Monday, 30 June 2014

132 Years of Work

The Belsair Hotel at Kettletoft, Sanday, is for sale. Details will be posted here when available, but the business - a hotel, bar and post office - has a fascinating history. The post and telegraph office was started by Kenneth Hay in 1881 and remained in his family until 2003. That's a span of 132 years and included the time when it was a manual exchange handling all calls from the Northern Isles of Orkney. Look back here for more insights into a business with a long pedigree.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looks forward to becoming 'historical'

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Above and High

There was not one, but two, high points to experience yesterday. One was flying out of North Ronaldsay and landing on Papa Westray; the other was climbing to the top of the 138' high lighthouse on the former, the tallest land-based lighthouse in Scotland. Full details of North Ronaldsay are to be found on these pages from the Orkney Guide.

Scottish Islands Explorer - views from above and below

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Back and No Backing

Yesterday afternoon two members of the Scottish Islands Explorer team visited The Orcadian. When staff photographer, Craig Taylor, was taking Marc Calhoun and John Humphries back into town a short detour was made to capture a sight that will give both local residents and travellers a feeling of relief. The bow doors on two of the vessels of Orkney Ferries, Earl Sigurd and Earl Thorfinn, are now working again since they were out of action from last January and from May of last year. This meant that vehicles had to be reversed on board, a sometimes complicated manoeuvre. Here is Craig's photograph that will be welcomed by many.

Scottish Islands Explorer - accustomed to going forward

Friday, 27 June 2014

Seaweed to Go

Hebridean Spa uses seaweed as a basic component in its ishga-range of organic products and has been awarded £50k to promote itself to a wider market. The benefactor is Scottish EDGE and the report is in the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Islands Explorer - sufficient supplies around the coast

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Pell-mell and Yell

Yell may be the second largest of the Shetland islands (after Mainland), but it can easily be missed. The reason is the impressive, well-cambered and direct road from Ulsta, the ferry terminal in the south, to Gutcher (above), the terminal for Unst and Fetlar in the north. Vehicles move quickly to convey passengers and goods to fit in with the ferry-schedules. It's pell-mell, in the sense of haste, on that through-road; it's not, however, a place where the notion of disorderly applies. The name of Yell probably derives from Old Norse for either 'white' (referring to the sands on the beaches) or 'barren' (indicating the nature of the island interior). There are fascinating features at every turn. Through the internet do look at three of them - a Tour, The Shetland Gallery and a hub for Textiles and Music. Make them a taste of things to come.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tends to take the slow road

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Nybakk Now Here

If you can get to Lerwick Harbour this morning then the 1961 restored fishing vessel, the Nybakk, is there from Norway and will be open to the public. It is part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the writing of Norway's first constitution. Read on at Shetland News.

Scottish islands Explorer - could well be there to see the visitor

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

High on Shortlists

Frankie's Fish and Chips Cafe and Takeaway at Brae, Shetland, is seldom empty - for members of staff are busy throughout the week either preparing,cooking, serving customers or ... winning awards. The Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards shortlist for 2014 was announced yesterday and Frankie's is there in the 'Best Eatery Award' category. They are already 'island winners' as their competitors are to be found in Nairn, Fortrose, Burghhead and Lairg. When the 'Environment Award' is made the winner will come from the islands - for the shortlist here comprises establishments on Eriska, Skye and Mull. Watch this space, but first take your place, at Brae, for either an in-house feast or a takeaway treat. Scottish Islands Explorer was there last night and came away feeling like...  a winner.  

Scottish Islands Explorer - relishes top places of all varieties

Monday, 23 June 2014

Ten Foot to Follow

The ground at Stenness, Orkney, has yielded a plank of oak, some 10' long which could have been buried for thousands of years. Scientific investigations will provide interest information and speculation about it. The story is to be found on the BBC website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - new edition ready for examination

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Air / Sea Switch

Living on the edge - for which Foula and the Out Skerries comes to mind - is seldom easy. Take the news of this week's suspension of flights that is described in Shetland News. There is sometimes no getting away from it.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looks forward to resumption of normal service

Saturday, 21 June 2014

An Island Day or More

The Skye Cuillins - photographed here by Craig Aitchison - look irresitible, but viewing them can come at a heavy price and a long journey. A ten-hour day-trip from Inverness which takes in many features en route for £49 seems to me to be something of a bargain. See what GetYourGuide is offering. The company has a wide range of British excursions - including a four-day Orkney experience from Edinburgh.

Scottish Islands Explorer - keen to promote island-outings

Friday, 20 June 2014

Starting on Mull

Here's a new opportunity. Go to Oban; take the ferry to Mull and stop ... at Craignure. It's a great starting, finishing and touring point and, now, there's a brand-new, purpose-built, solar-powered, backpack-hostel there with that appeal of many-additional-facilities. Read and see what's on offer at Craignure Hostel and take time out to reflect. Mull is extensive - with Iona and Tobermory at opposite ends - and so much in between. Here's a convenient, comfortable and sociable place to be, with relatively fast roads heading out to main destinations and the hub for island bus services right there.

Scottish Islands Explorer - accustomed to finding hubs

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Francis Matthews

The actor, Francis Matthews, died on 14 June aged 86. His long career included roles in Hammer Studio productions of horror films, as Paul Temple in the BBC series and as the voice of Captain Scarlet. In 1962 he met his wife, Angela Browne, who died in 2001, on the set of the BBC's six-part televion mini-series, The Dark Island. It was filmed mainly in South Uist, but focused on Benbecula, some of which is captured on this YouTube clip.

Scottish Islands Explorer - hopes for equally long media involvement

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

High Tide Turbines

Further innovations are reported in Shetland News about an array of tidal devices at the high end of the island group, in Bluemull Sound between Yell and Unst. Power will be produced for many homes and much will be learnt about the technologies of harnessing these forces that surge continuously.

Scottish Islands Explorer - new supplies are in shops and with subscribers today

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Eight Serve 12,000

The MV Glenachulish has a new livery and its vehicles and passengers a new slipway. The West Highland Free Press report on the present and past movements of the Glenelg Ferry indicates that the ratio of employees to the number of visitors is currently 8:12,000. Getting to and from Skye is certainly efficient in terms of service and vibrant in shades of colour.

Scottish Islands Explorer - should soon make a colourful impact on subscribers

Monday, 16 June 2014

Faray Found Again

The man-made feature on Faray (above) survives; the Old Red Sandstone (below) has a tendency to fray, creating geos and various rock formations. Two interesting points of view have surfaced since this Orkney island appeared on the blog last week. One is A Day on Faray by Eday Ranger - from a visit in May 2013 - while the other was received early this morning on the Facebook Timeline of Scottish Islands Explorer. It's by Dorothy Harcus, daughter of Faray resident, the late Jock Harcus. She has recently visited both Faray and Foula and presents some penetrating descriptions.

Scottish Islands Explorer - pleased to have introduced Faray to readers

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Whale, of a Time

The Bunavoneader Whaling Station, North Harris, operated for exactly half-a-century from 1903 - 53. It is now a ruin, with a chimney as a monument to a once-thriving industry.

The hills beyond to the north are devoid of population. The same applies to the mountains beyond Leith Harbour, South Georgia, where the industry flourished and foundered between 1909 - 65.

There were connections as many men from the Western and Northern Isles went to take part in this South Atlantic trade. Their work featured in last Monday's BBC4 programme - Britain's Whale Hunters: the Untold Story - which concludes tomorrow evening. Time for iPlayer and a highly-informative article by Adam Nicolson in the Daily Telegraph.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Scots are frequent explorers

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Faray is far from Fara

Between Eday and Westray, in Orkney, lies Faray where this rainbow ends. It's not to be confused with Fara, further to the south in Scapa Flow. The differentiation has been made with the names of North Pharay and South Pharay.

In 1861 its 180 acres included the homes of 82 people, but then numbers declined until the last permanent resident left in 1947. Some non-winter residence has occurred which may explain how, on Thursday 9 April 1992, three sisters found themselves unable to reach Mainland to vote in the General Election because of a broken rudder on their boat. According to an account in Hamish Haswell-Smith's The Scottish Islands, they dispatched ballot papers by a pet homing skua. The 'aerial pirate' was obviously on a mission.

The names of the islands derives from the Old Norse for sheep and above is a flock being taken off Faray on the MV Eynhallow. For a full, illustrated website on genealogy, housing and families go to Pharay.

Scottish Islands Explorer - sorts Faray from Fara from afar

Friday, 13 June 2014

An Aerial Pirate

An item in the Stornoway Gazette draws attention to an organised walk next Wednesday - 14.00 at the start of the Tolsta Head Path, Lewis on 18 June - when the focus of attention will be on spotting the bonxie or great skua. It is described as 'an aerial pirate' and its dramatic appearance and movements can mean fright and flight to other creatures, including humans. Join the readers to share; the group of cliff walkers to experience.

Scottish Islands Explorer - provides good protection if held over head

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Search and Savour

If you like responsibly-sourced local products from island communities, then a visit to the new website of Orkney Food & Drink will bring you pleasure, though not quite comparable with consumption of the goods. Take a trip around the island producers of a variety of basics and delicacies, staples and treats.

Scottish Islands Explorer - no encouragement needed in this area

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Images to Inspire

This item on the prospective cull of black rats on The Shiants brings together the above image by James Smith, much of whose work was centred on the Western Isles, and those of Jim Richardson, whose photographs are used in this BBC website feature. Read about the EU funding to make the three small islands in The Minch safer for its bird population and enjoy how they are presented.

Scottish Islands Explorer - brings together images and items

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Swona at Short Notice

The abandoned island of Swona is a compelling place. Opportunities to visit are rare, but there could be spaces available on a day-trip from Burray (Orkney Mainland) organised by Richard Clubley tomorrow - Wednesday 11 June. Twelve people are needed to fill the boat and for some it will be fulfilling an ambition just to get there. A call to 07981 815709 will provide you with up-to-date information about availability on a craft far different from this one marooned by those who left the island.

The islanders left their cattle grazing and over the years the herd became feral. Here is a case of visitors and residents keeping well apart, tomorrow.

Please pass on the news of this trip to friends and contacts who may be interested.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a chance to people an abandoned isle, for a day

Monday, 9 June 2014

Work Underway

There's a long, long trail ahead for Chris Harris (above), project manager of the northern section of the Hebridean Way. He is considering, planning and supervising the prospective routes of the long-distance footpath that will, eventually, stretch from Vatersay and Barra to Stornoway and the Butt of Lewis. A Stornoway Gazette item focuses on a choice ahead that involves either a seaward path skirting Balallan and reaching the Pentland Road via Achmore or an inland stretch to Morsgail and coming close to Callanish. A look at the map shows that both will be rigorous and one particularly remote. Completion prospects for the Way are in 2016.

Scottish Islands Explorer - accustomed to trails and trials

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Orkney Buffalo

Today - Sunday 8 June - is an Open Day at Schoolhouse Farm, Deerness, Orkney, where members of the Bremner family are inviting the public to meet their herd of Asian water buffalo and flock of Jacob sheep. See what's on via The Orcadian item.

Scottish Islands Explorer - finds surprising events in distant places

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Remaining on Rockall

There's one man on Rockall at present and that is Nick Hancock. He hopes to be there for the next 60 days. We are remaining on the islet for a third day, this time in the company of Fraser MacDonald who has written an interesting account of the piece of rock where 'empire meets exploration'. Go there and read it via The Guardian.

Scottish Islands Explorer - where publishing meets the peripheral

Friday, 6 June 2014

Home on Hall's Ledge

An officer in the Royal Navy, Basil Hall, made the first recorded landing on Rockall - on 8 July ... 1810 or 1811. The year is contested by historians, but the naming of the islet's only flat section - measuring 11'x 4' - took place when the tiny volcanic plug was annexed by the United Kingdom on 15 September 1955. Hall's Ledge will, all being well, be home to Nick Hancock for the next two months. Details appear in a report in The Guardian and the ledge is clearly visible a few feet from the summit.

Scottish Islands Explorer - large coverage, small production, area

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Ultimate Outpost for LPG?

Calor is the main distributor in the UK of LPG - liquefied petroleum gas - and is keen to see its product available throughout the British isles, including the most remote of them all, Rockall. It is a sponsor of Nick Hancock (below) who is also keen to renew his attempt to remain solo on the rock for a record time. Follow what's happening now through a Stornoway Gazette item. A few other intrepid adventurers have survived on the volcanic plug for comparatively long stays and some, like the radio ham below, have taken equipment to make contact, but not to remain for a duration.

Scottish Islands Explorer - keen to cover Calor venture

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Open and Ready

The Sumburgh Head Lighthouse came back to life, officially, yesterday with the opening of its new facilities by HRH The Princess Royal. Read all about the Visitors' Centre - where the Northern Lighthouse Board built a famous installation, the RSPB created a nature reserve and the Government decreed it a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Scottish Islands Explorer - another hub for exploration

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Impressive Images

The St Kilda to Skye row has been completed and a BBC News - In Pictures item presents a series of images which capture the excitement of the crossing.

Scottish Islands Explorer - also waits for calm conditions

Monday, 2 June 2014

Today's the Day

Things look quiet enough at a lochan near Miavaig, North Harris, but on Saturday 14 June

there will be much activity on the road from Stornoway and the track to Bowglas when the Hebridean Cycle Challenge takes place.

Whether you wish to take part in the cycling, running or walking sections, today - Monday 2 June - is the day to fill out the entry form. Go to the Challenge website in order to register.

Scottish Islands Explorer - as a bi-monthly, on an eight-week cycle

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Jutland Commemorated

Yesterday was the 98th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland when 6000 British and 2500 German sailors were killed and 14 and 11 of their ships lost or destroyed beyond repair. Despite these figures, the Royal Navy continued to command the seas. Information panels were opened at the Lyness Cemetery at Hoy, Orkney, as part of a project by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Some of the details are on the website of The Orcadian, which introduces the topic with the somewhat eerie headline of 'Interactive displays at Lyness cemetery'.

Scottish Islands Explorer - futuristic ways of recalling past events