Tuesday, 29 May 2007

West Side excursion

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity for a drive round the West Side of Lewis. The result was a good collection of pictures, some of which I would like to share.

Old crofthouse at Brue

The Arnol Blackhouse

North Shawbost

Dalbeg and its loch

Beyond Dalbeg's stack

Roineabhal near Balallan as seen from the Pentland Road at 7.30pm

Sunset near Grimshader

Windturbines on the Arnish Moor

The last picture does not convey the sound made by the farthest turbine, which was rotating at the time. I took the sunset picture near Loch Orasay, a mile to the south, and could still hear the hum of the generator. Imagine the sound when all three turbines are working; imagine the sound made by 180 turbines... Who said windturbines were quiet? The visual impact is of course the greatest.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Cruise woe

The cruiseliner season started a week ago, and it's hitting a spot of bother. A gentleman on board a liner off Edinburgh became unwell with stomach trouble, and needed to go to hospital. Unfortunately, the normal procedure could not be carried out. By normal procedure I mean: transfer him into a small boat and take him ashore. Why? He weighed 203 kg (447 lb), so a Sea King helicopter was drafted in, as that machine can lift 21,000 lb.

Here in Stornoway, we found ourselves playing host to 270 cruise passengers off the German liner Astor. Noticed that ship hovering just outside port early on Monday, ferrying its passengers ashore in tenders for tours of the island. When said tours were over, the passengers were unable to return to the Astor. The tenders could not safely take them on board as a result of strong tides, high winds and bad weather.

Local hotels sprang into the breach and provided lunch for the wet, miserable and hungry cruiseparty. As the weather nosedived into a full gale with driving rain through the afternoon, dinner was laid on and an appeal broadcast on local radio for anyone with a bed going spare. The town responded and all passengers could sleep in a proper bed.

Early this morning, the weather had calmed down sufficiently for tenders to take the German tourists back to their ship, and just before 10, Astor sailed direct for Rosyth, skipping its intermediate stop at Invergordon. One Austrian couple expressed their gratitude to the people of the town and were deeply impressed with the show of Hebridean hospitality.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Scottish Islands Network, now a Federation

I copy a communication I received today from the Scottish Islands Federation, formerly the Scottish Islands Network.

The Scottish Islands Network is undergoing important changes in the aftermath of the ESIN conference in Islay in November 2006. This will allow the network to develop and become a more representative body, on a par with other European islands organisations.

This is why it is changing its status from network to federation. From now on it will be called the “Scottish Islands Federation” (SIF).

SIF aims to develop a broad and inclusive membership from all Scottish Islands, and is working towards securing core funding to deliver its objectives.

To help SIF make these changes, and to ensure that the organisation meets your needs and expectations, we would like to ask you for your feedback through this questionnaire.

This will help us plan our inaugural conference which is scheduled to take place later on this year.

If you know anyone else who you think would like to comment, please pass the questionnaire on.

The questionnaire can be found on the Scottish Islands Network website at www.scottishislands.org.uk. Completed questionnaires should be returned to the email address at the bottom of this post (AL).

Thank you for your help.

Camille Dressler
Steering group,
The Scottish Islands Federation
Email: camille (dot) d (at) talk21 (dot) com
Please replace (dot) with . and (at) with @ before using.

NOTE: I would like to invite the newly elected Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in particular to adopt an active role in this invaluable body. Sharing information on a platform like the SIF is for the good of ALL Scottish islanders, cuts red tape and costs.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Sunrise, sunset

Monday's times for sun and moon to rise and set at Lerwick seem to suggest that Shetland has gravitated to the Antipodes. Could any of the Shetland bloggers confirm they are now basking on a beach in Tahiti?

Information from Press & Journal, 14 May 2007

Eastern windfarms

The villagers of Gravir were balloted on the proposed landing station for the Interconnector, which will carry all the power generated by the Lewis windfarms to the National Grid. Of the 82 people approached, 58 responded. 44 of those expressed opposition. I don't think it's a case of NIMBY'ism, actually.

There is one other point that many people appear to forget. The Lewis Windfarm is not just the one from Ness down the West Side to Stornoway. A pretty large development is also proposed, and likely to be approved by the new Executive (more on that later), for the Eishken Estate. From a visual impact point, these 500 ft high turbines will be visible up and down the east coast of Lewis AND Harris. As well as spoiling the best mountain scenery in the Western Isles around the Clisham. I also have to mention that the Park Estate is lined up for a community windfarm, with turbines of a similar size to that in Eishken.

The Scottish Executive looks set to become an SNP minority administration, supported by the Green Party for good measure. What that is likely to lead to does not require rocket science to work out. The Lewis windfarms stand to be rubberstamped by the new administration. I'll refrain from making party political statements.

Visit to Bute

Last week, during my foray off Lewis, I had occasion to visit the Isle of Bute. Was a bit unfortunate with the weather, in that it rained during the first 3 hours, but had some decent sunshine later on.

Standing Stones at Kingarth

Approaching the southern end of Bute

View of Glen Rosa, Arran


The Serpentine, Rothesay

Monday, 14 May 2007

Benefits of windfarms

Today, it was drawn to my attention that the sale of houses in Lewis could suffer a setback because of the windfarm. Although a final decision is yet to be made by the Scottish Executive, potential buyers are experiencing cold feet when they see the visual impact that the 500 ft high turbines are going to make. One buyer, who was thinking of erecting a house in the area where the windfarm is due to be sited, indicated that he was seriously considering pulling out of the project. A visual impact study was enough to put him off. Selling houses is also going to be a problem, as was shown in Ayrshire several months ago. The presence of a turbine on a ridge behind an otherwise beautifully located farmhouse made it practically unsellable. So much for the economic benefits.

The other is the much-underrated problem of noise-pollution. When in operation, there is a distinct hum and swishing noise as the turbine blades move through the air. I attended a meeting about the windfarms back in April 2005, when an expert on the subject swept the problem under the carpet, saying a windturbine only added 10 dB to background noise. Methinks it's rather more - I've heard figures of 30 to 40 dB quoted, but that is unsubstantiated and would warrant further research.

Napier Report on-line

In the 1880s, Lord Napier conducted an investigation into the conditions that cottars and crofters found themselves in, in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Excessive rents, insecurity of tenure and summary evictions were the main complaints, which gave rise to civil unrest. The rising at Braes, Isle of Skye, prompted the establishment of a Royal Commission by Prime Minister William Gladstone.

Its findings have now been published on the Net by Lochaber College Mallaig. I would like to thank Westword, the monthly paper for Mallaig and area, for bringing this to general attention. The report is published as five PDF-files, which require Acrobat Reader to be installed on your computer. LCM is hosting the files on the servers of the UHI Millennium Institute, as they could not cope with the volume of traffic themselves.

Saturday, 12 May 2007


The cruiseliners have started to arrive with a vengeance: TWO in port this Saturday (12th) morning. The Arielle lies anchored outside the harbour, as she's simply too big for the port.

The Explorer, which paid a fleeting visit to Stornoway last summer, now lies anchored firmly alongside pier no 3.

(Postscript: MV Explorer has sunk in Antarctic waters after colliding with an iceberg)

Friday, 11 May 2007

Shinty match

A shinty team from Lewis travelled down to Glasgow last weekend to play the Glasgow Mid Argyll twelve. The islanders went down 6-0, having already been down 4-0 at half-time. Nonetheless, it was a first foray into the national camanachd scene, and this trip will have been useful experience.

Scene from 2nd half
Scene from 2nd half

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Back on post

Returned from a week away to the mainland, which reminded me why I prefer the islands to the city. Whilst in Glasgow, I attended a shinty-match played between teams from Lewis and Glasgow. The islanders lost 6-0, but went down fighting. Pictures of that to follow.

Was fortunate in having mostly decent weather, apart from the Monday, which actually found me in the Isle of Bute - nice place, but a bit of an air "a la recherche des temps perdus" about Rothesay. Place makes an effort nonetheless, which is all that matters. Will also put a few piccies of Bute on here.

The elections to the Scottish Parliament have been done to death in the official media, and that's probably for the best. Saves me from applying my poison quill. We have a new MSP in the Western Isles, Alistair Allan, and I wish him well in his endeavours to improve the lot of these islands.