Thursday, 18 September 2014

No Came Out Outcome

There was little chance of Orkney and Shetland doing other than following the instructions here. The 'No' supporters in the Western Isles were also in the majority, but by considerably less of a margin. The media made the outcome look uncertain. However, the bookmakers, Betfair, closed their books and paid out the backers of there being an all-Scotland wish to 'Stay Together' some three days ago.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Does not run a book

Changing Times

Next week will see the last of the season's cruise ships coming to Orkney when the expedition ship, the Hanseatic, docks at Stromness. It has 184 passengers and is certainly one of the smaller vessels on the routes to the Northern Isles. Next year there are five visits planned for a 4,300-carrying giant - for details see The Orcadian. How the Hanseatic League merchants operating between the 12th - 18th Centuries would have been bemused at these prospects.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Aware of the North Sea's carrying potential

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Looking for Scalpay?

These seals are looking at you and you may be looking for Scalpay. There are two to choose from - the bridged one from Harris or the off-shore island from Skye. The latter is surprisingly large at some 10 square miles and has its own website and photo gallery.

There is accommodation available and the Garden Cottage interior does look most inviting.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Choosing the right island

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Corncrakes Return

Corncrake numbers have soared in Orkney and the place which has attracted most is Westray, where 16 males have been reported by RSPB Scotland this summer. Details appear in a BBC website item. The island has 17 sandy beaches that appeal to humans, but why the birds have been flocking is possibly explained by a change in farming practices.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Also calls from island settings

Monday, 15 September 2014

Follow the Cravadale Trail

The 2014 Isle of Harris Mountain Festival is taking place this week and on Saturday 20 September there will be a Community Walk from Amhuinnshuidhe to Hushinish via the spectacular Glen Cravadale. Better to go in person, but you can follow, electronically, in the footsteps of the Schools Hebridean Society taken in 1965, with one member supplying the photograph above,  or

in the company of Marc Calhoun who describes his walk and took the above photo from the top of Scarp or

with advice from Scottish Hills and their image of a once permanently-inhabited house en route. Be warned that this route is so well documented here through these links that work may have to be put on hold until the walk is completed!

Scottish Islands Explorer - leading you astray on a Monday morning

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Levels of Accommodation

Scarba, to the north of Jura, is 3,642 acres in extent and rises to 1,473'. In the 18th Century it was home to some 14 families, but since the 1960s is inhabited only occasionally. Places to stay range from Kilmory Lodge (above) - if you know the owners - to

a bothy used by an adventure school and to the hi-tech, though basic, ways of camping. The place obviously suited some of the earlier residents with tales of longevity indicating ages up to an unauthenticated one of 140. The ways of access are complicated by several factors, including the

Corryvreckan Whirlpool to the south and the Grey Dogs tidal race to the north. However, once there the levels of accommodation are clear - from the spartan to the sheltered to the solid.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Aiming for longevity

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Eye Birds' View

The facilities at the Papa Westray airstrip are limited, but seen clearly by passengers as well as by birds. The sea close to Moclett Pier on 'Papa' may not appeal to passengers, but is home-from-home to the island's birds. There is, this afternoon, the chance to view some 500 models or interpretations of birds, eye-to-eye at a display in the old coastguard hut on North Hill. Read about the Orkney Seabird Heritage Project in The Orcadian.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Taking close-up views whenever possible

Friday, 12 September 2014

Red Roof; Warm Welcome

Whether approached from the landward side, with Jura stretching out behind you to the south, or from the sea, with Scarba in the north to the stern, the Mountain Bothies Association dwelling at Glengarrisdale is a welcome sight. It was once a small settlement, but is visited now by outdoor enthusiasts, those interested in the history of the Macleans and the estate gamekeepers. Let Marc Calhoun take you on his journey to this outpost.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Here the emphasis is on the explorer

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Quite a Catch(er)

What is now largest trawler in Scotland, the Researcher, is in Shetland waters having recently been refitted and extended by 7.8 metres. It will be based in Whalsay, but is pictured below in

Lerwick, next to the Shetland Catch facility where its 78.5 metres becomes evident. What a change there has been in storage space since the distant days of the Hanseatic League, at its most successful in the Middle Ages, and its bod or trading booth (not built until the 18th Century) in the harbour at Symbister, Whalsay.

Scottish Islands Explorer - At present requires bod-sized storage

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Isay Isolated

Isay, between Dunvegan Head and Waternish in the west of Skye, had a population of 90 and a street of 18 houses in 1841. Everyone had been evicted within 20 years.

The main building (below) was the scene of a series of murders in the early 16th Century when Roderick MacLeod of Lewis disposed of two entire families at the culmination of a family meal.

Two 'trips' are available from this Isay item - in a manner of speaking. The top photograph comes from the the gallery of Skye Light Images and the bottom image was taken by Marc Calhoun whose well-illustrated blog takes you a little further afield along the West Coast.

Scottish Islands Explorer - Where isolation is in demand