The Skye Magazine is an exciting insight into Skye and Raasay, as well as providing information on new up-and-coming businesses, and new ventures on the island. The Skye Magazine in its printed form, appears once a year from May, and thousands are distributed throughout the islands.
And the on-line edition - below - is updated throughout the year with new reports, photographs and information from all across the Islands.
So, just click download, enjoy learning about the beautiful isles of Skye and Raasay, and, if you aren’t here already, make sure to plan a visit sometime soon!
When wildlife photographer, Stewart Dawber, was 16, something happened that changed the course of his life (writes Roz Skinner).
He explains: “I saw a kingfisher on the river near to where I lived and that was me hooked on wildlife.”
Stewart was keen to photograph the bird. His father gave him a camera for his birthday and that gift ignited in Stewart a passion for wildlife photography.
That enthusiasm led Stewart to earn a HND in photography and a BA(Hons) in wildlife photography. His love of kingfishers has remained!
Stewart now lives and works in the Isle of Skye, running his company, Skye High Wildlife. As well as being a professional wildlife photographer, Stewart assists people who would like to see the diverse and beautiful range of wildlife on and around Skye.
On April 14, 1972, a project organised by Inverness County Council was formally opened by George Younger, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for development at the Scottish Office. This was the Isle of Skye Airstrip at Ashaig near Broadford - pictured above - which had been constructed by the Royal Corps of Engineers between 1969 and 1971. Yet, despite the huge growth in air travel worldwide, Loganair ceased its flights from Glasgow in 1988 and the airstrip has been little used since. It appears briefly in a scene from the 1980 film Flash Gordon and remains available to the emergency services while Loch Lomond Seaplanes still uses it for some flights.
Now there’s a chance that mainstream flights may return…editor Fred Silver looks at the plans
A view across the apron at the Stornoway Airport terminal
Having lived in the Outer Hebrides for a quarter of a century, I find it incredible that the people of Skye, Raasay, and the Western Highlands have been left without access to a local airport.
Some of the key gains which the Outer Hebrides had from World War Two are the airports at Balivanich and Stornoway. It’s easy to overlook how big Stornoway’s airport is – its main runway is long enough for a full-loaded Boeing 747 Jumbo jet to land. And it’s got two runways – the shorter cross-runway, regularly used in certain weather conditions, is still 25 per cent longer than the existing Ashaig airstrip at Broadford.
And the key role Stornoway Airport plays in keeping businesses and communities on Lewis and Harris in contact with the wider world cannot be under-estimated. London-based visitors can easily fly up and back for a weekend…they generate no road traffic en route and create local business when they arrive by hiring cars and people carriers or by supporting a whole industry of taxi drivers.
And Stornoway has direct flights to Aberdeen, Benbecula , Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Inverness, leading to a whole host of options for onward travel.
By ferry and car, it’s about four hours, 30 minutes from Stornoway to Inverness, but by air, centre-to-centre, it’s around 100 minutes. This compares with around three exhausting hours to drive from Portree to Inverness airport and more than four hours on public transport.
But for longer distances, the gains are far greater. Once in 2013, I was eating a Tarte aux Pommes in departures at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport at 11.30am…and was standing on my doorstep in Stornoway at 3.15pm – that’s a total travel time of four hours and 45 minutes! According to Google, the fastest car journey from Portree to Glasgow Airport is four hours 35 minutes for 207 miles – and it is far slower in summer. (And six hours and 30 minutes by public transport). Google estimates the fastest connection by air from Stornoway to Paris CDG is four hours and 25 minutes; to New York it is nine hours 30 minutes; and to London is two hours 40 minutes.
The costs of building a new airport are miniscule compared both to the likely gains to the local economy and to local people and to infrastructure costs elsewhere, particularly as there is no chance at all of any significant improvements in the roads to Skye through the Highlands. Even the most expensive airport option, which would allow 40-seater planes to land, comes in at a shade under £50 million. Sounds a lot, but around £70 million has just been invested in the Stornoway to Ullapool ferry route, and the Isles of Harris and North Uist are having more than £30 million spent on a new ferry and improved port facilities. Yet since the Skye Bridge was completed in 1995, there has been no significant infrastructure gain for the Isle of Skye. (And ferries have to be replaced every 20 to 30 years whereas building the airport is a one-off investment.)
To put it in perspective, I calculate the £50m spend involved in the costliest Skye airport option would have built just 700 metres of tramway in Edinburgh; and merely taken 14 per cent of the total Scottish Government under-spend in 2014-15. It amounts to 0.0000015 per cent of the total Scottish Government budget. And, anyway, the present Highland Council plan is to go for the shorter runway option which costs half that much.
If approved, Highland Council has said that a new airport could be built on Skye in about two years. Councillors have approved the executive summary of a final draft business case for the flights involved. Feedback on the summary is now being sought from Transport Scotland.
Highland Council, public transport body Hitrans and Highlands and Islands Enterprise have long been investigating the potential for more flights for Skye. The organisations have calculated that over 30 years the flights could generate in the region of £36m to £46m locally, depending on whether nine-seat or 19-seat aircraft were used.
Personally, I would guess these as underestimates. In the 1990s, there was a study of Caledonian MacBrayne ferry improvements to try to understand why new services so frequently ran short of space very quickly. It identified the “new ferry effect” – the extent to which a new service generates completely new and unthought-of business. For instance, the Loch Bhrusda ferry came on the new Sound of Harris crossing in 1996; four years later, it was clearly already too small and was hurriedly replaced in 2003 by the Loch Portain which can carry twice as many cars and now runs seven days a week.
At Ashaig, the runway length limits aircraft options with the 19-seat Twin Otter being the largest option available for the airport being proposed. This means that forecast unconstrained demand of around 25,000 passengers a year cannot be met as it exceeds aircraft capacity (although there is scope to meet this through greater service frequency). The estimated annual load for the start-up route is 16,000 passengers.
Yet the airport on the Isle of Barra, population 1100, is used by almost 11,000 people a year…while Benbecula’s airport is used by more than 31,000 a year. While, of course, they are further out from the centre, they have nothing like the tourist magnet effect of the Isle of Skye while Skye’s population is around 10,000, compared to less than 5,000 in the Uists. And imagine the year-round benefits to the accommodation industry of being to attract impulse visitors throughout the winter.
Runway lengthening at Ashaig to enable Saab 340 services was assessed but the business case does not achieve a positive status, according to researchers. The runway at Ashaig has a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a graveyard plus a Natura 2000 designated site, hemming it in. There are also costs for sea protection works. This would mean a bill of more than £20m extra to lengthen it before any market demand had been proven. And it was long ago agreed that no other site on Skye is suitable in terms of safety and location.
An earlier attempt of get the airport back on the political agenda in 2013 suffered at launch from reports of cost options ranging from £3m to c. £20m and this served to make the project appear lacking in focus or deliverability. There were all sorts of options that included some runway lengthening that might have allowed a wider range of aircraft options but still could not accommodate the Saab 340. This is the workhorse of Loganair’s Highland network but would need the option of a 1300 metre long runway, almost double the present length, and costing up to £50 million.
Strangely, the Outer Hebrides first had air services to the Central Belt in the 1930s. A Scottish Airways timetable for August 1939 shows these services – (Monday-Wednesday-Friday) Glasgow (Renfrew) 0940; Tiree 1055; South Uist (Askernish) by special arrangement; Benbecula 1140; North Uist 1155; Harris (Northton by request); North Uist 1245; Benbecula 1300; South Uist (optional); Barra 1350; Glasgow 1530. (Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday) Glasgow 0940; Tiree 1055; Barra 1140; Benbecula 1230; South Uist (as above); North Uist 1245; Harris (as above); North Uist 1335; South Uist (as above); Tiree 1420; Glasgow 1535. The fares Glasgow to Uist were single £4, return £7. (£7 equals around £420 in present £’s!)
Distance lends enchantment they say, but in the modern world, it’s even better to travel quickly so that when you arrive, you can better enjoy the enchantment!
Farquhar Macleod Funeral Directors was established on the Isle of Harris for many years. Thus, it is fitting that one of the quality coffins stocked is a Harris Tweed coffin - made of solid oak and overlaid with a strip of luxury Harris Tweed.
Now, though, owner Farquhar has relocated his independent, family-owned business to the Isle of Skye. Although he still returns to Harris when requested, Farquhar's business is now based in Broadford.
With his mother hailing from Harris and his father from Staffin, Farquhar is familiar with the funeral traditions on both islands and is able to accommodate his clients.
Farquhar devotes himself to customer care, saying that he finds satisfaction in giving the family of the deceased less to worry about. "They have so much on their minds and we are able to take some of that strain away from them," he points out. "Being independent, we can make our service more personal. If someone makes a request, we will do anything for them as long as it's legal."
Being independent also enables Farquhar to keep the expenses down, as much as possible, for his clients. "I'm always conscious of costs and try and keep them to a minimum for people," he explains. "When clients come into the office, we establish what their requirements are and then give them an estimate. They are not going to get hit down the line with a bill for double that estimate. However, if someone thinks they will struggle to pay, that initial meeting is the time to tell us, so we can work on reducing costs and helping them out as much as we can."
Farquhar Macleod Funeral Directors is the only member of the Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) on Skye. "This is a guarantee of quality and uprightness," says Farquhar. "SAIF are like the VisitScotland of funerals - they inspect our premises and our paperwork to make sure we are doing things correctly. They are there
for the customer and that's a good thing."
Being a member of SAIF means that Farquhar Macleod Funeral Directorscan offer Golden Charter Funeral Plans. "They offer a combination of the best value and the best quality," Farquhar says.
Farquhar's top advice for the family of the deceased is to always have the correct paperwork to hand. "Know where the deceased's birth and marriage certificate is, as you will need them immediately," he advises. "The law has changed and now the death must be registered before the funeral can be arranged. So have all the paperwork in order and choose an independent funeral director who will take all the strain."
A range of events took place on Days Two and Three of the Skye Book Festival 2016 – sadly, we were unable to cover the first day as no staff member was available. Here, Skye-based photographer and writer, Roz Skinner, reports on some of the key sessions on Friday September 2 and Saturday September 3.
The first book in Peter May's best-selling Lewis Trilogy, The Black House, almost went unpublished.
Speaking to a large audience in the Aros Centre, Peter said: "My agent sent it to various publishing houses in London, and every single one of them rejected 'The Black House.' I was devastated, as I was sure it was the best thing I had written at the time. However, I virtually forgot all about it until a chance conversation with my French publisher. She said she'd love to read it and six weeks later she called and said she loved it! I was so delighted that someone finally liked the book. It was translated into French and became a huge success. My publisher sold it all round Europe and, finally, the Brits bought it!"
After finishing the last book in the Lewis Trilogy, Peter revealed he had received many requests to return to the Isle of Lewis in future books. He even had a vision for the opening of a book set on Luskentyre Beach. A man would be washed up on the pure sands, with no idea of who he was or how he got there. But, Peter remarked, that vision was not a story in itself. It needed something more.
Writer for The Skye Magazine, Katie Macleod - now based in New York and author of storiesmysuitcasecouldtell.com - interviews musician and composer Freeland Barbour before his visit to the Skye Book Festival on September 1.
“I always wanted to play,” says Freeland Barbour of his introduction to Scottish music. “Though I had piano lessons from age five to about 14, it was the accordion that took my fancy, goodness knows why. Maybe I liked its dissonance!”
The hugely successful multi-instrumentalist – who has founded two cèilidh bands, been a member of four, held the role of music producer with BBC Radio Scotland, and was the first accordion tutor on the traditional music degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – will be at the Skye Book Festival on September 1st to discuss his latest project, The Music and the Land.
“The books are huge!” says Freeland of the two-volume work, published by Birlinn, which reaches more than 700 pages. “About 35 years ago I had the idea to link tunes that I had written with photographs of the places that had inspired me to write them.” To do that, he enlisted the help of two photographers, Robin Gillanders from Edinburgh, and Cailean Maclean from Skye, who will be chairing the event at the Aros Centre.
The books are divided into geographical chapters, with introductions from well-known figures in the Scottish music world, including the likes of Dougie Maclean, Phil Cunningham, and Runrig’s Calum Macdonald. “I feel so lucky to have so many talented folk make a contribution to my efforts,” says Freeland.
In Scotland, the music and the land are inextricably linked – a link alluded to in the work’s title. As Freeland explains, “Traditional or folk music generally relates to the topography that it has sprung from, and because Scotland has such a varied landscape, we have quite a large range of style relating to these various landscapes.”
In fact, it was the view from Glen Fincastle of the hills above Blair Atholl, on a clear summer’s evening, that inspired the initial idea that became The Music and the Land. “I wrote a melody, and thought it would be good to have a picture of the scene as well, for those who would not be familiar with it.” With that, the motion for the books was set in place.
For the photography in the books, Freeland said he “was keen that we showed aspects of the countryside that perhaps don’t make it onto calendars and postcards, and I’m pleased with the results… I knew Cailean would straight away understand the link I was trying to reinforce, and of course he did. I armed him with a list of possible places and people, and what he came back with is, I think, stunning.”
“I think it’s fantastic that Skye has its own book festival,” continues Freeland. “It’s terrific to see cultural variety all over the land, and book festivals have a big part to play.” At the Skye Book Festival, Cailean, whose photographs will be on show during the session, will be joining Freeland in discussion. And as Freeland reveals, “I’ll play a tune or two as well, and there’ll be a few reminisces I’m sure, and one or two faintly humorous tales perhaps!”