Mike Vickers' Blog

July 22, 2016

Two weeks in The Western Isles – Barra to the Butt

Filed under: Land Ownership, Lesley Riddoch, Linda Norgrove, Music, Painting, Scotland, Travel — derryvickers @ 7:30 pm


  • Wind, Sea and Vatersay seasky
    • New road across from Barra. But there in LR’s time
      • EU supported
  • Kisimil castle – right in the middle of Castlebay
    • Get there by boat
    • Lovely restored wee castle of the MacNeils Kilmil
  • Kisimil restaurant
    • Not to be missed – need to book
  • Weather had been bad on first day and in the North saw three Twin Otters land within the hour the next


South Uist

  • Ceolas at Dalburgh –
  • Music Summer school
  • http://www.ceolas.co.uk/summer/
  • Ceilidh
  • Two young accordionists
  • Patsy Reid- excellent Scottish Fiddle Player
    • Did not play much at the evening we attended but she may have continued later
    • Tutor in Fiddle
  • Step dancing – people just got up one by one and danced
  • Mountains all down the East Coast
  • Machair on the West
    • glorious flower drenched in the sun
    • machair


North Uist

  • Balranald RSPB reserve
    • Otters but we never saw it
    • Oystercatchers in profusion, ringed plovers, dunlins
  • BB with Jac
    • Excellent house
      • Got the sun room
    • Artist – colourful landscapes
    • Views from our window great
    • Not easy to find restaurant
  • Chambered Cairn cairn
    • Unfortunately entrance recently blocked
  • Trinity Temple
    • Believed to be oldest university in Britain
    • Dun Scotus University

South Harris

  • Golden Road
    • Built in 1937 – so called as so costly to build
      • Must have been recently rebuilt
    • Harris Tweed shops and museum
    • Community café – excellent
  • Coffin Road
    • Ground too hard to bury dead in East
    • More likely because people wished to bury their dead in the cemeteries of ancestors, which were on west
      • People evicted from Seilebost in west to stony, poor ground in the east
    • Excellent walk over bealach
      • resurfaced
  • Scalpay
    • New bridge opened by Tony Blair
    • Fish restaurant – quality fish at a price – locally caught
    • No lack of small boats in small harbours with small jetties
      • Run by Community
        • A general situation in the Outer Isles
  • More Harris
    • One eagle observed from Eagle Observatory
    • Sight of St Kilda from Huishinish – Far West
    • Luckentyre – lovely beach but two cemeteries
    • North Harris Community buy out
    • Harris is very mountainous
      •  All over


    • Lewis is flat
    • Old Village at the end of the road, Orasaigh OldVillage
    • Ravenspoint museum
      • Unbelievable collection of old documents and photos off South Lewis
    • Callanish – stones fabulous
      • Callanish 1 2 3 etc
    • Black houses occupied till 1940
    • Harris tweed made largely in Lewis
      • Calloway loom – Hattersley 60 inch now out of production
        • Complex to set up
        • To be classed as Harris tweed it must be woven at home Hattersley
      • Norman Mackenzie
      • Isle of Berneray
      • Good walk
      • Iron Age House
    • Uig
      • Mangersta
      • Restaurant
      • Glen Bhaltois – geology
    • Butt of Lewis
      • Birds
        • Gannets diving, fulmars nesting, kittiwakes, shags fishing and nesting, terns, ravens
        • Fulmars unbelievable fliers when close to cliffs
      • Lighthouse TheButtLight
      • St Moluag’s Church ButtChurch
      • Crofts not being crofted
    • Pol’s Pantry
      • Excellent food
        • Chef saved a buzzard caught in barred wire Buzzard


    • Roads of good quality and surface
    • Communities very much on the move
    • Plant trees, protect them and they grow
    • Difficulty of cash machines – then we find them in Post Offices but they close at 5pm
    • Great that CalMac kept the Western Isles Ferry contract
    • For a better travelogue with people read Lesley Riddoch – On the Outer Hebrides

October 18, 2015

Land In Scotland and its Future

Filed under: Land Ownership, Scotland — derryvickers @ 9:18 pm

The State of Crofting in Camuscross

A Report by Iain MacKinnon & Susan Walker

A couple of recent items have made me turn again to Land Reform

  1. The SNP Conference ‘concern’ on the current Land Reform Bill
  2. Visiting Blair Castle and considering the Atholl Estates Together this led me to turn again to Andy Wightman’s ‘The poor had no lawyers’ and look up the size of the Atholl Estates and I find they are the third largest in Scotland. The italics are mine and I make no apologies for not putting the quotes in strict page number order

From the report I picked out the following quotes that underpin the meaning of land in Scotland and exemplify the two sides of the Scottish Coin: People and Land.

And turning the pages as one does I came across reference to a report by Iain Mackinnon and Susan Walker on crofting at Camus Cross in Sleat on the Isle of Skye. I know Camus Cross so I dug further – which means I went to the Web and found the report!

The Conclusions

Page 30

As our report has tried to make clear, in this township we have suffered, and are still suffering, examples of misuse of and capitalisation on croft land and common land. Each time this occurs it further weakens the sense, still prevailing among some crofters, that the land is more than merely a private economic resource. This indigenous understanding of stewardship of the land as a resource to be treasured for the livelihood of future generations sits uneasily with the prevailing short-term consumer mentality in our society

However, as our society struggles to come to terms with the reality of ecological limits to growth, this understanding of the land as a place where a community of people make their lives in the long term is re-emerging as one which makes sense. For crofting townships where this sense of place and community is still felt to be important, it is essential that ways are found to support and protect it.

Page 31

In the months ahead we need good leadership from our Scottish Parliament to reform the Crofters Commission into a decision making body with the crofting interest at its heart and the will to tackle the issues that need to be tackled if crofting communities, and the people who choose to be part of them, are to thrive.

Page 29

In the words of the leading Scottish rural affairs academic, John Bryden ( I take this is the same John Bryden who spoke recently at a Nordic Horizons) , the Scottish Parliament has begun the process of creating ‘a community centric land reform legislation’ (Well hopefully it will now start to). In the social transformation such legislation is intended to create, it is crofting communities that are showing the confidence and the talent in leading the way.

The report has the headline statement

“Thèid dùthchas an aghaidh nan creag”

(Kinship withstands the rocksGaelic proverb)

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