Thursday, August 31

Local knowledge

Kiting on Oldshoremore Beach, north west

The BBC Scotland website's 'local knowledge' section for the Highlands and Islands asks locals and visitors to contribute their knowledge of their area each month. This month they are deciding what is the best beach in the Highlands. As many people are looking for a good beach to live near, whether its just to look at and appreciate, walk your dog, run, kite or surf. The beach below the village of Oldshoremore in the far north west featured in one of the contributors favourites. The picture above is from this beach, in the 26 degree heatwave of May this year (although there was a nice breeze too!). Another beach mentioned, the nearby Sandwood Bay is probably my favourite... or maybe Traigh Uige on Lewis... but then there's Bostadh on Great Berneray... and then theres...

Local knowledge for these things really is priceless because you can never get round and see it all yourself.

Tuesday, August 29

The Western Isles - some observations and pictures

The brand new road across the Clisham pass, completed in the past year makes the going between the cheaper Tarbert ferry and Lewis a lot easier.
In the Isles, many of the services come to you, in a fleet of vans! The bank travels down through its Harris customers. You'll see Libraries, bakers, banks, fuel, deliveries from Ikea... pretty handy.
It's nice to see housing moving away from garish kithouses that clash with the landscape and taking more account of its visual impact.
Looking across dunes from Tuath towards Ceapabhal, Harris
Looking across the golf course to the expanse of Traigh Scarista, Harris
Peat - still very much part of life here.
Thistles, Scarista, Harris
As I visit the Western Isles each year I am always heartened and often surprised by the pace of change here. New Schools, facilities, roads, community and arts centres and services everywhere. There is much progress to be proud of here. I'm sure it will continue to attract new people and help locals to stay and be happy. Jobs are of course the major stumbling block for people looking to relocate here. The range of employers in the isles is small (but that's not to say there aren't some interesting ones - more of this in future posts). Thus the internet entrepreneur (or those thinking of trying to become one) is well placed right now to take advantage of the opportunity to live with a low cost of property and living in an evironment that provides the balance between the rigours of business online and all the other aspects of life that many stresses business people would give their eye teeth for. The Western Isles Council has just launched an initiative to support creative industries, including media in the isles. So the climate has never been better.

Friday, August 4

The real calendar

Glorious winter sunshine that ran for a week and a half this January. It was a bitter -5 in the glens and balmy +5 on the mountain tops in the inversion.
A November storm crosses Cowal and charges up the Clyde, normal service is resumed...
Winters are long and dark, but some people love them - I certainly do! As do Niall and Mr cool here. Having precious few hours of winter sun makes me appreciate it all the more when it shows itself.
We often don't think of it but it's remarkable the effect of the passing seasons on many aspects of our lives and feelings. Living in the north of Scotland amplifies this effect a great deal with fewer hours of light and rather a lot of rain. But rather than this being a problem or a worry, it's something that I, and I believe many other Scottish based folk, relish. It's a good thing to really feel the seasons and their moods. Life in the static environments of big cities can numb an appreciation for nature's routine and its always tempting to live life to it's endless rythym of work and repetition. Thats not to say you can't (or won't need to!) do that in the highlands, but for many the type of activity, or routine will change and even if it doesn't you can still feel the season's clock reminding you that another year is dissapearing. You will never say "where did that summer go? it flew past". For me with an occupation in the outdoors (climbing) I appreciate the warm May breeze twice as much because the March squall on my face is still fresh in my mind.
This blog is not just my story though. I'm going to interview as many people as I can who have moved. For any that read this blog - most people will be reading to find out your story, so please give your perspecitves on the topics in the comments.

Thursday, August 3

Can you find beaches on planet eath better than these?

John Kirremuir from Berneray has a personal mission to visit every beach in the Outer Hebrides. Therefore, John has almost certainly seen more beautiful beaches than any man on earth. If thats hard to believe, a look through his blog will convince.

The Hebrides beaches are an experience that will leave a mark on anyone, whether you love nature and the outdoors or not.

There are more lovely images of Berneray in the gallery pages of Berneray's site.

Wednesday, August 2

Broadband in the Western Isles

An ever increasing number of small business owners who work via the internet are recognising the Hebrides as a fantastic base from which to run their e-business for high quality of life. One of the main questions from this group challenges has been the availability of a fast (broadband) internet connection in the Western Isles. The Connected communities project was set up in order to meet this challenge and make sure that lack of a fast connection was not a hurdle for e-business owners thinking of locating in the Western Isles. The program has been up and running for some time and has all the details of the services on offer.

The Highlands and Islands Pathfinder Procurement Project is a 70m government project currently underway to ensure that the entire Highlands and Islands area has access to the latest broadband connection technology and announced last month that Thus plc has won the contract to rollout the project. Rollout is expected to start next month and be complete by Sep 2008.

Tuesday, August 1

What can I say? Stunning!!!

For pure inspiration through landscape photography, Big Alba is the best I have seen in a long time - Wow. More of the same please Alastair!

Hebridean Homes contemporary kit houses

I guess the first thing that enters your head when imagining and planning a move to the highlands and islands is; "what kind of house will I live in?". Highland Move will be showcasing property options for ALL budgets over the coming months. For those looking at purchasing land and building your own house (obviously a pretty important option to consider if you are moving to the less populated Western or Northern Isles) check out the new Hebridean Homes site. If you take a drive around, say, Lewis you will quickly notice that many of the modern kit homes are inspired by city suburbia and clash with the landscape. Hebrdean Homes provide contemporary self-build kit houses that are inspired by traditional rural architecture. The idea was conceived by Dualchas Building Design to combine rural design with modern environmentally conscious construction and efficiency, and a recognition that many who move to the isles also use their hoes as their workplace via internet. The site features a budget planner so you can answer the crucial question of how much will it cost?.