Thursday, 31 December 2015

Mourning 2015?

The Mourning Dove is a North American specie, but one found its way to Shetland and was spotted last Monday. It was a first time sighting on the island group and only the fifth occasion that it has been seen in the UK. Read about it in the Shetland Times and then dip into a blog that gives it full coverage - The Randomness of Life.

Scottish Islands Explorer - focused on certain places, with a random element

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Eat, Drink and Be ...

An article in The Times drew attention to the number of Outer Hebridean products that are often featured in the media and which attract gourmets.

By March, VisitScotland will have devised and be fully promoting the Eat Drink Hebrides Trail. So Eat, Drink and Be Merry for Tomorrow We Die-t!

Scottish Islands Explorer - for places, people and products

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Contrast Control Settings

Consider this contrast. Here is a photograph taken by Ruth Fairbrother of the sunset at Scarista on the west coast of the Isle of Harris. Here in the Sunday Telegraph is an article about black & white television licences. Are some residents prepared to reject electronic hues in favour of actual ones?

Scottish Islands Explorer - founded in Jan 2000; full-colour from Nov 2002

Monday, 28 December 2015

Images to Impress

There's a gallery of glorious images to enjoy at Photos - Around where the focus is on the area around Loch Tamnavay in the north-west of the Isle of Lewis. This one is by Jerome Bastianelli where the terrain, sky and waters signal a summer scene. Start a quiet December week with a good look around a remote district.

Scottish Islands Explorer - takes you places

Sunday, 27 December 2015


The beach at the rather extravagantly-named, Port Stoth, has obvious appeal and the place itself served as a loading bay for the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse. It was a starting point for a blogged journey along the west coast of Lewis in a series, Stravaiging Around Scotland. The word 'stravaig' comes from Medieval Latin and has currency in Scotland, the North of England and Ireland where it means to wander, saunter or stroll. Do follow in its steps.

Scottish Islands Explorer - try stravaiging its pages through pocket mags

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Snow - 20 Years Ago

This image was typical of the 'Big Snaa' of Shetland. Since then winters have been milder. Take a look at some fascinating photographs and descriptions of that time from Christmas Eve 1995 which appear in the current Shetland News. Time to be grateful for global warming?

Scottish Islands Explorer - a 21st Century production

Friday, 25 December 2015

Give it a Go!

 For a not-so-leisurely Christmas Day, consider the Kirkwall Ba' Games. The Boys' version starts at 10.00 while the Men's Game begins at 13.00. Find out a little more through The Orcadian (with the results posted asap) and a lot more through an article in the current issue of Scottish Islands Explorer. The latter may be purchased today as a single copy in digital form or for the annual subscription in that format for smartphone, tablet or computer through Pocket Mags. You can access the first few pages as a taster. Give it a go!

Scottish Islands Explorer - purchase here today when most shops are closed

Thursday, 24 December 2015

'Water, Water, Everywhere'

The words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge - 'Water, water, everywhere, / And all the boards did shrink, / Water, water, everywhere, / Nor any drop to drink' - apply to three homes on the south side of Foula. Scottish Water tried to send staff to assist, but bad weather prevented the air journey. An account is in Shetland News. The Ancient Mariner knew the feeling. There are, however, no shortages at the source of the photograph - Glover Lodges on Shetland's South Mainland.

Scottish Islands Explorer - delays in delivery were a drought for some

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Beside the Seaside

You cannot get much closer to the coast than this - Kiln Barn, Sanday, Orkney. It's self-catering accommodation which is now up for sale at £105k. Take a look through Zoopla.

Scottish Islands Explorer - for good points of view and viewing points

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Look Away Now

Look away now if you are repelled by the basking shark heading for you. It's mouth is ready to consume ... plankton. However, many have been keen to look out for them - with hundreds of sightings off the Inner Hebrides during recent weeks. The BBC website carries this story while The Field has a feature on the great white shark in British waters.

Scottish Islands Explorer - usually looks towards land

Monday, 21 December 2015

Industrial or Ecclesiastical?

When viewed from a distance this building takes on an almost industrial appearance. It is, of course, a church and it's the one on the Orkney island of Egilsay. The photograph comes from the website of Marc Calhoun and some striking close-ups are available from the Around Rousay site.

Scottish Islands Explorer - not easily mistaken

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Top Choices

In third place come the Western Isles; in second is Shetland; and in the top spot for preferences is ... Orkney. Take a look at the BBC website for the reasons given for residence in these parts of Scotland, Then go to Rude and Silly (from which these photographs of Yesnaby originate - thanks for the correction in Comment!) for a compilation of Northern Isles' unusual place names to attract or repel. The image below, from DeviantArt should be a decider if there's any doubt.

Scottish Islands Explorer - plenty of other islands from which to choose

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Shooting Stars and Lights

The combination of shooting stars that were prolific at the beginning of the week and of the Aurora Borealis gave some magnificent displays over Shetland. Adrian Taylor was at Tingwall Loch and shot this photograph of the stars and Northern Lights that features in Shetland News.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to combine items and images

Friday, 18 December 2015

Hospitality and Heritage

The Court of Session in Edinburgh has decided in favour of an application for Lews Castle in Stornoway to be developed as a centre for hospitality and heritage. The details are to be found in The Scotsman: some insights into an earlier proposal for a Gaelic Museum are with Culture24 with their photograph above; and an oversight was provided by the late Adrian Warren below and is available, with other aerial images for which he was responsible, from the Last Refuge Photographic Archive.

Scottish Islands Explorer - new issue in shops today; with subscribers soon

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Fair Isle Saga

The saga involving the Fair Isle knitwear designer and producer, Mati Ventrillion, and the Chanel fashion house has been well-aired recently. The photograph above comes from while the one below is from her own website. However, for some stunning images of the island and its iconic products go to Bloomberg News.

Scottish Islands Explorer - not known for plagarism

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

From the Poet's Garden

The village of Garyvard in south-east Lewis has an evocative name that derives from 'the poet's garden'. It was home to Neil Macleod who has recently received the British Empire Medal for services to crofting and the community. The place is featured on the Hebridean Connections website and the person in the Stornoway Gazette. Neil attended the former primary school at Kershader which is now part of the Ravenspoint Centre (below), a thriving centre for community activity and associated with Ravenspoint Press, the publisher of Scottish Islands Explorer magazine.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always on the look-out for connections

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

C'est Un Caisson

A 'caisson' is a watertight structure made of reinforced concrete that is used in the foundation work of piers, docks and sea installations and it derives from the French word for a large chest or box. The one pictured here is the Caisson Phoenix at Arromanches-Les-Bains. The one featured in The Orcadian is to defend the Churchill Barriers, Orkney, and is ready to be deployed when the weather permits.

Scottish Islands Explorer - foundations laid every other month

Monday, 14 December 2015

Shetland Pyrotechnics

Here is a shot of the fireworks above the Clickminin Broch, Shetland, taken by Austin Taylor on Saturday evening. The broch that dates back to the Late Bronze Age of the 7th or 6th Centuries BC was excavated in 1861-2 and again between 1953-57. Further Iron Age and early First Millennial defence extensions were discovered. It was the venue for Winter pyrotechnics.

Scottish Islands Explorer - eventually many copies go up in smoke

Sunday, 13 December 2015

High and Holy

Mullach Mor, the 1030' highest point on Holy Island, off Arran, is a 'Marilyn' and certainly worth the climb. The blog of Neil Stewart gives information, insights and images of the island.

Scottish Islands Explorer - considers the high and holy, low and light

Saturday, 12 December 2015

A Hundred an Hour?

Britain is currently passing through a Geminid Meteor Shower and its highlight will be on Monday 14 December when up to a hundred meteors an hour could be visible. The details are in the Stornoway Gazette, but the phenomenon is not confined to the Outer Hebrides.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tell others about it ... and the shower!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Support For The Storr

Here's an iconic mountain that stands alone. However, aspects of The Storr, on Skye, need protecting and this is, as the BBC website indicates, being gained. The photograph by Stephen Emerson will certainly attract much support and more details are to be found about it at TrekEarth.

Scottish Islands Explorer - needs support from subscribers and purchasers, too

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Bronze Age Back

You can sense the timeless appeal of Tresness, Sanday, in the Orkney group. People have not changed significantly in their outlook as recent surprise researches have discovered.

Archaeologists walking out to a far part of the beach almost stumbled over the remains of 14 houses in a Bronze Age settlement dating back to the second millennium BC. The more recent buildings below show that modern settlers followed the ancient settlers. Read the account of discovery in The Orcadian.

Scottish Islands Explorer - sells for bronze and silver coins plus paper money

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Differing Valuations

It's not difficult to see why Great Berneray, Isle of Lewis, is being contested, from this view of Bosta Beach. The tale is like something from a James Bond novel and deserves to be. Read the Daily Telegraph item to find out what happened and how things are being resolved ... with difficulty.

Scottish Islands Explorer - sold at £3.95; valued at ... ?

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Happy Landings

We return to the Out Skerries Airport for the third time in consecutive days, in the company of Helen Iliffe-Adsett. She provided this account on Facebook yesterday: 

'We've flown in and out of Skerries several times. Although there's never been an incident we came close once with a full plane and almost no breeze- the pilot needs a head wind to get lift, and I was in the front watching the end of the runway and the sea getting closer and closer! He eventually pulled up at what seemed like the last second but had probably about 30ft to spare which is a lot in these circumstances. If the weight is too much and no wind the passenger load has to be split otherwise he won't reach enough speed and lift in the runway length. There is the sea at one and a hill at the other neither of which we wish to make contact with. The procedure involves half the passengers are taken to the nearest island of Whalsey where the runway is longer, drop them off, go back for the rest then pick up his first drop on the way to Tingwall on the mainland. We volunteer quite often to be dropped at Whalsey. The wildlife nearby is worth watching and there's a club there where you can get a drink. One day there was a wedding reception in the club and we were invited in and given drinks while we waited. Oh the memories! And I take my hat off to all the guys who fly in and out of these islands. They do a fantastic job often under difficult circumstances. Good work and thank you!'

Scottish Islands Explorer - picks up and drops off readers

Monday, 7 December 2015

Shorter ... By Far

Yesterday's item on the Out Skerries Airport led to research. A claim that the runway on Saba, a Dutch Caribbean island, is the shortest in the world for commercial service needs to be challenged. It is 1299' long compared with the 1214' of the Skerries in the Shetland group. Experience a landing there through YouTube.

Scottish Islands Explorer - at least a long read

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Fire Cover Needed

The population of the Out Skerries, Shetland, has fallen recently from 70 to around 40. Demand for flights is, of course, down, but more significant is that fire cover for aircraft flights is only occasionally available. The number of scheduled flights will be reduced from two per week to zero until the presence of fire-crews is assured. Shetland News has the full story. At 370 metres in length, this is Scotland's shortest runway and some sources claim it to be the world's shortest. This will be researched.

Scottish Islands Explorer - likes to see links maintained and renewed

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Success of Pairc Trust

The Pairc Trust, Isle of Lewis, had every reason to celebrate yesterday when a 13-year wait was over and its contested community buyout completed. 400 crofters and residents are now the owners of 28,000 acres, eleven crofting townships and an extensive coastline. The former owner, Barry Lomas of Leamington spa, received £500k; those behind the eventually successful bid showed 'vision, resolve and sustained effort'. The Herald carries more details.

Scottish Islands Explorer - its back office is situated on the estate

Friday, 4 December 2015

Jurassic Island

Phenomena on Skye have ways of standing out - from Neist Point Lighthouse to creatures that feature on the landscape. It's known as 'Jurassic Island' and a vivid BBC Earth website takes a closer look.

Scottish Islands Explorer - focuses from geological to current events

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Walk on the Wild Side

South Uist has two distinct sides. The Atlantic shore, its settlements and roads are something of a west side story. To the east, it's mainly wild. The MBA maintains a bothy at Ushinish and reaching it involves a trek through uninhabited country - details of which are given in a lavishly-illustrated walkhighlands item.

Scottish Islands Explorer - loves going to extremes

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Keep Watching

The summer image of Maeshowe above, by Victor Reijs, and the photograph on a clear day from Infinite Scotland shows the entrance to the massive burial cairn in Orkney. You can see views from outside and of the interior during daylight hours, thanks to the Maeshowe Webcam Site.

Scottish Islands Explorer - on show day and night

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Whale Island

The population of Whalsay, Shetland, has increased steadily over the years - with over a thousand living on the so-called 'Bonnie Island'. Its real name derived from 'Whale Island' and the large creatures associated with it have now been replaced with capacious fishing vessels. Here in Symbister, the Pier House is linked with the once thriving and extensive Hanseatic League. Full details are to be found on the Undiscovered Scotland website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - discovers as well