Friday, 31 July 2015

Slow Faroe Row

When you are committed to ocean rowing - in the Avalon - you have to take the good weather with the bad. The journey of the ten men to the Faroes started from Scrabster, Caithness, and continued to Stromness, Orkney, where a forced rest-stop has been necessary. Follow (and contribute) through The Orcadian.

Scottish Islands Explorer - rowing is not its style

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Cold War to Whale Songs

This derelict radar station at Gallan Head, Lewis, was busy during the Cold War to monitor Soviet air and sea activities in the North Atlantic. Now there is a proposal to re-open it for ... listening to the sounds of whales.  Read more in a BBC website item.

Scottish Islands Explorer - whale songs not included

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Seaweed for Gin?

Gin drinkers like their flavours, but juniper is the one most often mentioned. The new Isle of Harris Distillery is adding something that is locally plentiful ... seaweed. See what's happening by clicking on above.

Scottish Islands Explorer - gin and iodine now have something in common

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

1700 Years and Counting

Some findings announced last April indicated a Pictish fort of some age and significance. The sea stack, Dunnicaer, near Stonehaven, has yielded more evidence and archaeologists are now suggesting that the original construction work took place in the Third and Fourth Centuries. Delve deeper through the BBC website.

Scottish Islands Explorer -  still in minority years

Monday, 27 July 2015

Saving Devices

The ways and means of saving whales - by this style of pontoon, for example - have encouraged donations, bringing in over £4,000 in four days. Read and see the new device that will be used on the north-west coast in this Stornoway Gazette item.

Scottish Islands Explorer - saving readers if a priority

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Opening Up

The opening up of part of a famous archaeological site finished yesterday and Open Days for the public now begin. See The Orcadian for details.

Scottish Islands Explorer - get exploring beneath the surface

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Shetland Show

Shore by David Sinclair is one of the images featured at the Islesburgh Photographic Club's exhibition covered by Shetland News.

Scottish Islands Explorer - often looks north for inspiration

Friday, 24 July 2015

Trailing and Tracking

The clouds are trailing over St Kilda and it is hoped that the current calm conditions will persist from the 4.00 start this morning for the relay team of swimmers making the epic journey of 60 miles. Their progress may be tracked through a Stornoway Gazette item.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has relays of writers

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Head in the Clouds

For a sustained display of noctilucent clouds, a place to be is Rousay, Orkney, in the company of John Vetterlein.

Scottish Islands Explorer - worth looking up

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Significant Skye Steps

Thinking of making that significant change of life? There's an hotel for sale - the Balmacara - on the way to Skye. There is also a photographer - Lynne Kennedy - ready to record weddings which take place in the vicinity. Check out both sites for a sense of commercial or personal venture.

Scottish Islands Explorer - changes every other month

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Are You The One?

This may be a belated 2015 Japanese New Year card, but the Soay sheep is indicating that you could be the one for an opportunity this year. Find out about the card at Northern Light Charters and consider how you could be the person who fills that late space on a great trip taking in, perhaps, the home of the animal with the compelling gaze.

Scottish Islands Explorer - earlier offers of 4 & 5 July were taken up

Monday, 20 July 2015


'Nesophile' has come out of the common wealth of words to attract my attention. It means 'a lover of islands' and deserves wider currency. The image here is of the memorial stone which marks the deaths of Malcolm MacDonald and Murdo Mackay on North Rona. They had been banished to the island, the most remote of the British isles ever to have been settled, and so may not have been enthusiasts. The details are to be found on the blog of a real nesophile, Marc Calhoun.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a haven for nesophiles

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Get on Top

If you can get on top (of the country) then this view of Muckle Flugga will be yours and participation in the Unst Festival could be part of the experience. It's thriving at present.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always looking for ways up

Saturday, 18 July 2015


There's always something lurking in life. A loch in South Uist is experiencing the presence of of blue-green algae and warning signs have been posted. Discover more in the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always in full colour

Friday, 17 July 2015

Up in Umbria

I was held up - by internet connections - in the Umbrian Mountains. Hence the break in transmission, but here's a reminder of comparable scenes.

Scottish Islands Explorer - similar landscapes, but no seasides  

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Down by Half

This image shows puffins in a declining formation. See how their numbers have diminished in the past 30 years on Fair Isle from the BBC website item.

Scottish Islands Explorer - steadily increasing in readership

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Youth Rediscovered

Rowing across the North Sea from Norway to Shetland is an arduous task at the best of times - but better done, if necessary, at the age of 21. Ragnar Thorseth made the crossing then and now, aged 67 - has repeated it and is waiting for the weather to clear to return. Shetland News carries the tale of epic personal journeys.

Scottish Islands Explorer - self-propelled, metaphorically

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Shipping for Stornoway

Here is a ship that was part of the Coast Lines fleet which served Stornoway from 1925 - 63. Its predecessors were vessels belonging to M Langlands & Sons which was operating along the West Coast and through to the Western Isles from the early 1870s until 1925. The history of this operation has recently been published and details are to be found on the Stornoway Gazette website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of how shipping changed island lifestyles

Monday, 13 July 2015

A Change and Challenge

The Murray Arms Hotel, St Margaret's Hope, Orkney is for sale. If Monday mornings involve hang-ups about your work, then why not consider owning and running an hotel close to a busy ferry terminal? The details are with Lows and they could lead to a change as well as challenges in a new career.

Scottish Islands Explorer - where work and pastimes meet

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Threat to Ui Church

The blue skies present Ui Church, Lewis, in a benign light, but the grey sea indicates the risks that it faces. An item in the Stornoway Gazette shows what is being done to safeguard the ancient St Columba's.

Scottish Islands Explorer - realises how many island safeguards are needed

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Late and Great

There is unexpected late availability for what looks like being a great Northern Light Charters trip that will include many much-sought-after destinations. Check them through the link above and see this as an opportunity for a single male passenger ready to leave Oban at around 16.00 on Saturday 8 August and return there for brunch on Monday 17, ten day later. The passenger in the photograph of Scarp could be you and other images of places as far as St Kilda could feature. The cost is £1700 and an initial expression of interest should be sent to the Editor of Scottish Islands Explorer.

Scottish Islands Explorer - options in life should include island-hopping

Friday, 10 July 2015

John Bulmer

These ladies outside Walls Kirk, Hoy, Orkney attracted the attention of photojournalist, John Bulmer, whose work is featured in the BBC Arts presentation and interview - Life in Colour.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to bring colour to life on every page

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Broader in Appeal?

The Orcadian outlines some of the proposed plans for Broad Street, Kirkwall. When cruise ships discharge their passengers for a visit to the town and cathedral, there must be very different levels of expectation from the visitors. Will they as well as residents be impressed? That remains to be heard.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware that perceptions are not always as expected

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Superfast Stornoway

The image is striking; the content suggests speed. Yesterday saw speeds of up to 80 mpbs available for the first time in Stornoway and the number of users able to log on will grow. It's part of the Digital Scotland Superfast Programme that will support and bring business. As far as outward and visible signs are concerned, little will change - including this view of the port.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always appreciates fast connections

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Northern Coast

The weekend started with Stroma, yesterday with Neave Island and today we remain on the north coast with Eilean nan Roan, off Sutherland. It was evacuated 77 years ago and some events of 1938 are recorded on the Skerray Community Website. Here's an extract:

'Mr James Morrison of the Scottish Daily Record experienced at first hand the unpredictability of island life, being stranded on the island over a few days. He stayed at the house of Donald and Seonaid Mackay. Their daughter, Kitty Ann Macqueen, the last side-school teacher on the island clearly recalls the events of that period. As side-school teacher her last and only remaining pupils, were her two brothers, John Angus and Donald. As a family they left the island in the spring of 1938.'

Scottish Islands Explorer - has a similar focus

Monday, 6 July 2015

Neave or Coomb

Eilean Neave or Coomb Island is off the Sutherland coast and its name derives from 'nemeton' - a clearing in a grove for tribal meetings or sacred enclosures. This points to the 'Coomb' alternative - a contraction of St Columbus who gave his name to the chapel and monastery founded there. There has never been a secular settlement, owing to the lack of freshwater supplies. Some rock formations at the south end of the island create a 30' high jet of water when the wind and tides are in a certain direction.This turbulence and spouting can lead to a fierce discharge of water on the eastern side, accompanied by the sound of an explosion usually associated with a cannon.

Scottish Islands Explorer - discharges information on a regular basis

Sunday, 5 July 2015

A Stroma Opportunity

Although Stroma, Caithness, was abandoned by its residents over 40 years ago, it still has that feel of an occupied island. There is just a little farming and a few holiday cottages, but it is certainly a place to see and savour. A trip is planned for Saturday 22 August with a walk from the quay to the lighthouse and back, with a stop-off at the former school for a sit-down and the experience of being a pupil there in the 1960s. If you are interested - at £20 a person or thereabouts - please contact the Editor of Scottish Islands Explorer.

Scottish Islands Explorer - the element of discovery on Stroma is high

Saturday, 4 July 2015

An Opportunity for One

Here's a remarkable opportunity for one person willing to take the last spare space on the open RIB leaving Ullapool on Saturday 25 July at 08.30 for what will be a ten-hour trip taking in ten islands. The cost is £75 and landings will be made whenever possible to allow time to climb to summits. So do consider the Summer Isles (above) and each of the following:

Horse Island, Meal nan Gabhar, Isle Ristol, Eilean Mullagrach (below), Glas-leac Mor, Eilean a Char, Tanera Beg (above), Eilean Fada Mor, Eilean Dubh and Carn nan Sgeir.

For those unable to apply for a place on this trip in three weeks time, do look back 14 years to this feature in the Daily Telegraph about islands for sale, when Eilean Mullagrach was offered at £50k. If you are interested in taking in the ten destinations, then send a message to the Editor of Scottish Islands Explorer.

Scottish Islands Explorer - plenty of others to see as well

Friday, 3 July 2015

Some Swim

The charity swim from Hushinish, North Harris, to Village Bay, St Kilda, was abandoned after 22 miles owing to bad weather in June 2014. In seven days time there will be a second attempt by a relay of swimmers to make the crossing. Go to the St Kilda Swim 2015 website for full details of the event and the organisations which will benefit.

Scottish Islands Explorer - discovers ways and means for island links

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Sizzling Seven Years Ago

While yesterday England enjoyed its hottest July day ever recorded, the staff of Shetland News had to resurrect this image of Meal Beach from their photo stocks of 2008 in order to illustrate an item called A Rare Glimpse of Summer. The story refers to the disappointing weather conditions experienced so far this year in the Northern Isles.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of variations of climate as well as landscape

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Papar Project

Yesterday's blog was an attempt to arouse interest in Papa Stour - either for settling or visiting. Its cave (above) is waiting to be explored; its waiting room (below) is ready to be used. Other aspects may appeal with the derivations of the names 'Papa' / 'Papay' / 'Pabbay' and variants that proliferate in the Scottish islands. They reflect the coming of priests as in communities or as solitaries and a study of them, The Papar Project, is worth dipping into or leading to an in-depth study.

Scottish Islands Explorer - at least provides the opportunity to delve