r2vyln3rdioj14u-rld0ska where mountains meet the sea: July 2019

The Bonnet Lairds of Carloway

The Carloway Estate Trust on the Isle of Lewis held this event officially to open a new long-distance path, running from one end of their estate to the other, as part of Community Land Week.


A walk around Wick in Caithness, the old town and the harbour are well worth a visit if you are ever in Caithness. - Gavin Bird

A corner of the road, early morning

The thorny light
Scratched out a lanky rose bush in the air.
Goats had been at it, leaving five flowers there.

Scrabbles of bright
Water ran linking down the pink road. Pink
Rocks shouldered it to the left. The ditch ran ink.

I felt the night
Inside my head, like the one outside it, fade
Till its last shadow swallowed its last shade.

And into sight
Of inner as of outer eye there grew
Shapes into shape, colours becoming true.

By holding tight
To loosing every hold, I began to see
What I was not helping myself to be.

I looked up: white
Against a blue – five suns. And this I wrote
Beneath the constellation of the Goat.

November, 1962

Norman MacCaig, from Between Mountain and Sea: Poems from Assynt

A Bothy Tour

A short adventure film of a March 2019 trip to Glenfinnan and the Isle of Rùm, Scotland featuring Corry Thollaidh and Guirdil bothies, Glenfinnan, Calmac Ferries, Kinloch, Kilmory Bay, and Guirdil Bay.

Beinn Damh

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”    John Muir

Ben Damph Estate
Cameron McNeish

Voices of St Kilda

Norman John Gillies talks about growing up on St Kilda.

St Kilda is of Outstanding Universal Value for its exceptional natural beauty and significant habitats. It is unique in the very high bird densities that occur in a relatively small area, linked to its range of complex and varied ecological niches. The complex ecological dynamic in the marine zones is essential to the maintenance of both marine and terrestrial biodiversity. The cultural landscape is an outstanding example of land use resulting from a type of subsistence economy based on the products of birds, agriculture and sheep farming and reflecting age-old traditions. The built structures and field systems, the cleits and the traditional stone houses bear testimony to over two millennia of human occupation in extreme conditions.

The National Trust for Scotland owns the archipelago of St Kilda and manages it, in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, Historic Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), Ministry of Defense and its agents QinetiQ.

Kind thanks to The National Trust for Scotland, for support, and for supplying images and audio for this video.

genealogies and histories of the Outer Hebrides

Bill Lawson, an expert in the genealogies and histories of the islands, giving a lecture on emigration from the Outer Hebrides on October 3rd 2018 in Lews Castle College. - Lews Castle College UHI

YES it's time

‘Brexit was the absolute killer for me, and the idea that we’re now in thrall to a Westminster Government that took us out of Europe without any thought for the implications apart from some spurious, post-colonial nationalist notion about what Britain means.’  - Tom Morton  

Volunteering on Handa Island

An insight into life as a long-term volunteer with the Scottish Wildlife Trust on Handa Island.

Bad Moon

The moon must be sick of being in poems –
always gripped by fingers of late honeysuckle,
always filtered in the lake through the jetty’s slats,
always silvering the flicked tails of the koi.
Always a dinner plate or mirror,
always a fingernail clipping, a grin.

The moon must be sick of being in poems.
Always the bright pin in the picture’s corner,
always looking in at the windows of middle class homes.
Always shoved above a bridge in Paris or Venice,
always an eyeball or symbol,
always a radiant woman, a bowl.

It’s also in the splintered windscreen of the crime scene
with its blots of blood. It’s hung over the pig farm,
streaking white across the silo’s cheek
and slanting through the lorry walls in blades.
It’s in every dented can at the landfill pit,
turning the tip to a shoal of dirty fish.

Never the buried skull,
never the gummed plug in the junkie’s sink.
Never the white cat under the truck’s wheel,
never the beached and stinking jellyfish.
Never the gallstone or the pulled tooth, of course.
Nobody wants to read poems about this.

Claire Askew, from Be the First to Like This: New Scottish Poetry

Between the Penny Dropping and the Penny Landing

The things we want most we will never have.

We learned this when we overheard the song
of a slant moon which wraps the land below,
which courts significance in every corner,
spreads the blueshift, ekes the silver rose

and finds the coin, mid-fall, which will decide
the night for us: the half-chance sounding lower
than a cat step or a spinning leaf or raindrops
meeting on a skylight. Moonlight hones

the bidden street. While the penny spins,
pale beams catch on a lost key in a nest,
roll over roofs and drop into the alley,
and we are shadows in that alley. Only

when I used up all my nos did I say yes.

Roddy Lumsden, from Third Wish Wasted

Seven Moons

The first moon is just past full,
and pale, high in the day-blue sky.

The second is a sword-edge
at midnight, Auvergne , slicing
the star-strewn velvet.

The third is haloed,
presaging snow.

The fourth moon is a round of butter
in a hot harvest night, stifled by desire.

The fifth moon, earth-eclipsed,
is a muddy red, omened with prophecies.

The sixth is shuttered repeatedly
by flailing clouds.

The seventh moon is the one
which must not be named.

Colin Will, from Sushi and Chips

Margaret's Moon

After she died, I swear the sky
Had the most beautiful of all sunsets,
A blush of pink, then red, a glass of red,
Sudden dark and a hammock moon,
Then its faint silhouette, almost secret.
Life half-written, half unsaid.
I had kissed your head in the strange room.
Then later, I blew a kiss to the stars, to regret.


I imagined you lifting your head, your arms,
Loosening them, shedding skin and cells and bone
Till you became all spirit, released
Into the cairns, hills, the braes, barley,
The sea lochs and the sea and at last,
At least it seemed to me, you were free.

Jackie Kay, from Bantam

Silver Moon

Your names, old records, Court and Spark, Dark Side of the Moon,

A shop window welcome; open hands, new friends.
A wintery evening, nights drawing in. Warm glow:
SisterwriteCompendium, Silver Moon.

How you grew up reading nights to dawn.
Books you found only here, the then unknowns:
Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, Toni Cade Bambara;
The Bluest Eye held up a haunting mirror, Pecola Breedlove.

Switched lights on; eyes wide open – Sula, Corregidora
You read and read with wonder: We Are Everywhere:
Writings About Lesbian Parents! Or A Raisin in the Sun.
Voices from Women’s Liberation, Maya, Djuna, Zora,

The Spinster and Her Enemies! Or Lucille Clifton.
And by the silvery light of the bookshop you grew up
By the open door, standing alone, together,
Other readers as engrossed, browsing, basking –

The blessed benevolence, the sweet, sweet ambience
Of independent bookshops, remember Thins!
Look how you still love their names: Voltaire and Rousseau,
Grassroots, books gathering and honing your years:

Black and white striped spines, tiny irons, Viragos, Shebas,
The distinct spiral on the cover of your old The Bell Jar
Your skin’s pages; your heart’s ink, your brain’s Word Power:
Jamaica Kincaid, Bessie Head, Claribel Alegría

Don’t let them turn the lights out, dears.
Keep them safe, New Beacons, shining stars,
Look how you’ve aged with your beloved books, dear hearts.
Keep coming in, keep the bookshop door ajar.

Jackie Kay, from Poem No. 26 (National Poetry Month 2017)

I am the moon, and you are the man on me

Tonight, I am white and full.
My surface is all curves
and craters, but you don’t mind.
You have travelled alone through the dark,
through the vacuum of dark;
training your hands for this task,
building imaginary engines.

This is the kind of territory you were born
to navigate. You know by heart
every treacherous route
through these white dunes;
you have drawn maps of every scar,
and you sense storms.
Your compass does not work here,
but you are sexy
in your spaceman suit.

We twirl giddily, in orbit
around the days, the months.
You are wary of my high tides –
I am your escape-pod.
A familiar world spins below,
tracked by the beam of your telescope;
we shudder at passing asteroids,
send messages home by satellite.

Tonight, I am white and full.
You are the man on me,
and I am the moon.

Claire Askew, published in Edinburgh Review 123: Caribbean logic (2008)
more about the poem in the Scottish Poetry Library

Stars and Planets

Trees are cages for them: water holds its breath
To balance them without smudging on its delicate meniscus.
Children watch them playing in their heavenly playground;
Men use them to lug ships across oceans, through firths.

They seem so twinkle-still, but they never cease
Inventing new spaces and huge explosions
And migrating in mathematical tribes over
The steppes of space at their outrageous ease.

It’s hard to think that the earth is one –
This poor sad bearer of wars and disasters
Rolls-Roycing round the sun with its load of gangsters,
Attended only by the loveless moon.

Norman MacCaig, from The Poems of Norman MacCaig


Kapka Kassabova's acceptance speech for the 2017 Highland Book Prize awarded for her book Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe.

“[The Highlands are] a place whose very mention makes people around the world acquire a dreamy look – in other words a place that is imaginatively charged, but often subjected to cultural cliché and that is why I think it is so important to encourage those dimensions of Highland culture that go beyond the cliché. Border would have been a very different book had I not become a resident of the Highlands seven years ago. Living in the Highlands attuned me to the precious fragility of our natural environment …..The periphery is often sacrificed for the interests of the centre. Geographically remote areas have different frequencies of less told histories, less heard voices”. - Scottish Review of Books

The Magic of Live Literature

We visited the Islay Book Festival to find out how they made the most of funding from Live Literature which pays over half a visiting author's fee, and all their accommodation and travel. - Scottish Book Trust

Orkney Folk Festival

Highlights from the 37th Orkney Folk Festival, held over the long weekend of May 23-26, 2019.

52 acts, 36 gigs (not to mention countless pub sessions), 19 venues and 4 days rolled into one four and a half minute snapshot.

Music by Còig
To hear more music performed at this year's Orkney Folk Festival, check out their YouTube channel here.

HebCelt 2019

An Lanntair: What's On

Music festival HebCelt recycled 80% of its waste

St Ninian's Isle Treasure

This fascinating hoard of treasure was discovered during excavations on St Ninian’s Isle, Shetland, in 1958 and dates from the 8th century AD. In this video, Dr Martin Goldberg, Senior Curator of Early Medieval and Viking collections at National Museums Scotland, explores the unique find.
Part of the Glenmorangie Research Project, Scotland’s Early Silver, exploring the use of silver in Late Roman and Early Medieval Scotland (AD 300-900).

Strathconon - A Glen For All Seasons

From a 1996 Scottish television series about Strathconon.

Isle of Skye - Lambs

Filmed over two mornings. The audio is not synchronised but is taken in the same location. This will form part of an installation about the Isle of Skye. When shown different audio will be heard but I wanted to include for this edit, questions asked by myself and Ken Fero. - Linda Mason

plans for the future in North Ronaldsay

It has been already been a busy summer for the residents of Orkney's most northerly community in North Ronaldsay.

Scotland's Most Scenic Remote Beach

Probably the most scenic and stunning large beach I have visited. The fact that you need to put in a lot of effort makes it even more magical. Is this Scotland's most beautiful remote beach? To reach it you need to scale Shetlands highest point (Ronas Hill) then drop down. Once done , you have to go back over the top of Ronas Hill... A fine outing an a stunning location. - Scotland's Mountains

haar - a cold sea fog

a minute of Shetland

Victoria Pier webcam

Loch Ness 360ﹾ Trail

Visit Inverness Loch Ness are delighted to launch the Loch Ness 360° Trail, an 80-mile circular trail around the entire circumference of Loch Ness. In 2018 the joining of two great Scottish trails was completed. The Great Glen Way was connected up to the South Loch Ness Trail to create an epic new adventure trail in Scotland. Join us and walk, run, cycle or ride the Loch Ness 360° Trail.
The trail can be enjoyed in its entirety, or you can walk parts of the route in sections.

Dino Digs & Monster Myths

This was a Royal Society of Edinburgh family event which took place in Inverness in 2018. It focused on ' how myths, legends and scientific enquiry have combined to fascinate and inspire our ancient ancestors through to current generations.'

Speakers and their talks:
Lari Don - Why Do We Love Monster Stories?
Dr Steve Brusatte - Meet the Newest Dinosaurs: My Adventures in Palaeontology
Dr Charles Paxton - Statistics and Sea Monsters
Mr Adrian Shine - Morphing the Loch Ness Monster - Fish, Flesh or Fake


Marit Fält and Rona Wilkie were commissioned by Hippodrome Silent Film Festival to create a new score for classic Norwegian silent film Laila (1929). This premiered at HippFest on 21 March 2019. - Falkirk Community Trust

Bogha-frois: LGBT+ Voices in Folk

Bogha-frois: LGBT+ Voices in Folk is a project which saw LGBT+ folk musicians from across the country come together to write, collaborate and perform songs in the folk tradition, telling stories about life as a member of the LGBT community.

Three free workshops were held at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh, November 14-16, led by prominent folk figures; Rachel Sermanni, Radio 2 Young Folk Award Winner Josie Duncan, Young Traditional Folk Musician of the Year Finalist Grant McFarlane, Laura Wilkie, and Marit Fält.

Supported by Creative Scotland and Outspoken Arts Scotland the project aims give a platform and voice to the LGBT+ community in the traditional and folk music scene and culminate at a showcase at Celtic Connections in 2019. -  Man of the Minch

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney was the first cultural World Heritage site to undergo assessment based on a brand new framework known as the Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI).

Watch this video to learn more and discover how this new approach to evaluating the impact of climate change is set to be adapted to protect World Heritage Sites across the globe.

A report released during the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in July 2019, introduces the new methodology, which was developed following a workshop in Orkney in 2019.

This report has been supported by us in partnership with University of the Highlands and Islands, James Cook University (JCU, Australia), Orkney Islands Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and ICOMOS Climate Change and Heritage Working Group. - Historic Environment Scotland

We, the People

'...It is a great honor to speak here. I think it speaks to the generous nature of the people of Boston, and the generous nature of Americans, that after being a citizen for six months -- or less -- that I would be asked to speak on this day, in such a prestigious and memorable place.
And today, of course, we celebrate freedom, which is a word which is overused a little bit sometimes, misused a lot, often even misunderstood. But to me, the word "America," and the word "freedom" mean the same thing.
I arrived here in 1995, a broken-down vaudevillian from the old country. A failure! I had failed in my own country. And when I arrived in America, here's what America asked of me: Nothin'. Not a damn thing. Beyond obeying the laws of the land -- you know, don't rob the banks, don't drive drunk, don't do all those things -- I was free. That meant I was free not only to think what I want, or believe in any God I saw fit to believe in. These were freedoms that were already familiar to me.
But there was a new and bigger freedom in America. There IS a new and bigger freedom in America. In America, we don't have kings, we don't have dukes, we don't have earls. In America, we believe all people are born equal. So the past, whatever that may be, does not have a stranglehold on the future. We observe and celebrate our traditions in this country -- we're doing it today! But our traditions are freedom of expression, freedom of belief. We remember our history. We celebrate it. But we are not slaves to it.
So when I came here to America, the country asked me for nothin'. I was free. Free of my own past. Free to succeed; free to fail. Free to be generous; free to be mean-spirited. Free to be happy; or free to be miserable. These were all my choices, and my right to choose them as an individual in America. America did not even ask me to be a citizen! As long as I paid my taxes, I could stay here, under any conditions they wanted. That was fine -- I could have my green card and stay. I CHOSE to be a citizen. I chose to apply for that one.
And America asks me now, what America asks of ALL our citizens. It asks of all of us this -- it asks us it today and every day in America: What are you made of? What are you? What are you, as an American? America only asks of us what we ask of ourselves. That is why -- and I really believe this -- that is why America is not only the greatest country on earth, but also the finest expression of hope for the human race. There is -- it is nothing less than that.
Sooner or later -- sooner or later, America always does the right thing. Whatever mistakes we make along the way, we, The People, always correct them. We, The People, the citizens of the United States of America, are its voice. We are its soul. We are its expression. Our leaders are but servants to our voice. They're put in positions of power by our democratic vote. Not by an accident of birth. If our leaders, these servants, don't behave as we would have them, we fire them. Plain and simple. THAT is our glorious revolution. And it continues to this day.
The freedom we celebrate today -- the realization of this dream -- it's been going on for thousands of years. This dream that people had of an America -- and we are blessed to live in this time -- and this society has been hard won. Millions of people have died for this. Thousands of Americans put their lives on the line, whenever they are asked, in our military, to protect our freedom.
So America asked nothin' of me, and gave me everything that I have. So here's what I give America today as a citizen: My gratitude. My heart-felt thanks. I think that's an appropriate reaction to a country that asks you only to be your best self. And may I suggest to you, my fellow Americans, that being your best self is an appropriate expression of gratitude for this wonderful country; and whatever your best self is, is your choice to decide, in this free country.
Like I said, the dream of America has been around for a long time. I'd like to read to you now from another Declaration of Independence, one that was written in 1320 for the OTHER greatest country in the world: The country of Scotland.
Scotland in 1320 was much like America in 1776: We'd had it up to *here* with the English. (In Scotland, it continues to this day.) This is from the Scottish Declaration of Independence. It was considered extremely controversial at that time, because it set the wishes of the people above the wishes of the king. This is from the Declaration of Arbroath, delivered in Arbroath Abbey, Scotland, on the 6th of April, 1320. I believe it also speaks to us today as Americans. I'll read from it....
This, from the Declaration of Independence in Scotland:
For as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we -- under any conditions -- be brought under English rule. It is not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom. For that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
Happy 4th of July! God bless you! God bless America, everybody!'
-- Craig Ferguson, Faneuil Hall, Boston, MA, July 4th, 2008

How Airbnb rentals are affecting the Isle of Skye

Rise in homelessness on Isle of Skye

Holiday-lets are ripping Scotland’s communities apart. In some places, there are now more holiday-lets than normal homes for rent. That means families with nowhere to go are forced out of the places they’ve called home all their lives.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. The Scottish government are asking the public for views on what to do about holiday lets, and together we can make sure we win real protections for our communities.
The big lobbyists protecting companies like Airbnb will be working double-time to stop any new regulations that could hit their astronomic profits. It’s down to us to drown them out.
The Scottish Government can stop holiday-lets destroying our communities by:

1) Giving councils the power to limit the number and duration of holiday lets in their areas
2) Bringing in new taxes on holiday lets, and ring-fencing that money for improving local housing
3) Requiring holiday let landlords to register, just like normal landlords have to, to make sure they're following the rules and that tenants are protected - 38 Degrees

Petition to FM Nicola Sturgeon: Stop holiday-lets destroying our communities
The Scotsman: Strict rent controls ‘a solution’ to reduce poverty in Edinburgh

The Rent Pressure Zone Update from the Scottish Government’s Housing and Economy Committee talks about excessive rent rises in Scotland .On page 4, it says that “in the city centre [of Edinburgh], more rental stock is now available for short term rent than for traditional [private rented sector].”

Orkney News: Is Regulation on the Cards for Short Term Lets ? – Have your Say

Scottish Government: Short Term Lets Consultation

'the murder business and sport'

Adam and Charlie vanished from the Auchnafree Estate in the Strathbraan area of Perthshire on the morning of 18th April 2019. The eagles’ satellite tags, which had been working perfectly well for one and two years respectively, suddenly and inexplicably stopped working (Charlie’s at 06.25hrs and Adam’s at 11.39hrs) just 3.4km apart. Both the tags and the eagles have since been untraceable. - Chris Packham

Raptor Persecution Scotland

Future of Hen harriers in the UK hangs in the balance

Scottish government urged to regulate grouse moors after golden eagles vanish

'...It is an admirable plea for our poor horizontal fellow-mortals, so fast passing away in ruthless starvation and slaughter. Never before has the need for places of refuge and protection been greater. Fortunately, at the last hour, with utter extinction in sight! the Government has begun to act under pressure of public opinion, however slight. Therefore your address is timely and should be widely published. I have often written on the subject, but mostly with non-effect. The murder business and sport by saint and sinner alike has been pushed ruthlessly, merrily on, until at last protective measures are being called for , partly, I suppose, because the pleasure of killing is in danger of being lost from there being little or nothing left to kill, and partly, let us hope, from a dim glimmering recognition of the rights of animals and their kinship to ourselves.'  John Muir: His Life and Letters and Other Writings
@ReforestingScotland: Make your voices heard on this one, folks. These areas of endemic are a stain on our national conscience:
Please ask FM Nicola Sturgeon to take action. You can contact her here

You can also email Roseanna Cunningham (SNP MSP for Perthshire Sth & Kinross-shire)  Scottish Govt Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform at  CabSecECCLR@gov.scot

If you don't want to write, please share so others can. Thank you!

You can contact Andy Wightman Scottish Green MSP here or here
for further updates please follow  @andywightman

UPDATE: Scottish Government condemn illegal raptor persecution following hen harrier death as campaigners call for action

'if we fail, it will be because of an insufficiency of dreaming'

1997 Scottish Devolution Referendum Result

'There shall be a Scottish Parliament!'   Through long years, many long years in the case of many of us, those words were first a hope, then a belief, then a promise. Now, they are a reality. This is indeed, a moment anchored in our history. - Donald Dewar, at the Opening of the Scottish Parliament on the First Day of July, 1999  

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

Robert Burns