newly-installed webcam. Click onto Orkney Nature Festival and you will be away as long as it's light.

Scottish Islands Explorer - webcams are another way of exploring

Monday, 27 October 2014

Extreme and At Risk

The Keil Hotel, Southend, Kintyre, is some eight miles by land beyond Campbeltown and just twelve miles by water from Antrim, Northern Ireland. It was completed in 1939, remains an impressive Art Deco building and had a different history than intended. Soon after completion it was requisitioned as a military hospital by the Royal Navy and did not fulfil its original purpose until 1947.  

That was the year of the coldest winter of the 20th Century and one when rationing of both building materials and food was evident. It is in an exposed position with sea views dominating its south side. The island of Sanda can been seen in the distance. By October 1990 it had closed, but its structure still commands attention, although it is certainly one of those Buildings at Risk.

Scottish Islands Explorer - discovered Southend and Keil earlier this year

Sunday, 26 October 2014


There is a similarity between the dimensions of the building above, in Shetland, and the hostel at Rhenigidale, North Harris, featured yesterday. The so-called bod is at Skeld and is one of a chain of nine camping barns or bothies that were set up from 1992 onwards to provide a network for those who prefer a more adventurous style of accommodation. The Sail Loft at Voe, below, indicates something of the variety of architecture and the details of all are to be found at Shetland Camping Bods.

Scottish Islands Explorer - embraces the adventurous

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Rhenigidale Recalled

When the above photograph was taken by taken by Julian Paren in 1986, the road had not reached Rhenigidale. It came some three years later and can be seen below. A project, Doomesday Reloaded, was set up in '86 and looks back from there over the history of this small North Harris settlement. More information is available from the Explore Rhenigidale item on the Gatliff Hostels website. The building featured is the first of the hostels set up by Herbert Gatliff in 1962.

Scottish Islands Explorer - changes constantly monitored

Friday, 24 October 2014

Fire Works in Shetland

The Firework Display in Lerwick returns - after the absence of this Shetland social event in 2013 - on Saturday 1 November. However, there have been reminders of the ever-present threats of fire with recent incidents on the Whalsay Ferry and at Greenhead Base.

Scottish Islands Explorer - scenic displays in every issue

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Coll and Halley

Here are two scenes in which clear skies feature. One shows Hogh Bay, Coll, and the other cosmic dust from Halley's Comet photographed above Northumberland. The Comet is not due to return until 2061, but some of its dust was evident in shooting-star displays on Tuesday and Wednesday nights of this week. An informed account appears in the Edinburgh Evening News and a recommended place to watch this type of heavenly event is the island of Coll, well-known for its low light-pollution.

Scottish Islands Explorer - wants to be read at night ... and day

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Naturally Orkney

Raymond Besant has recently published a book of his photographs - Naturally Orkney - and tomorrow he will be talking to an audience in Kirkwall about his background, interests and techniques. Details of this event are in The Orcadian. His image of Rackwick Beach, Hoy, captures something of the northern light.

Scottish Islands Explorer - every issue reflects northern lights

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A Saga of Switha

From the north coast of Caithness to the south coast of Flotta, Orkney, are three islands in an almost straight line - Stroma, Swona and Switha. The last one is 101 acres in extent and has no authenticated record of habitation. It does have two standing stones and place-names that are memorable - with The Kiln and The Kirn on its east coast while the headlands in the south-west are The Ool and Point of the Pool. Between these two and pictured below is The Pool. However, the legend of two brothers, Eric and Ronald Harcus, their sinister mother, and a beautiful girl from Flotta, Sibella Fea, is dramatically related in A Tale of Switha.

Scottish Islands Explorer - an unsettling story of an unsettled island

Monday, 20 October 2014

West Side Story

Most visitors to Jura take the road from Feolin (the ferry terminal at the southern end of the island) and continue up the east side to Craighouse and, perhaps, beyond. A few turn left at the ferry and take the paths and trackless sections up the west side. They deserve admiration - for habitation and facilities are either sparse or non-existent. Follow the footsteps of Peter and Fiona by reading Writes of Way. You will be transported to the remote in a few seconds ... and getting back involves a mere switch of the fingers.

Scottish Islands Explorer - likes recording trips ... from a distance

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Triangular Addition

Two new ships are to be procured for island routes and one of them will ply the 'Triangle' of Uig - Lochmaddy - Tarbert services of CalMac. Read the Stornoway Gazette account of the process and consider these routes as being your preferred ways of sailing to the Outer Hebrides. They are more protected from the vicissitudes of the weather than the exposed Ullapool to Stornoway and the long Oban to Castlebay crossings.

Scottish Islands Explorer - seeks the sheltered sales

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Full Scenarios

Three seemingly unrelated images from Shetland appear. Above is an eyeful of scenery at Sumburgh Head from a photograph showing what is described as the 'finest view from a car park in Britain'. Below is a view of Sumburgh Airport Car Park

which has become so full that passengers have been advised either to use public transport or to to arrange lifts. Full boxes of whitefish have been recorded and reported in Shetland News this week with over 10,665 (worth almost £1 million) landed, compared with the previous record of 9,435. Don't, at least, be caught out or miss out at the car parks.

Scottish Islands Explorer - boxes of the latest issue arrived this week

Friday, 17 October 2014

Go Scapa Flow

Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum at Lyness, Hoy, Orkney could well be renovated soon as plans are being formulated. They appear in The Orcadian and this image comes from the gallery of Gary Doak Photography.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always keen to renovate and rekindle interest

Thursday, 16 October 2014

West Linga Waters

This is the Little Loch of Linga looking south-west towards Shetland Mainland from West Linga. Look the other way and Whalsay would dominate the view. Despite there being two land-locked areas of water on the 309-acre island, permanent residents have not been attracted since the end of the 18th Century. The reason is probably because anchorage around the coastline - guarded by the tidal islet of the Calf of Linga in the south and Wether Holm in the north - is limited and the beaching of boats hazardous.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a new issue has landed safely

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

One Hundred Acres Each

Ronay - the 'rough' or 'seal' island - is situated off the south-east of North Uist. It was once a religious haven that appealed to enthusiasts of the Middle Ages. Its population of six recorded in 1931 has diminished to no resident population, but one house now provides holiday accommodation on the island's 1391 acres. As Isle of Ronay House sleeps ten people that's over a hundred acres each! Access is speedy from Kallin on Grimsay, although the rough edges of the island give every opportunity for slow meandering by kayak.  

Scottish Islands Explorer - plenty to write home about

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Stacks of Birds

Iron Age forts or brochs in Shetland were often named brough or burgh, burra or burgi. Stacks that resemble fortifications may have similar associations. A few miles apart on South Mainland are (above) Burgi Ayre, Mousa, and (below) Burgi Stacks, Ness of Ireland. The former gives a drying place for shags in the summer sunshine; the latter is often storm lashed as it faces the Atlantic Ocean.

Scottish Islands Explorer - finds forts fascinating

Monday, 13 October 2014

More Marinas?

A joint venture on Harris for building separate marina pontoons to serve Tarbert (above) and Scalpay would mean that sailing and motor boats could be assured of shelter during diverse conditions within three miles. It would also complement the facilities recently opened at Stornoway, Lewis, and Lochmaddy, North Uist. The details of the proposals are to be found in a Stornoway Gazette item.

Scottish Islands Explorer - for reading in shelters throughout the world

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Came, Saw, Conquered

Stacks are impressive and, of course, have their devotees. When situated beyond Sandwood Bay, Sutherland, it certainly becomes an attraction.

Am Buachaille, translated as 'The Shepherd' or 'The Herdsman', was not climbed until 1968 when three mountaineers scaled its 213' height and accessed its base with a 100' swim even at low tide.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has stacks of copies on sale

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Award Winning CalMac

CalMac is the UK Ferry Operator of the Year in the National Transport Awards 2014. The company now serves 28 communities; has been carrying people, goods and vehicles for 160 years; employs 1300. Pictured above is a typical small ship in the fleet, the MV Loch Tarbert. Built in 1992, it conveys 18 cars and plied between Claonaig and Lochranza before starting the then new service from Otterish - Leverburgh in the Sound of Harris. It has regularly sailed from Tarbert to Portavadie, been on relief duties out of Largs and acts as a spare vessel.

Scottish Islands Explorer -  is sold on a number of CalMac vessels

Friday, 10 October 2014

Coming On Down

Some things are catching - like viewing the YouTube film of Danny MacAskill ascending and descending The Ridge during his encounter with Inaccessible Pinnacle, The Cuillins, Skye.

When he was featured here last Monday, the number of viewings was in excess of a million. Now it's grown to over 12 million - see the item on the BBC website.

If you are able to access BBC1 Scotland tonight at 19.30, then you can witness the ways in which his bike was ridden and the film made.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has its ups and downs as well

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Two Weeks Today

Maggie Cunningham, the Chairman of MG Alba, the Gaelic Media Service, and the Chief Executive Officer of Columba 1400 (below) will be the speaker at the Angus Macleod Lecture, an annual event promoted by the Islands Book Trust. It is to be held at Gravir Primary School, South Lochs, Lewis at 7.30 pm on Thursday 23 October, two weeks today. The full details are in an item published in the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Islands Explorer - endeavours to book ahead

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Feel Good Outdoors

There is something elemental about this image of Rackwick, Hoy. The ever-present sea around an island; dramatic cliffs; shelter and, perhaps, comfort in a cottage; the skills of people evident in a dry-stone wall. Malcolm Handoll and Rachel DuBois lived on Orkney for eight years and developed a series of day walks and three-day explorations, taking in many features including the Stenness Standing Stones.

For over a year they have been based in Perthshire, but their website, Five Senses, promotes ways in which participants are encouraged to 'Feel good outdoors'. As the evenings draw in and we hope to have positive sensations about being indoors, bear in mind what they offer for a future activity.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Like Five Senses, just a phone call away

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

'Modern Primitives'

Norman John Gillies (1925 - 2013) was the last male to be born on St Kilda. He barely recalled being there - unlike these men and women (below) whose daily life centred on the simple demands of survival. They were the focus of attention for tourists who came in the summer months.

Some rare photographs taken by Professor Thomas Patterson (1872 - 1949) while on a day-trip to Hirta in the late 1920s are presented in the blog of Keir Harper. He includes from the University of Glasgow Archives a gallery of images of a group of people referred to as 'modern primitives' by the visitors, who were quite unaware that within a short time the island would be evacuated at the request of the residents. The process started at 08.00 on Friday 29 August 1930.

Scottish Islands Explorer - All words and images have been archived

Monday, 6 October 2014

Ultimate Ups & Downs

If you have seven or so minutes to spare and can take the trip, join Danny MacAskill as he cycles up, along and down The Ridge of the Cuillin Mountains, Skye. Your link is either through a BBC website item or directly to YouTube. You may even feel the need to don a helmet while watching this acclaimed stunt-cyclist. Some one-and-quarter million viewers have accompanied Danny from the still shores of Loch Scavaig to the sharp summit of the Inaccessible Pinnacle.

What a journey for this Glasgow-based trials cyclist - from stunts that are not overshadowed by the Forth Bridge to a journey over the Skye Bridge reaching his home at Dunvegan and then into and up the Cuillins. Start your working week with an amazing spectacle of skill, stamina and ... a head for heights.

Scottish Islands Explorer - accustomed to sedate re-cycling