Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Another Needing Residents

One of our readers responded to yesterday's Fair Isle appeal for new residents to voice concerns for the eighth largest of the Shetland group, Papa Stour. The population has slumped from a 19th Century high of 360 to either just above or below single figures. There are residencies waiting for occupants. The island's heyday for numbers was when there was a demand for herring, but no refrigeration. Consequently the processing plants had to be close to the fishing-grounds. The pier now awaits arrivals; the airstrip functions; the school mothballed; the church intact.

Scottish Islands Explorer - encourages settlers as well as explorers

Monday, 29 June 2015

New Harbour and Home?

If you are looking for a new harbour and home ... for the next phase of your life ... then consider what Fair Isle has to offer. The population has fallen to 55 and a plan to attract ten new residents over the next three to five years - 'Securing Fair Isle's Future' - has been launched. Find out more through the websites of the BBC and The Press and Journal . Improved ferry services from the North Haven (above) are proposed and increased trade for the Fair Isle Shop (below) will result.

Scottish Islands Explorer - where the magazine started, on 2 January 2000

Sunday, 28 June 2015

St Magnus Scan

This image of St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, at sunset shows it reflecting the final rays of light of the day. From next week it will be laser scanned to give opportunities of observing many more aspects of the intricate 12th Century building. Exterior and interior states of the fabric as well as seldom seen architectural features will be revealed. Discover more through The Orcadian.

The interior view of the Cathedral by Cody Duncan indicates how strongly an interior can be presented when the light is right.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has a digital version through pocketmags


Saturday, 27 June 2015

A Singular Achievement

Raasay is obviously special and attracts those with singular interests - such as the construction of Calum's Road. One man who falls into this category is island resident, Andrew Gillies, who was named in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. He served as a special constable on Raasay for 36 years and his achievement is featured in the West Highland Free Press.

Scottish Islands Explorer - attracts people with special interests

Friday, 26 June 2015

Fast and Furious

The religious festival of Ramadan means fasting from food for the hours of daylight. As it falls in June / July that puts pressure on the lifestyles of devotees who live in the higher reaches of the northern hemisphere. Think of the extent of daylight in Shetland, for example. Consumption is, understandably fast and furious after sunset and supermarkets in those areas of Britain with a high density of Muslims report a trade in food comparable with the December and New Year period. The BBC website carries more information.

Scottish Islands Explorer - food for thought at all hours

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Largest and Least

Yesterday's blog presented a question concerning the largest of the Scottish islands never to have been inhabited. The ever-resourceful, Andy Strangeway - 'The Island Man' - (below)  soon responded with a number of contenders and the one that hits the top-spot in this category is

Seaforth Island which is wedged, 712' high, between the sides of Loch Seaforth on the Lewis / Harris boundary. It's 675 acres in extent and despite two ruins it has not had permanent residents during recorded history. The winds that are funnelled through the fjord-like landscape create difficult waters for access despite the proximity of the shores. So little wonder that with poor soil it is the largest island with the least number of permanent residents - nil.

Scottish Islands Explorer - enjoys facts and figures, concepts and characters

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

No Residents Recorded

Switha, Orkney, consists of 101 acres and a highest point of 95'. Sheep live off its land, but there has been no permanent human settlement here in recorded history. However, there are references to it in the Norse sagas and Neolithic men left two standing stones. A problem is access, with the tidal races in the Sound of Hoxa. It would be interesting to know which is the largest Scottish island never to have had residents.

Scottish Islands Explorer - residents make readers

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Distress Calls

This image of the farmhouse on Calve Island in the south-eat of Tobermory Bay, Sound of Mull, looks idyllic enough. However on Monday 1 June the yacht below (photographed by the Tobermory lifeboat) was in trouble there and was towed to safety by the RNLI. Then just before midnight on Friday 19 June another yacht put out a distress call there with two adults and four children on board. The report is on the BBC website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has never featured Calve Island

Monday, 22 June 2015

A Monday Bagging

Mondays sometimes have that daunting feeling - just as harvesting seabirds and collecting eggs on the formidable sea-stacks of St Kilda must have meant to those local men - the Hiortaich - who went there to work. Two men completed what is for them a pastime - climbing all 1556 'Marilyns' in the UK - on a venture to St Kilda on a Monday - 13 October 2014. It's late, but great news, and can still be seen in detail on the BBC Website.

Scottish Islands Explorer - contains many items that do not date

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Go Eynhallow

The population of Eynhallow, between Orkney Mainland and Rousay, declined from 26 to zero, from the 1841 Census to the one ten years later. The church (below), which had probably been a monastery, dates from the 12th Century and the myths about the island of 75 hectares still resonate in local folklore, in general, and about the Finfolk, in particular. There is only one regular ferry service and that's an annual trip organised by the Orkney Heritage Society. This year's excursion is on Wednesday, 15 July and tickets go on sale on Thursday 2 July. It is usually over-subscribed. For more details of the island go to an account by Sean McLachlan and for an in-depth study go to The Eynhallow Landscape Project of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Scottish Islands Explorer - likes windows of opportunity to visit

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Killers Off St Kilda

People are understandably drawn to watching killer whales, especially when the Orcinus orca are in pods, and to visiting remote islands, especially off the Scottish coast. Several companies meet the needs of whale-watchers and island-baggers. Kilda Cruises has a crew member, Malcolm Campbell, who has shot memorable video footage of a pod of about ten off St Kilda; a photographer on a Seatrek voyage focused on the above; and someone sailing with Northern Light Charters captured these light and dark effects in the St Kilda archipelago.

Scottish Islands Explorer - watches and bags the extraordinary

Friday, 19 June 2015

Castaway Appeal

To the south of South Rona is Garbh Eilean, a tidal island, but to the west, beyond Acarsaid Mhor (above) is Eilean Garbh and this islet is both uninhabited and permanently cut off. It will become a temporary home to Claire Calder, from Applecross, and her two small dogs. Wild camping and self-sufficiency will see them through this castaway experience in aid of the Scottish Burned Children's Club. A prospective campsite on Eilean Garbh (below) was selected, survey and photographed by Bill Cowie, the island manager of South Rona.

Claire's daughter, aged 8 in 2002, suffered 50% burns in a camping accident while away from her Kyle of Lochalsh home and this organisation, as well as hospital staff, family and friends, gave her tremendous support. She is now 21 years of age. Full details are here at Scribd and you will be able to follow matters directly on the Isle of Rona Log.

Scottish Islands Explorer - casts itself away every eight weeks

Thursday, 18 June 2015

New Issue Today

It's the 1500th consecutive day of my publishing this blog and the first day in the shops for the July / August 2015 issue of Scottish Islands Explorer magazine. The contents range from ancient relics, like the Fossil Tree on Mull described by Roger Butler, to places of recent historical interest, such as Ness Battery, Orkney, visited by Steve Roberts. Fiction features - with an item on Kerrera, the inspiration of the latest novel by Mavis Gulliver, and an article by Vivien Martin entitled Islands of Adventure which considers how writers have been drawn to off-shore settings. The cover photographs are by Roger Butler and Ben Buxton. There's also an offer for readers taking out two- or three-year subscriptions of Peter Edwards' The Hebrides published by Cicerone at £18.95 for free.

Scottish Islands Explorer - my 32nd edition since taking over in 2010

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Three Days to Vote

Voting closes on Friday 19 June for a poll of public support for the Sanday Development Trust in its seeking of funds to promote Skills & Opportunities. This island in the Northern Group of Orkney has much to offer by way of facilities, infrastructure and, of course, scenery. A problem is the three-hour ferry journey to Kirkwall to attend the local college. Details of what is being offered are available in The Orcadian.

Scottish Islands Explorer - encourages the skill of magazine reading

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Pricing of Power

The last few years have seen changes to this remarkable island estate at Eilean Aigas, Inverness. Its houses have been renovated and the prospects of a sumptuous lifestyle created. See The Times for earlier details and an asking price of £15 million.

Then take a look at the recent Daily Telegraph and The Herald items where a figure in excess of £3 million is being featured ahead of a prospective September auction. One reason for the dramatic slump is the route of overhead power-lines and 'super-pylons'.

Scottish Islands Explorer - consistent pricing for comparable years

Monday, 15 June 2015

Colourful Calling

Last Saturday saw the cruise ship AIDAluna calling at Hatson Pier, Kirkwall, when over 2000 passengers were offered the opportunity of exploring at least parts of Orkney. Its journey from Kiel, Germany, incorporated a visit to Iceland and the brightening of a dull summer weekend for those able to see the vessel. For a Monday mental escapade go to AIDA and enjoy something of a ship.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to brighten dull days as well

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Blog the Broch

A new phase of the archaeological season begins on Orkney tomorrow. An overview is available through The Orcadian and the inside story can be accessed via The Cairns Project Blog.

Scottish Islands Explorer - from one blog to another

Saturday, 13 June 2015


Take a look at the image and details of Ui Church, near Stornoway, and consider whether it has any benefits as the venue for a wedding. St Columba's, as it it also known, was the setting for the special day for one couple and congregation who were ready for weather of a type well-known since the church's construction in the 14th Century. See and read more in the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Islands Explorer - also likes special places

Friday, 12 June 2015

Piloting Required

This pilot whale was stranded in the Kyle of Durness. On Wednesday another came ashore on a beach, Dingieshowie, on the east side of Orkney Mainland. It received assistance and an account in The Orcadian.

Scottish Islands Explorer - requires piloting every other month

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Fathom Top to Bottom

Go to the top of the country and work out what has happened below with a new publication, A Photographic Guide to Shetland's Geology. It's another penetrating guide from the Shetland Times in which the different dimensions of the past are revealed.

Scottish Islands Explorer - peels back the surfaces and stratum

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Boats, Bikes & Brians

Two Orkney men, both called Brian, have set off on an 800-mile charity bike-ride around the Highlands & Islands hoping to raise thousands of pounds for the RNLI. Their 12-day venture will take in 18 lifeboat stations along their route from Shetland, the Western Isles, West Coast of Scotland and back to Orkney. We wish them all the best and a safe journey. To see the full story visit The Orcadian.

Scottish Islands Explorer - rescues island stories

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Normal Service

Thanks to Ruth Fairbrother for this Uist Dreams image

In the words of the old television transmission card - 'Normal Service Will Be Resumed As Soon As Possible.' John finds himself unexpectedly in hospital.

Scottish Islands Explorer - resting awhile ahead of next week's new issue

Monday, 8 June 2015

Start Week With 'Show

What better way to start the week than with a slideshow entitled 'Beautiful Islands' from the Stornoway Gazette? It's that time of the lightest of evenings and earliest of dawns.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always ready for images and items

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Romney Tweed?

There may be only two sheep photographed here on a wet day on Romney Marsh, Kent. However, this area has the highest density of sheep in Britain and there are plans to make creative use of one of their by-products. An article in the Financial Times outlines plans for a new cottage industry to produce tweed in the same way as in the Western Isles. Will it weave the same spell? Click on for an interesting read.

Scottish Islands Explorer - a limited number of islands off the Kent coast

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Lewis Laser Beam

When volcanoes erupt, as in Iceland during 2010, the effects are to be found a great way off. Air travel can be disrupted as dangers grow. There is a proposal, outlined in the Stornoway Gazette, to build a laser tracker in Lewis to monitor the ash and enable planes to proceed safely.

Scottish Islands Explorer - detecting changes below, not above

Friday, 5 June 2015

Taste Our Best

For those ready to eat on a NorthLink Ferries service there is a treat in store - acknowledged by VisitScotland. The 'Taste Our Best' Award - for the provision of local food and drink - was presented to the ferry company. Savour the item in The Orcadian.

Scottish Islands Explorer - dishes details at a bi-monthly print feast

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Stop, Stot!

The bullock which, on Tuesday evening, escaped from a Shetland field to the streets of Lerwick caused injuries to two people before being calmed by the presence of a cow. It also introduced the word 'stot' to a wider public. In Scots it refers to a young castrated ox, steer or bullock and dates back to the 18th Century. The Oxford English dictionary traces the now-archaic word to the 17th Century when it meant to bounce something against a surface or to lurch or stagger. The BBC has some film footage of the stot stotting!

Scottish Islands Explorer - word exploration sometimes in order

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Slow Boat to the Isles

Here is CalMac's MV Isle of Arran docked at Brodick. It is one of the vessels that plies between the Argyll islands on different routes. Gavin Bell outlines some of them in a Sunday Telegraph article - 'Take the Slow Boat to the Isles'.

Scottish Islands Explorer - read at various speeds

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Reviving the Past

North Ronaldsay sheep are the 'ancient of days' among breeds - for they have not been subjected to breeding programmes, at least in their natural habitat. Those who want to revive interest in them could produce something from their wool - A Yarn from North Ronaldsay - acquire a complete fleece or sheepskin products - Isle of Auskerry - or, when available, buy the 'briny, intense and mineral' meat on-line from Farmison & Co.

Scottish Islands Explorer - interests in past ways and tastes

Monday, 1 June 2015

Monday Money Matters

The road winds, the sea stretches, the hills rise ... and so, apparently, does the disposable household income of those living in the Western Isles. It was up 5.1% last year, on par with the residents of West Cumbria (the Lake District) and a tad behind the 5.2% of the Scottish Borders. The details are in The Guardian, but no reasons are given. Could it be that the scenery is attracting the wealthy-not-at-work or the rich-to-retire to these parts of the UK?

Scottish Islands Explorer - still good value with a cover price unchanged for years