Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Not Fast Food?

Last August the Guga Hunters - from among the Men of Ness - were on Sula Sgeir for the annual cull of young gannets. Their catches either repel or appeal to gourmets, but are normally savoured rather than gobbled. However, a BBC website item puts a different slant on the consumption of the 'delicacy' - namely, competition. So either read on ... or turn away now!

Scottish Islands Explorer - for lingering over

Monday, 30 December 2013


Here is a Welcome to Pairc sign and so is the news that the Scottish Land Fund has agreed to provide £230,000 to the fund to purchase the Pairc Estate, Isle of Lewis, for residents in a community buy-out. So the 26,775 acres could soon be changing hands. Here are some of the details on the BBC website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - its back office is situated at the heart of the Pairc

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Stay in Style

Among the range of places to stay are hotels, hostels, motels, guest-houses and ... lighthouses. The South Light on Fair Isle offers full accommodation and indicates that there is much to do on what is considered by some to be the most remote of Scotland's inhabited islands.

Scottish Islands Explorer - A 'far isle' where this magazine first came to life

Saturday, 28 December 2013

To the Rescue

CalMac's MV Hebrides, pictured here at Ullapool, undertook three unscheduled, additional trips this week ... on Christmas Day. To assist (perhaps, rescue) would-be passengers delayed by bad weather, it sailed on Wednesday morning from Lochmaddy (North Uist) to Uig (Skye), back to Lochmaddy and on to Tarbert (Harris). There is an irony that not a train, on the tube or overground, nor a bus moved in London, with some ten million people around, at that time.

Scottish Islands Explorer - sales of its digital issue were recorded then

Friday, 27 December 2013

The Hebridean Way

Here's an expansive Hebridean vista that reflects something of the extensive Hebridean Way which is about to be marked and, in places, constructed between now and March 2015. The footpath will be mainly based on existing tracks and, consequently, remain off-road. The cycle route will depend mainly on the road network and should have signage completed by this coming Spring. The full details are in the Stornoway Gazette, with relevant background information available from Peter Clarke's book, The Timeless Way, and current opportunities for walking experiences presented by Mick Blunt's Hidden Hebrides.

Scottish Islands Explorer - footpaths; part of our national heritage

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Ready for Next Year

Many tablet devices will have been opened yesterday and today as presents. They need connections to the internet and, if being used in the Outer Hebrides, this could well be by satellite links. However, BT has just signed contracts to bring more high-speed fibre-optic broadband services to the Western and Northern Isles by subsea cables. The details are available in low-resolution form from the BBC website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - in print and digital form

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Go ... Go

Integrity Voyages offers a free trip from Uig, on Skye, to Hirta, in the St Kilda Group. It's in the Readers' Opportunities section of the January / February 2014 issue of Scottish Islands Explorer. Now as well as going on a day-trip to an iconic and somewhat inaccessible island you can purchase and download this special and most accessible magazine today - Christmas Day. It normally retails at £3.95, but the digital version is almost 50% off at £1.99 and a year's subscription is only £9.99 instead of £24.97 for the print version. Go to PocketMags now and pick up a seasonal bargain ... with a chance to go to St Kilda. Put that new tablet to work, today!

Scottish Islands Explorer - wants you to go places

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Missed It!

Sorry that the Maeshowe Winter Solstice - of last Saturday - was missed this year, both by us and by the webcam that was temporarily out-of-action. However, the details of this special place are featured above and the live-feed from the webcam is here.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to cast light every day

Monday, 23 December 2013

Look Around

This view from the trig point on the Ascrib Islands, off Skye, seems endless and empty. The views of the house there, taken by Neil King, appear interesting from both inside and out. Do pay a visit and look around.

Scottish Islands Explorer - insular accommodation appeals

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Declining Numbers

Thinking of attending church this morning? It's unlikely that your first choice will be the Church of Scotland on Papa Stour. It's open, fulfils a role as an interpretative centre for the Shetland isle, has seen its share of attention in the past 20 years, but reflects the decline in the number of residents - now hovering between single and double numbers. Read something of the island's history and background on the Lonely-Isles website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - numbers rising steadily

Saturday, 21 December 2013

St Kilda Swim

Mention St Kilda and swimming on 21 December and Melbourne, with Australian sunshine, surf plus heat and festive celebrations, come to mind. However, featured here are plans for around Midsummer's Day when a group of enthusiasts, who swam in relay across The Minch, are planning to take the plunge off Harris and make it to Hirta. The somewhat awesome details are to be found in a Stornoway Gazette article. You would have to be a lover of water rather than on Lovers' Stone, St Kilda, to consider such a venture.

Scottish Islands Explorer - will be promoting, not participating

Friday, 20 December 2013

Watch Out

There's a need to warn fellow-members of your flock that something is up

and people are around, albeit well-hidden, in a new facility opened at the

Loch Stiapabhat Nature Reserve, Isle of Lewis. The Stornoway Gazette has the story.

Scottish Islands Explorer - ready to hide as well as to announce

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Found on Foula

Finding your way to the Post Office on Foula may not be a problem, but locating some of this remote island's places and wildlife can prove irksome. Here's a website, FoundonFoula, that could assist and certainly provides some illumination for armchair travellers.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to assist those wanting to invetigate

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Great Balls of Fire

There was a rare sighting of the phenomenon known as 'Ball Lightning' at Habost and Loch Erisort, in the South Lochs area of Lewis, on Sunday last. It is fully reported in an item in the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Habost is a few hundred yards from our back office

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Gallery of Visitors

The Western Isles present many surprises, none more so than the variety of birds that visit their shores and terrain. Look at the array of images in this Photographic Gallery presented on the BBC website. There's much to impress.

Scottish Islands Explorer - varieties of shores and terrain; people and events

Monday, 16 December 2013

Working Right Out

Working right out on Sula Sgeir demands special qualities as you see in this stimulating range of images presented by Donald Morrison in A Set on Flickr. The annual cull of guga provides meals that are savoured by some and shunned by others. The photographs in the gallery are a feast for those deprived of views of an activity on a remote British isle.

Scottish Islands Explorer - items and images collected six times per year

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Fish for Fridays?

Planning your meals for the immediate future? Then why not celebrate with the Shetland trawlermen by having fish with your festive fare? It will make a change on the next three Fridays, which will take us into the New Year. The market closes in Lerwick on Thursday, ahead of the holiday season, and already a record has been created for 2013 with over 300,000 boxes of white fish landed. The full figures are in a Shetland News item. Stocks are up to enable this 13% increase. Make it a White(fish) Christmas!

Scottish Islands Explorer - stocks are high, with a new issue on sale

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Name Dropping?

Concerned, fascinated or bemused? There's a stimulating, helpful and free internet site which provides British and world distributions and frequencies for a huge range of surnames for 1881 and 1998. It's at Public Profiler and should maintain levels of interest for both academic knowledge and personal involvement. See what's happened to your name.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to maintain a good name

Friday, 13 December 2013

Three in One

Those in Kirkwall this weekend are invited to tour the new Grammar School and the Papdale Halls of Residence At the same time, preparations are being made for the first production in the adjacent new Arts Theatre. The details of this three-in-one opening are in The Orcadian. Where in the island group would you live to require residence when attending secondary school?

Scottish Islands Explorer - plenty happening here as well

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Three To No One

The Out Skerries Secondary School closure depended on a close and casting vote. So from September next its three pupils will be boarding for the five-day school-week in Lerwick. Details are to be found on the BBC News website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - likes communities; enjoys large groups

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

New Off Skye

The West Highland Free Press presents an in-depth report on the MV Hallaig, the new ferry vessel which will be operating to Raasay and displaying some innovative technologies. Read and see what's going to happen to the ship and its destination.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to be sustainable

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A Broader Band?

Here is the beach at Ardroil, Isle of Lewis. Those strolling on it may not be aware that it's a mobile 'not-spot'. However, soon it (as well as others) may be converted into a 'hot-spot' thanks to the technology and the efforts of the Mobile Infrastructure Project that is being rolled out and which is explained in the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Island Explorer - 'not-hot' but keen to be 'on-the-spot'

Monday, 9 December 2013

Present Solution

The Mission House at Finsbay, Isle of Harris, is offering a special series of photographic prints - 96 of them - at an attractive price. Do take a look at the work of Beka Globe to see what's on offer and the opportunities presented for present-buying.

Scottish Islands Explorer - photographs in plenty on the printed page

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Islay Seen from Germany

Folkert Eilts, a German visitor to Islay, sent the island's blog a number of his photographs which are well worth seeing. There is a certain Sunday feel to them - Portnahaven, without anyone in sight, and Machair Bay with evidence of just one or two people walking.

Scottish Islands Explorer - appreciates exploring at quiet times

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Name Change

It is almost 50 years since the authorities changed the name of this lighthouse from 'North Unst' to 'Muckle Flugga'. However, the move, in 1964, could not amend its location at the northern extremity of Britain - with the ultimate piece of land beyond, Out Stack, photographed here by Terry Mooney.

Scottish Islands Explorer - goes to extremes, on occasions

Friday, 6 December 2013

Winds Can Speed

Yesterday the wind was recorded at Europie, Ness, Isle of Lewis, to be speeding at 116 mph. That's, of course, fast, but does not quite match the 134 mph gust recorded on North Rona on the night of 11 / 12 January 2005. The seas can be pounding the shores during one season and the beach, at Europie (below) can look benign within a relatively short time.

Scottish Islands Explorer - thankful the internet is not subject to weather factors

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Week Without Setting

Here's Comet Lovejoy, which is giving a treat to those Orcadians prepared to look up, for its setting is in a constant latitude throughout the rest of the week. Links and explanations are available at The Orcadian. The photograph is by Dan Burbank and was taken back in December 2011. The comet was discovered by the Australian astronomer, Terry Lovejoy, a month previously.

Scottish Islands Explorer - into orbit again within two weeks

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Appeal of August

The darkest of days will be here during the week after next. However, this photograph of Valtos by David Glenday has been selected to represent 'August' in the STV Appeal Calendar. The story appears in the Stornoway Gazette and is a reminder of one of the lighter months ahead.

Scottish Islands Explorer - appears and is read in all lights

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Along the Coast

The image, from the Kinloch Historical Society, shows the abandoned house at Valamus, along the coast of The Pairc from Mulhagery that was featured here yesterday. This account from Hebridean Connections looks back to that era when more people lived in comparable settlements and isolated houses, miles from the road, right on the highway of the sea. Take a look at Kenny Maclean, one time resident, in front of the house featured above.

Scottish Islands Explorer - pleased to be in contact with the mainstream

Monday, 2 December 2013


Two places, about a half-mile apart, never made the headlines. One is the now abandoned house at Mulhagery on the coast of The Pairc in Lewis. The Royal Mail, at one time, undertook to make deliveries there. The other is Fiar-Chreag where a Lockheed Hudson crashed in 1942. It would not, as part of war security, have been reported at the time.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has never been delivered to the house

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Tome on Thoms

A new book, Mirth, Madness and St Magnus, was launched yesterday. It's about the eccentric and wealthy bachelor, Sheriff Thoms of Kirkwall, who is credited with the restoration of St Magnus Cathedral. See what's on offer at The Orcadian website. 

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Party to Particles

A party of pupils from Shetland will be travelling to Switzerland to observe the workings of the Particle Collider. Funds to assist their trip are being raised, but information and awareness will be the purpose of a free public lecture to be given this evening by Dr Pauline Gagnon in Lerwick.

Scottish Islands Explorer - produced with many parts

Friday, 29 November 2013

Lonely and Unknown

Several lonely islands are very well-known and often visited - St Kilda, for instance. Some are, for obvious reasons, infrequently visited - like North Rona. Some are regularly, though not frequently, visited - Sula Sgeir, for example. Eilean nan Ron, featured here earlier in the week, is both relatively unknown and unvisited. The Lonely Islands website does, however, have some compelling images of the place and its derelict houses and it is well worth a visit. That is the website - for the island, off the north coast of Sutherland, is somewhat inaccessible at this time of year!

Scottish Islands Explorer - not remote and relatively known

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Weather Eye

If you are interested in the conditions on the Isle of Lewis, then a visit to Hebrides Weather is a must. The forecasting is centred on a station on the Eye Peninsula. The image above makes being transported there a delight; the one below suggests that transportation can have its drawbacks.

Scottish Islands Explorer - prepared to forecast

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Last Evacuation

The last of the Scottish islands to be evacuated was Eilean nan Roan, a 'mainland' island off the north coast of Sutherland, close to Skerry. Nine residents left 75 years ago and since 1938 it has been home to no one, at least during the winter months. The decline came quickly - for in 1881 there were 73 inhabitants, but the number had declined to 30 in 1931.So the population halved in 50 years and then diminished by two-thirds in the next eight. From certain angles, such as the camera position above, it looks like two islands joined.

Scottish Islands Explorer - readership is climbing steadily

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Hooked on Books

These rocks at Elgol, Skye, have the look of books leaning on a shelf. They may have inspired The PhotoHebrides Book Collection by Donnie Mackay. Open them up ... the website volumes, that is.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always contains a book feature

Monday, 25 November 2013

Bird, House, Following

You may recall the item on the pursuit of the Cape May Warbler which arrived unexpectedly on Unst, the most northerly of the Shetland Isles.  The full story and its background are on the Finders Report together with some images

in and around a ruined house at Hillside, Baltasound. Also covered are the parked planes which assisted some of the enthusiasts in pursuit of their sightings. It's surprising how a small flying creature can attract a number of chartered aircraft, pictured here at Unst airport.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Oh! for the wings of a dove