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!

Tourism goup seeks support for new strategy

Hopes for a new local marketing strategy were outlined at a major tourism industry event for the Isle of Skye held at Skeabost Hotel near Portree on Saturday.

The hotel's conservatory was packed with people involved in all aspects of the local tourism - from artists to hoteliers, from shop owners to landowners, from restaurateurs to photographers.

The meeting formed part of the Scottish Tourism Alliances' plan to increase overall earnings from tourism by £1 billion by 2020.  

A number of official speakers lauded the Outer Hebrides for the way the Outer Hebrides Tourism group - an industry-led body - had multiplied its membership tenfold and had just been instrumental in the launch of Hebridean Way cycle route from the Butt of Lewis to the Isle of Barra and the Eat Drink Hebrides food trail.  The launch had taken place at the new Harris Distillery in Tarbert, itself a major addition to the Outer Hebrides range of attractions.

Marc Crothall, the chief executive officer at the Scottish Tourism Alliance said the Skeabost event was one of a host of local events under the banner Connecting 2020 - the aim is to have at least 2,020 conversations with local businesses although probably 4,000 will take place.  He pointed out that the tourism industry employed 220,000 people and involved around 27,000 businesses. This region has highest growth of tourism employment inn the whole country.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance is the tourism industry’s voice and direct link with Government and has a seat on the UK-wide tourism body.  The STA 'On The Road' tour, of which the Skeabost event was part,  is intent upon connecting with as many small businesses as possible during Tourism Week in the run-up to the two-day Signature Conference in Edinburgh, along with the Thistle Awards, Scotland’s national celebration of top tourism businesses from every region. 

The leadership of the local tourism body Destination Skye & Lochalsh - with the slogan Developing All-round Excellence – is changing, the meeting heard, and a new group of tourism businesses is taking the lead with a new venture, which will have a much wider focus upon marketing the area and planning a future strategy.  

Among those contributing towards making these changes is Donald MacDonald, Manager of Aros in Portree, who said before the meeting:  “This is a real opportunity for everyone in Skye to work together to strengthen the local economy which, as everyone knows, is driven by tourism. 

"We need to collectively capture a new spirit of engagement, partnership and drive that will see this iconic destination reach its real potential. This will be the time to look at new initiatives, find effective solutions and help to develop the tourism product on Skye through a quality focused approach. Tourism is not just about beds and food, it engages every other service that is being offered on Skye.”

Shirley Spear, of the Three Chimneys Restaurant, who is also involved in a variety of other national promotional groups, said the new group, including Anne Gracie, of Skeabost Hotel, Donald MacDonald and Rob Ware from Sleat, wanted to create a "brand new conversation" about the future of the tourism industry in Skye and Lochalsh.  She outlined the way the structures of the industry had changed over the years, from local tourist boards onwards, to the present model of local industry bodies or DMO's. 

However, she said, this area had "not been very successful in pulling together a collaborative working group" and unlike all other parts of Scotland "in recent years…we don't seem to have made a great deal of progress in building a cohesive strategy for our local industry."  DSL started its life with a big flourish but "did not develop as many of us had hoped" because it had not been widely enough supported, she said. She praised the work of Neil and Rosemary Colquohoun, who along with Clive Pearson, had been the DSL driving force and had enabled it to achieve the progress which it had made.  But the group could not succeed in the future without developing a strategy and a business plan, winning external funding and involving everyone in the industry in Skye and Lochalsh.

(More information about STA, Tourism Week and the Roadshow, can be found here

 

 

Sun, wind, shelter…and Skye Sea Salt

When you pick up a packet of salt from the award-winning Isle of Skye Sea Salt Company, you are holding in your hands something produced by sea, wind - and lots of hard work from directors, Chris Watts and Nanette Muir! 
Their hands-on approach to their business means they are labouring at every stage of the process - from pumping the fresh salt water out of sparkling Loch Snizort, near Skeabost, to harvesting it from their solar drying polytunnel, performing quality checks and, finally, lovingly packaging their salt.

Read more: Sun, wind, shelter…and Skye Sea Salt

New vegan, gluten-free range at Café Sia

When Cafe Sia in Broadford officially opened its doors recently after a month's refurbishment, visitors were able to enjoy a number of exciting changes which include non-slip decking, as well as adjustments to the far right area of the cafe.  What used to be home to a large coffee roaster belonging to the Isle of Skye Roastery is now an extended bench area, pictured above, perfect to ensure a comfortable dining experience.  
Director, Tom Eveling, says: "We weren't able to use the roaster when the cafe was busy, so we have moved it to another location."  The staff areas have also been updated to ensure a better flow.  "We have better equipment, a better work space and it's much more organised behind the scenes," explains Tom.
And, if you crave delicious gluten-free or vegan food, you will be able to find it at Cafe Sia.  "We are working hard to give those with specific food requirements more options," Tom says.  "We already do gluten-free pizza, but we are also doing a gluten-free and dairy-free pizza with vegan cheese.  We are producing a lot more gluten-free options on our menu, like our fish finger bap, our club sandwich and brunch baps.  We want to increase what we have on offer for vegans and those who are gluten-free.  That's our main aim this year!"

From Glendale, Skye to the Arizona desert…with Gaelic

University of Arizona Gaelic Research Scientist, Muriel Fisher, with Dr Andrew Carnie, Professor of Linguistics and Dean of the Graduate College, and her
2015 Excellence in Community Linguistics Award

 

The historic, adobe-style Arizona Inn in the desert city of Tucson might seem an unexpected place for two island Gaels to meet (writes Katie Macleod), but then again ‘unexpected’ is a word that describes the career of University of Arizona Gaelic Research Scientist, Muriel Fisher, to a tee.

For the last eight years Muriel – who hails from Feriniquarrie in Glendale on the Isle of Skye – has been a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Arizona in the southwestern USA.  She is part of the University’s Critical Language Programme, aiding the Department of Linguistics in their research of Gaelic.  It’s one of 14 ‘less commonly taught’ languages in their remit, taking its place in the course catalogue alongside the likes of Kurdish and Swahili.

But how did the language of the Misty Isle find its way into classrooms located in the legendary deserts of the American West?  According to Dr Andrew Carnie, Professor of Linguistics and Dean of the Graduate College, it all began as “a happy accident.”  “We happened to have a number of faculty [members] interested in Celtic languages and Muriel lived in town. Having access to a native speaker consultant is a critical part of doing research on a language.”

Interaction with the communities who speak the language is essential for successful linguistic work: this is why the faculty journey to Skye annually to conduct experiments and collect data, with Muriel acting as a liaison.  “They have a bunch of experiments that I help them develop, and then I act as a liaison between the locals and the linguists.”

“Linguists are like brain surgeons, they want to dissect it [the language], and they write papers about various aspects of it. It’s completely different to what we might think. It’s mathematical... I love all the different bits of Gaelic that they teach me, things that I would never ever have known,” says Muriel.

Andrew, who invited Muriel to join the department, explains that “Linguists are interested in how humans use, produce and understand language, as well as how we acquire it and how we pass it on to the next generation.  Gaelic is a particularly interesting language. While it is genetically related to English and Spanish... it has many properties that make it very different in the spectrum of languages we look at. It has all sorts of rare properties.” 

In an attempt to understand these rare characteristics, Muriel and her colleagues are currently working on a project involving both the University of Arizona and the University of Nevada; they recently received a grant from National Science Foundation, allowing them to undertake necessary linguistic research into Gaelic on the Isle of Skye.  

An official partnership is also in the works between the University of Arizona and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, where Muriel has been teaching summer classes for more than 16 years.  If all goes well, a student exchange will take place, with students from Skye studying in Arizona, and vice versa.  “So many people care about the language, culture and traditions and are available to teach us about their language,” says Andrew.  “This makes the language a joy to study while at the same time contributing to the science of language.”

As if university classes and linguistic research weren’t enough to keep her busy, Muriel wears yet another hat: she offers Gaelic lessons via Skype to students around the world.  Her lessons (both on and offline) are not solely about Gaelic grammar, but Gaelic culture too.  “We come from a storytelling culture,” she says.  “So I also talk about where we grew up and our culture. You can’t separate them. Out here in the desert I talk about the sheep and the peats!”

Over the years her Skype students have logged on from as far afield as Colorado, New York, Mexico, England, and France. But whether they’re in the Sonoran Desert, in Skye, or around the world, the students always move Muriel with their desire to learn the language.  

“They move me to tears,” says Muriel. “That’s what gets your heart.  What makes it possible is the people, because the people themselves, they’re so interesting... because they’ve got this desire for the Gaelic. I just get really sentimental about it. There’s something about it that gets them in the heart and in the soul.”

Muriel is modest about her role and her achievements: it is over an hour into our conversation before I discover she has been recognised at the highest level by the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), receiving the 2015 Excellence in Community Linguistics Award. Muriel is only the second person to receive the award, which “recognises the outstanding contributions that members of language communities make for the benefit of their community’s language.”

“I think that’s alright. I’m quite chuffed,” admits Muriel, in that understated fashion typical of islanders. The LSA honoured Muriel not only for her “outstanding work with the teaching, promotion, and documentation of Scottish Gaelic” which has helped people around the world learn (or indeed, re-learn) Gaelic, but also for her contribution to linguistic research and documentation efforts relating to the language.  

It’s an impressive achievement, even more so for someone who found their way into teaching via all manner of adventures at home and abroad.  Muriel first moved to the USA in 1972, or as she says with a laugh: “When I was young and fabulous.”  Having previously worked as an artist in Tuscany and at the post office in Glendale, she soon found herself selling traditional Skye scones in Woodstock and even sheep herding with the Navajo in the Arizona desert.  

But it was teaching English in Mexico that opened the door to her current career. “That boots on the ground confidence... I think it helped me a lot,” she says of her two years across the border.  It was that experience that saw her start private Gaelic lessons in Tucson almost 20 years ago, begin working with the now-closed Tucson Open University, and graduate into the indispensable role she plays at the University of Arizona linguistics department today.

Muriel couldn’t have done any of it, she says, without her family: her husband, Paul Fisher, whom she affectionately refers to as Darling, and her two children, Alexandra and Jahil, who live in Los Angeles and New York City, respectively. Alexandra’s son, Cole, is even taking informal Gaelic lessons from his Nana.

Through it all, Muriel retains her attachment to Skye. She misses the land, and the sea, and - like so many islanders - still calls it ‘home.’ “Our earth home” she says with a laugh. That sounds so new agey! My home is with my husband, because I love him... but also we go ‘home’ when we go home [to Skye]. You’re connected to the land here, and you back and you recalibrate... You feel recharged, you seriously go back and charge your batteries.”

Muriel will be returning again this summer to teach her regular Gaelic classes at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, as well as a new addition, one centred on ‘The Island.’  She says it will be much more hands on, with students going on trips to the likes of Raasay and Cana, engaging in situations where they will use the language they are learning.  As Muriel explains, “When you’re out there and you’re ordering tea, you’re going to remember your ‘bun’ or your ’soup’ or your ‘coffee’ – that stuff - much better.”

“I’m very very grateful to them,” she says of Sabhal Mòr, and the opportunity the role affords her to return to the island. “I don’t know what I would have done without them, because it’s Skye, you know?  I would still be grateful if it was on Uist or Harris or Lewis, but the fact that it’s on Skye is just fabulous.”

As we joke and laugh over gin martinis at the Arizona Inn, it’s clear to see that Muriel doesn’t take herself too seriously. She strives to make her Gaelic classes fun and enjoyable, and has a passion for the language and the people who are trying to keep the language of the island alive – even if it’s in the desert on the other side of the world.

(Katie Macleod, who formerly worked for The Skye Magazine, is an internationally recognised travel-blogger based in New York - http://storiesmysuitcasecouldtell.com)



All the way from Montana, Rich Hall heads for Portree

Step away from the mobile phone.  Put away the tablet.  The wonderfully acerbic comedian Rich Hall is about to come on stage for an already-sold-out performance in Portree, and he would like your undivided attention.

Rich, one of the most magnetic stand-ups currently at work in this country, is chatting in the run-up to hugely anticipated spring tour of the UK - Rich Hall 3:10 to Humour

The American-born comedian, who was raised in North Carolina, emphasises that what he is looking forward to more than anything else on this tour is the experience of performing,  “What I love about stand-up is the immediacy of it.  Having run the gamut of TV panel shows, after a while you know how to do them and they are not so much fun anymore.

“But now I know I’m going to be on stage somewhere like Portree, and that prospect is really exciting.  For those two hours, no one is looking at their phones.  It’s a true non-media event.  Those sorts of occasions are rapidly disappearing, and that’s why I value them so much.”

A stand-up whose plainspoken, growling indignation and waspish observations have won him fans all over the world, Rich has been described as a transatlantic messenger lampooning each country he visits with his common sense comedy.

The Montana resident is renowned for his expertly crafted tirades.  His biting, yet compelling comedy has helped earn him a Perrier Award in Edinburgh and a Barry in Melbourne.  He is a coruscating presence – both on and off stage.

The stand-up, who was the inspiration for the curmudgeonly barman Moe Szyslak in The Simpsons, says he gets a kick out of touring this country.  “I may have become overly familiar with the motorway service stations of the UK, but I really like discovering new places.  It’s important to visit out of the way towns because it gives you a new perspective.”  This is his first visit to the Outer Hebrides.

One of the many aspects that distinguishes Rich’s live act is the brilliant way he can craft delightful on-the-spot songs out of the smallest items of information that he gleans from the audience. 

The comic, who won two Emmys for his work as a writer on The David Letterman Show, explains that, “I do what Americans call ‘crowd work’.  I really enjoy that because I can turn it into improvised songs, which is a big thrill for me.  I always have a guitar beside me on stage in case something happens.“

Rich continues that he does not need a lot of material to work on.  “It’s funny, the less I get from people, the more you can improvise.  Nothing is out of bounds.  I want them to tell me, ‘I’m a clerk,’ rather than, ‘I work for the council finance department and am involved in the end of year expenditure’.  As soon as I hear the word ‘clerk’, my head immediately starts formulating rhymes for it.”

The fuel that powers Rich’s act is a marvellous sense of simmering fury.  Appearing regularly on Stand Up for the Week, QI, Live At The Apollo, Have I Got News For You and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, the stand-up gets riled by, “The level of incompetence and amount of crap in the world.  I’m also incensed by the fact that we are all turning into button-pushing squirrels.  That has brought about a serious loss of personality in this impersonal, digitised world.”

Also a very accomplished documentary maker who has fronted six critically acclaimed BBC4 programmes focusing on US popular culture and the Wild West, the stand-up is equally angry about the by-the-yard, rote nature of so many comedians’ material these days. 

He says that, “What is exasperating is that as comedians we live by the word.  I see that very swiftly deteriorating, and I find it really scary.  There doesn’t seem to be any appreciation any more of the written and spoken word.  Everything is turning into shorthand.  When a comedian like Dylan Moran gets on stage and speaks in his own very distinctive language, that really appeals to me. 

“But nowadays a lot of performers are simply acting out the role of comedian and going through the motions.  They use a very predictable cadence of comedy – ‘here comes the punchline’.  If you close your eyes, you can hear it coming.  But in order to have a very individual way of saying things, you need to perfect that live.”

Of course, Rich is not that irate in reality – it is simply a persona he adopts for comic effect on stage. He says that: “It works because people know that I’m not really that angry.  Anyone that angry should not be doing comedy.”

Rich, who in the past was a regular on Saturday Night Live, has enjoyed particular success in this country, where his trademark downbeat style really strikes a chord.  The comedian reflects that “British audiences are always very appreciative of the spoken word.”

Finally, Rich reiterates how much he is relishing the idea of playing to British audiences once more and receiving our rapt attention.  He concludes that, “You have someone’s complete attention, which is almost impossible nowadays.  You can’t go to a sports event without someone Tweeting about it every five seconds.”

(Rick’s sold-out shows in the Hebrides are on Monday 8th February at An Lanntair, Stornoway; and then on Tuesday 9th, he’s at Aros, Portree.  His latest audio CD, “Waitin’ on a Grammy”, is available to buy on CD and download now from here!)

 

 

 

Interview by James Rampton