Thursday, 31 May 2012

Why Go South?

June approaches and the beaches, at least of the northern hemisphere, will be in demand. Those of the Med, the Adriatic and the South Coast of England may be attractive, but they do appeal to many, sometimes to too many. Why not look north, to Shetland, where five coveted awards have been given? The details are here and the picture is of Breckon Beach, Yell, which has been acknowledged consistently by Keep Scotland Beautiful since 2008.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always on the look-out

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Conference Delegates

These are not conference delegates, but are the subjects of a conference which opens on Orkney this week. Groups from various backgrounds are conferring about island sustainability and, among the topics, are the factors governing the rise and fall of ways of life on Easter Island. Talking heads awaiting standing orders, perhaps?

Scottish Islands Explorer - plenty to talk about

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Top Temperature

The Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder (above) at Lerwick was busy last weekend and came within a fraction of scoring a record high. A similar device at Baltasound, on Unst, did measure a top temperature during the recent fine weather spell. The balmy look of bays, such as the one below on the southern Mainland of Shetland, is so attractive that you would never associate them with wind, rain and darkness.

Scottish Islands Explorer - where the sun shines

Monday, 28 May 2012

Sounds Good?

There are plans to create a virtual tour of the seabed of the Sound of Barra in order to ascertain whether it should become an area of special conservation. There is disquiet in some quarters as to whether fishing could become restricted by legislation protecting the environment. The image above is of the old jetty at Eoligarry at the north end of Barra. A passenger service used to operate to South Uist before the building of the causeway to Eriskay and the establishment of a vehicular ferry from there to Barra. The disused quay is a symbol of changing trends which may, in this case, affect the sea-bed.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of changes

Sunday, 27 May 2012

'A Creative Space ...

... on the Edge of the Atlantic' - is how The Mission House Studio, Finsbay, South Harris is described. In order to appreciate this fully, go to its website and then consider the recital to be held on the Solstice, Friday 22 June. You will not be disappointed by the Finsbay area of Harris, by the Studio, the space that has been constructed within it, its contents ... nor by the forthcoming concert.

Scottish Islands Explorer - keen to create within its 50 pages

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Sea Power in Seattle

This Orkney headland shows just how much power there is in the sea. For more information and some videos of wave action go to the site of the European Marine Energy Centre, based in Stromness. One of their recent assignments is to assist in work off the North-west Pacific coast, near Seattle, where there is much energy being produced by natural forces, waiting to be harnessed.

Scottish Islands Explorer - powers already released

Friday, 25 May 2012

Jura on Islay Gallery

There should be standing room only in the Gallery of Islay Images that features, above, the evening light on the Paps of Jura from the Islay ferry. The link will take you to Sgarbh Breac in the largely unpopulated north of the island, where deer roam and a walker has both shot and captured them ... on film.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of fine photography

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Can You Blame Them?

A survey by a team from St Andrew's University Sea Mammal Research Unit has revealed that seals are no longer so prolific on the east coast of Scotland, but have become more attracted to the Western Isles. However, researchers on the Monach Isles (above) off North Uist, usually a 'hotspot', have had difficulties counting them. The seals have had to take to the sea to cool off. Who wouldn't, if resident in what looks like a series of tropical islands?

Scottish Islands Explorer - occasionally seen by seals

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Island Promotion Ladder

John Angus MacRitchie is a real islander. He was born in Stornoway and educated at Alness Acadamy, Ross-shire, before moving to Shetland's Anderson High School. He graduated in law from the University of Aberdeen and has run his own law firm in the city since 1997. He has just been appointed Chief Magistrate of St Helena . This island makes Lewis and Shetland seem mainstream, for it is remotely situated in the mid-Atlantic with, at present, no airport. It looks miniscule on maps, but is the size of the Isle of Wight and has a population of over 4000. It is part of the British Overseas Territory that includes Ascension Island and the Tristan da Cunha group. The image above is of Jacob's Ladder which links two parts of the capital, Jamestown, and that below is of a ship moored off-shore ready for passengers to be ferried to and from the harbour. The map puts the island's position into perspective, with St Helena at the apex of the triangle.

Scottish Islands Explorer - following Scots on islands

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Before the Crowds

This image of Kirkwall Main Street has been used here previously, but its caption is rather compelling - 'Before the crowds.' Yesterday saw the cruise ship, Caribbean Princess, in the harbour and this vessel has a passenger list of 3599. Not all of them would have come ashore, although some members of crew may have added to the throng. Read what The Orcadian had to say.

Scottish Islands Explorer - perhaps some copies were purchased by passengers

Monday, 21 May 2012

Pray For or Prey On?

This bullaun stone has been discovered on Canna. It probably has a long history, outlined in a Scotland on Sunday item from yesterday's edition. These stones were turned to create hollows by the faithful when they said prayers. When their thoughts were less than benign and they cursed others, they tended to grind the stones vigorously. This stone, found in the ancient graveyard, fitted into the socket of a larger one located near the Canna Cross.

Scottish Islands Explorer - production is usually a benign business

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Still Going Strong

The word Thor emerges from the dark background above as a reminder that interest continues in the Norse phase of our past. The University of the Highlands and Islands will be presenting an M.Litt course in which contemporary treatment of the coming of Viking culture here some 1200 years ago will be part. The BBC website covers some of the story.

Scottish Islands Explorer - plenty to cover

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Call for Old Orbs

There's a new orb on the block. The certification mark used on Harris Tweed cloth is old and the vintage clothing continues to be in demand. A new orb has been designed for on-line authentication. Read about it in the Stornoway Gazette, follow the impressive Harris Tweed Authority website and look out those clothes in the closet.

Scottish Islands Explorer - will be vintage ... one day

Friday, 18 May 2012

A Very Talented Postman

This was a house at Crola, always utterly remote and now completely derelict. It is at the head of Loch Resort between Lewis and Harris, on the west. It was the home of Murdo Macdonald (1907 - 1940)  who never attended school, but became an impressive scholar. The story of his life is told by Iain Smith and Murdo Maclennan in  Murdo Crola - 'A learned man and a very talented postman' - in a booklet published by the Islands Book Trust. It's a compelling account and at £5 gives good value.

Murdo is pictured below with Annabel Macleod.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to give good value

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Would Make a Plate Full

The oyster in question is not the one pictured above, but what could be the largest ever to be caught in British waters has been landed by a Shetland boat, the Fidelitas. The size was around 8", the weight some 2.5 lbs and the age of the creature has yet to be determined, although it could be decades old. For details of this enormous catch, click onto the Shetland News page.

Scottish Islands Explorer - constant in size and in its second decade

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Not Slipping Away

An historic pier on Skye has fallen into disrepair. The facilities at Meanish have deteriorated with the passage of time and changes of use, but the Glendale Trust could well be set to take control as well as bring funding to this historic feature of the island. The story is carried on the BBC website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - welcomes restoration

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Clan Currie

If you are linked in any way through names connected with 'Currie', then find out more about an event in South Uist (pictured above) on Saturday 25 August 2012. The Clan Currie Gathering will be taking place and the history of this family is worth considering. It has its origins in Ireland with Muiredach O'Daly (1180 - 1222), an outstanding poet who was forced to flee the country in 1213. Almost 800 years later his ancestors have continued the emigration trend and are to be found far and wide on a global scale. Although this occasion endeavours to bring members of one extended family together, members of the public are invited to attend.

Scottish Islands Explorer - committed to bringing people together

Monday, 14 May 2012

Wee Fea on Hoy

The 'Wee Frees' refers to the Free Church of Scotland and the 'Wee Wee Frees' to the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, but on the Orkney island of Hoy stands the now abandoned Communications Centre at Wee Fea. It overlooks the the Lyness Naval Base and played a pivotal role during World War Two. Some 400 members of the Women's Royal Naval Service - WRNS, popularly and officially known as the Wrens -  were stationed here and worked around the clock in what now appears to be a medieval fortress. In fact, Fortress Orkney gives a fine account of the area in this era and the images of the underground oil tanks here on Hoy gives something of the scale of hidden development in a strategic position.

Scottish Islands Explorer - prepared, but not to this extent

Sunday, 13 May 2012

L' Excuse Jurassic

Four French travellers reached their required destination, but had made an hotel booking error. At least they were not in the Jura Mountains (mainly in France and Switzerland, though extending into Germany), nor on the Dorset coast, and certainly not wanting a Jura coffee machine when within range of a distillery. Their story appears on the BBC website and includes one of the reasons for their visit, seeing the Corryvreckan whirlpool when at its most active.

Scottish Islands Explorer - not to be confused with other publications

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Re-creation on Lewis

Lews Castle, and the innovative couple who created it, will be the venue and subjects of a re-creation and display  next week. The details are on the website of the BBC.

Scottish Islands Explorer - the latest cover anticipated the event

Friday, 11 May 2012

One Year On

This is the 366th item to appear on the blog and so we are now one-year-old. Perhaps you could supply a treat  with a giveaway of your favourite piece from those that have featured since Wednesday 11 May 2011. The references to the topics and months are on the right. Just post in the Comments section either anonymously or with your name included. Thank you!

Scottish Islands Explorer  - the magazine itself is a teenager in years

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Low Impact; Relatively High

Gometra is at the end of the tracks, beyond but bridged to Ulva which, in turn, is linked by ferry to Mull. Here is its bridge enabling the current five residents to come and go. They are living what has been described as a 'low impact' life which, in this case, means 'doing without electricity'. The derivation of the name has two possible roots. One is from the Norse name of a 'warrior priest' which suggests somebody more robust than an ancient army chaplain; the other is from a Gaelic phrase translated as 'only at low tide'. Its summit, at 509', gives it 'Marilyn' status by nine feet, and consequently attracts followers of these classified, relatively high hills of the UK, some 1542 in number. For more details of the various classifications of high places, including those by Alan Dawson who devised the concept named after the Hollywood actress, take the easy route, by clicking here. For those whose interests advance, not as steeply as the Munros, but to the Marilyns, take a look at this relevant publication by Cicerone.

Scottish Islands Explorer - likes a climbing circulation

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Ultima Thule Uladal

There is something of the Ultima Thule about Sron Uladal in the west of North Harris. It is an immense rock buttress some 1450' high, providing a sight in itself, a natural amphitheatre and one of the world's most challenging overhangs for mountain climbers. The image below is from the north and appears on the blog Across the Minch. So there are now at least two blogs that would welcome your comments were you to have been impressed by, or in some way impacted upon, this vast piece of gneiss.

Scottish Islands Explorer - likes landmarks in watery places    

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


Serco, an international service company, has won a vital ferry contract which could be incorporated into its first and last letters - Shetland and Orkney. Details of the company and its intentions are to be found in this recent press release. Serco has much experience with shipping through its connections with the Royal Navy and with one, somewhat different, ferry service that it already operates. The image below is of the company's vehicle and passenger-carrying Woolwich Ferry across the Thames. What will be different now is the size of its ships sailing out of Aberdeen and the lack of high-rise flats or features when approaching Lerwick and Kirkwall. However, Serco has high-flying links with Shetland as it operates Scatsta Airport, mentioned in this blog last November.

Scottish Islands Explorer - will be on board

Monday, 7 May 2012

Springs on Graemsay

Graemsay may not sound the most attractive of islands, its name coming from an early occupant, Grimr, but it continues to attract 27 residents. That is, despite a school that closed in 1996, a post office with limited opening hours and dependency on delivery services from Mainland shops. Some of the residents have water piped over from Hoy and some have access to their own springs. The Spring has brought customary lambing interests and one aspect of this is outlined by Sian in her blog, Life on a Small Island, featured here four months ago.

Scottish Islands Explorer - information springs on a bi-monthly cycle

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Rockall for Royal

Coronation Day 1953 was also the occasion when the news came through that Mount Everest had been climbed for the first time and by a British Expedition. The Royal Jubilee Weekend 2012 may well bring news of the Rockall Jubilee Expedition and a landing on the islet. Read about the aspirations of Nick Hancock (pictured below by the Stornoway Gazette) and his team. He looks forward to making a subsequent attempt on the record for living / existing / surviving on this most remote piece of land within the United Kingdom's territorial waters.

Scottish Islands Explorer - covering many remote rocks

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Fara Away

Last Monday's blog featured the last couple to live on Fara, one of Orkney's South Isles. Today's presents the children of Fara School photographed, probably in 1936, with their teacher, Normah Linklater. Our prolific contributor, Richard Evans, has been in contact with three of the pupils pictured here as well as with Normah's daughter, Mary Evans. It is amazing that this image which was originally seen by a few interested parties, now is in a position to be viewed, at least potentially, by billions.

Scottish Islands Explorer - read by thousands  

Friday, 4 May 2012

Vital Returns from Vallay

When crossing to Vallay, off North Uist, care is needed to ensure that the route is sound and that the tides favour a return sooner rather than later. Many enjoy the walk (or drive) across the sands to the island, especially at this time of year when the machair flowers, but there is something of a frisson about a place where residence was until quite recently on a grand scale. Read the blog entry, available here, about Vallay and learn something of its history. The photo below was sent in by Richard Evans and is of a distinctive house on the North Uist 'mainland' beside the Vallay Strand. His suggestion of using John Bulmer's image of the brothers on Taransay led to 175 visits to this blog yesterday, a recent record.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looks forward to publishing on a grand scale

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Explaining, Not Complaining

It's getting on for 50 years since The Sunday Times (1 November 1964) covered life on Taransay in its Magazine. John Bulmer was sent on the assignment and captured its owners, Roderick and Angus Campbell, in this photograph. They 'live the life of remarkable simplicity for islanders. Neither of them married and Angus, the younger at 62, does the cooking on a magnificent old peat stove, which is cracked from end to end and occasionally lets out clouds of smoke. "We live on fish and tatties," he explained.' Richard Evans has submitted the lead for this item.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a varied diet

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Kayak to Kilda

This item in yesterday's issue of The Herald tells you something about a rather special trip to St Kilda and a lot about the British. Here is a couple ready to commemorate a crossing made some 47 years ago, preparing themselves for endurance, having to overcome physical problems, being interested in one of the more distant parts of the nation and somewhat understating the task they have set themselves.

Scottish Islands Explorer - would welcome a sale on St Kilda

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

May is for Gardens

This year has seen summery weather in March and the wettest April in a hundred years. May opened, at least in London, with steady rain. So what the western seaboard has experienced will be revealed later today. However, this all points to some fabulous colours later in the month. David and Margaret Gartside present these images of ...

Mount Stuart Gardens, Bute. For gardening enthusiasts, and those who wish to be inspired, they add their recommendations of the gardens open to the public on Arran, Colonsay, Gigha, Skye and Mull.

Scottish Islands Explorer - published for enthusiasts