Monday, 22 December 2014

Size Up on Shillay

Sunset from Leverburgh shows how the conical Pabbay (also below) stands out in the Sound of Harris. To its right is Shillay - from the Norse for 'seal island'. Around 100 - 150 grey seals are born here annually, but Hamish Haswell-Smith notes in his The Scottish Islands how Martin Martin was particularly impressed, in 1695, by the largest horns he had ever seen on sheep. In 1946 a lobster was found nearby with the following dimensions - length 35"; circumference 15.5", cutting edge of scissors claw 7.5", empty shell weight 10.75 lbs. Something in the water?

Scottish Islands Explorer - appears as a consistent 52-page-size magazine

Sunday, 21 December 2014

60 Degrees North

Lea Gardens, West Shetland Mainland, was started in the early 1980s and now occupies two acres with 1500 different species from all over the world. It is planted to maintain all-year round interest and is famed, at least locally, for its shelter. An item in Shetland News puts its conditions of this December into context. The image below, from the Gardens, is an appropriate reminder that once today - with the fewest hours of daylight, especially at 60 degrees north - is over, then Summer Is Icumen In ... eventually.

Scottish Islands Explorer - planning for future seasons

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Off to Oz

From Village Bay, St Kilda towards St Kilda, Victoria, or even Kangaroo Island, Australia, was one of many routes taken by emigrants. Bill Lawson, of Northton, South Harris, has recently published his 73rd book - on islanders going to other parts of the world.

Scottish Islands Explorer - ready to follow routes and readers

Friday, 19 December 2014

Back from Beyond

The image of Haltadans Stone Circle requires explanation - to be found at the Fetlar Aerial Photography Blog - and a certain imagination to picture a ring of dancing trolls around a fiddler and his wife. Moving on from what was probably the Early Bronze Age to the present day and we have another circular shape - in the form of a CD. It is produced by the Haltadans music group of fiddlers anchored by guitar and bass. They were formed in 2012, went last year to Foula as part of the Back from Beyond project and have now released a recording of their music. Discover more through Shetland News.

Scottish Islands Explorer - goes beyond and gets back every other month

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Waders Galore

The Redshank stands out on the stone; the Lapwing is camouflaged in the machir. North and South Uist are apparently the places to see British farmland waders with some 9000 pairs taking advantage of the islands' lack of predators. The Stornoway Gazette carries a report on these birds by RSPB Scotland.

Scottish Islands Explorer - would welcome a comparable number of new readers

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Sunsets Staggered

Someone once pointed out to me that the term 'Shortest Day' is misleading as all days are the same in terms of time. Yesterday matters became more complicated when I was told about the variations in the Solar Day. This refers to the length of time between sunrise and sunset. Apparently it is not consistent at both ends - so that we are now at the point when the earliest sunsets occur. From tomorrow the evenings will begin to draw out, although the sun will be rising later to give the 'shortest periods of daylight' on 21 December. Add to this the differences in latitude and longitude and the picture becomes even more varied. Sunset times today are as follows:  Penzance 16.20; Ipswich 15.44; Stornoway 15.34; Lerwick 14.56. Puzzled? Then just enjoy seeing the sun setting (above) at Scatness, Shetland, from the photoblog at Phatsheep Photography.

Scottish Islands Explorer - to be viewed from times of daylight to candlelight

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Long Coast; Large Map

The Sumburgh coastline at the south of Shetland Mainland is extensive. However, it did not prepare a householder for the dimensions of a map discovered in the cellar of his home at Sand Lodge. It measures 5' x 15'. Read about this 75-square-feet of cartography at Shetland News.

Scottish Islands Explorer - produced in more manageable proportions

Monday, 15 December 2014

Wild About Wildcats

These Scottish Wildcats may look tame enough, but they are a threatened species. National Lottery funding has set aside almost £1 million to help preserve them in six specific sites. An island close to Morvern - one of the six designated areas - where efforts have previously been made to protect them is Carna, in Loch Sunart. Read the details about the funding on the BBC website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - not a threatened publication

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Weather Bomb

These two images from Orkney are indicators of calm conditions. For the past week the elements have been anything but benign. The BBC website video clip of a so-called 'weather bomb' is a reminder of what happens when natural forces encounter man-made objects.

Scottish Islands Explorer - will hit the streets and doormats this coming week.

Saturday, 13 December 2014


Vatersay is linked by causeway to Barra and Uinessan is a tidal island accessed from the north-east of Vatersay with views across to Castlebay. The ruin of St Brendan's Chapel (above) is still evident, just, and tales of Mary of the Heads, buried nearby, remain in circulation. Discover more by reading the informative blog and seeing the impressive photographs presented by Marc Calhoun.

Scottish Islands Explorer - not tide-dependent