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Disathairne, 05/Nov/2016

Taking a break here

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You might have noticed that the last entry on this blog was on 31/Jul, also that it wasn't particulary busy in the months prior to that. Those who know me a bit will have noticed that my last visit to Islay was for the Islay walking week back in April and that my usual summer visit in June and the later visit in October or November for the Geese and/or the Islay Sessions isn't happening either. There's a reason for that:

Back in summer 2012 I found out that I have a bit of a dodgy heart valve. My cardiologist had been monitoring it annually since then, earlier this year he started to get slightly more concerned and I also started to notice more and more symptoms related to problems with a dodgy heart valve (including reduced energy levels). In June I had some more detailed tests and it was discovered my ‘mitral valve prolapse’ (to give it its proper name) had become severe, in addition I had developed ‘atrial fibrillation’, both of which required an operation.

That operation took place in early October at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London. Nine days after my open-heart surgery I was discharged home. While my recovery is going well I'm still often quite tired and struggle to concentrate for longer periods. I'm aiming to start returning to work in early December. For more about my surgery and recovery check the heart surgery category on my personal blog.

Because of this I have decided to take a break on this blog while I focus on my recovery. I'm hoping to start posting a few pictures on the Islay Pictures photoblog again over the coming weeks (it's been fairly quiet there as well), so that there is at least some new Islay stuff coming from me. Depending on how my recovery goes I'm hoping to start posting on this blog again by late December or in early 2017. I'm also aiming to be fully fit again for another Islay visit for the Islay walking week in April 2017. Hopefully see you then, either here on the blog or in person at the walking week.

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Didòmhnaich, 31/Jul/2016

Pokémon Go on Islay

Islay Fun in stencil

If you somehow haven't heard of Pokémon Go by now you probably lead a very sheltered life away from any news sources as it has been everywhere. Of course it has also reached Islay, even though the first spot was in a spoof Pokemon Go players stumble upon lost city of Atlantis. But the game is also being played for real and Donald Feist has recently started to publish a series of videos about him playing it on Islay (with some help by his dog):

YouTube: Pokemon Go on Islay #1 - Port Ellen adventures

Moving on to Bowmore for the second video:

YouTube: Pokemon #2 Taking on the Church

For more subscribe to Donald's YouTube channel, as he has promised more videos to come, including from his home town of Port Charlotte on the Rhinns of Islay. Hopefully he'll get to film on some of the beaches, some other distilleries, at Portnahaven/Port Wemyss, Port Askaig and other places, assuming there are some PokeStops (?) there.

If you're playing Pokémon Go on Islay you might want to check the comments to the videos, there are a few tips where to find gyms and players and more. According to Donald there are gyms (I believe they are rather important in the game?) at the Round Church in Bowmore, Port Ellen war memorial (at the ferry terminal) and Ardbeg distillery. Also there are a lot of players at the Islay map in Bowmore I hear.

PS: I don't play myself and must admit a lot of what Donald was saying was rather baffling to me, I hope I've got the basic terms right.

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Disathairne, 30/Jul/2016

Celtic Connections Islay Night video

Islay Music in stencil

Some beautiful music with an Islay connection tonight. Back in November 2015 the Islay Sessions in Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich in memory of the late Fraser Shaw were a celebration of his life as well as a rehearsal for the Islay Night at Celtic Connections in January 2016. A beautiful video has now been released of the concert and more:

YouTube: Celtic Connections Islay Night

With so much excellent music it's difficult to pick a favourite, but if I'm pushed I think ‘Grahame Allison's/Get Her Goin'/Angus MacKenzies’ from about 5:55min onwards is my pick. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as me, may be with a we dram of Islay single malt whisky in memory of Fraser?

PS: Please don't forget to visit the Fraser Shaw Trust website for more information.

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Diciadain, 27/Jul/2016

Mark Beaumont to visit Islay and Jura

Islay Events written in stencil

On Thursday 28/Jul/2016 anyone on Islay might be lucky enough to spot a very interesting visitor. The visitor in question is Scottish presenter, broadcaster, cyclist and adventurer (hope that captures it all) Mark Beaumont. He has some interesting plans, which should give you plenty of opportunities to spot him and more importantly cheer him on:

He will be running the Paps of Jura, cycling from Jura to Port Ellen, running the Three Distilleries Pathway and Kayaking Ardbeg to Port Ellen. Yes, all in one day. Part of a 12 day adventure ‘Wild About Argyll’.

Picture of a cyclist next to his bike

Of course his adventure is being documented online: To start with you can visit Argyll & the Isles where you can read about Wild About Argyll with Mark Beaumont. Then you might want to look at Twitter, where the hashtag #WildAboutArgyll will be a good starting point. Also the following three accounts will be worth a follow and look:

There should be pictures and clips throughout the day, so watch out for them. I understand there will also be a special short film commissioned by the Islay & Jura Tourism & Marketing Group filmed by three cameramen to look forward to.

I think all that remains is to wish Mark (and of course all his support) a great, exciting, fabulous and successful day on Islay and Jura.

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Dihaoine, 08/Jul/2016

Heavy Flavour Particle Physics on Islay

Islay Events written in stencil

And now for something a bit different. Most people probably associate Islay with whisky, nature, wildlife, history and the like. But every once in a while a slightly ‘exotic’ event takes place on Islay, like the one starting early next week (with a public event later in the week):

The event is the Heavy Flavour 2016 - Quo Vadis? conference, taking place at Ardbeg Distillery 11-15 July. From what I understand the scientists attending the conference (it is invitation only, but keep reading, there's more to come for the rest of us) will be talking about elementary particles like Atoms, Electrons, Nuclei, Quarks and possibly more. In particular they are studying very heavy quarks, a species of quarks and hence the name ‘Heavy Flavour’. They are working closely together with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN near Geneva (Ha, I've heard of that one!) and it seems when they don't work on highly complicated maths they also enjoy a good Islay single malt whisky.

But now on to the real interesting part of this post. While the conference as such is invitation only for the scientists there will also be public outreach activities at Islay High School 12-14 Jul with a public lecture at 17:30 on Wednesday 13/Jul. During the public lecture Prof. Franz Muheim will talk about ‘Higgs bosons, antimatter and all that’ and Matjaz Vidmar will speak about ‘Astrotechnology, how it changed the world’. See the poster for details (click on it for the larger version):


I think this is a great opportunity, I hope many people will visit the lecture as well as the outreach activities at Islay High School. If you're on Twitter you can find both the school as well as some of the scientists, I'm sure there will be updates through the week:

Have a great time everyone!

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Didòmhnaich, 03/Jul/2016

Cantilena Festival 2016 on Islay

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Sorry for the lack of postings again here recently and the rather short notice for this event, I had to sort out a few personal things over the last couple of weeks. But over to the Cantilena Festival, which after a warm up event on Thursday starts in full today. Here's the information I was given:

Picture of an orchestra

Cantilena returns to Islay to present the 2016 Festival, starting on Sunday 3 July in Columba Centre with a programme which includes Haydn Piano Trio, Mozart Piano Quartet and Schumann Piano Quintet featuring Angus Ramsay and Abigail Young on violin, Stephen Shakeshaft on viola, Sarah Harrington on Cello and Scott Mitchell on piano.

The Festival continues on Monday 4 July with a students’ showcase concert in Laphroaig Distillery. This is an opportunity to hear our very talented students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and also the whole ensemble playing Haydn’s Seven Last Words on the Cross. This was last played on Islay by Cantilena many years ago when it was very well received.

Havilland Willshire will present a piano recital in Columba Centre on Tuesday 5 July. Havilland needs no introduction to Islay audiences and his programme including Scarlatti, Ravel, Schumann and Grieg is guaranteed to be very enjoyable.

Lagavulin is the venue for Wednesday’s concert including some more unusual works by Galuppi, Marcello and a concerto for double bass and strings to be played by one of the students who first appeared in last year’s festival. The second half of the programme consists of works by Rossini and Bach.

On Thursday 7 July the concert is in Ardbeg Distillery and is an all Mozart programme It includes a Piano Trio, and Oboe Concerto and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. This programme will be dedicated to the late Captain Tom Friedrich of Islay House who was a great friend and supporter of Cantilena.

As always the Festival concludes on Friday evening with a concert at Bruichladdich but this time in the Village Hall. The programme here includes Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings, and the ever popular ‘Classical Ceilidh’.

Cantilena is very generously supported by distilleries across the island. Come along and enjoy the music and meet the professional musicians and the students. All concerts start at 7.30 and tickets (£12/£10) can be bought from Celtic House Bowmore or at the door of the various venues.

In addition to the music there is also a Whisky Tasting Afternoon by Martine Nouet:

Martine Nouet, celebrated whisky expert presents a Whisky and Music afternoon on Tuesday 5 July in Islay Hotel, Port Ellen. Martine will guide you through several Islay malts which she will match with music which Cantilena will play. Always a popular event. Further information at Martine's website.

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Disathairne, 04/Jun/2016

How to spot the International Space Station on Islay

Islay Events written in stencil

In last night's post Friday Islay picture of an ISS pass over Islay I promised to post a little widget to help those wanting to try spotting it. But before I get to that a link to a website which kind of started it for me, both watching meteors and trying to spot the ISS: Meteorwatch has all kinds of information about meteors, the ISS and when and how to watch them, very helpful. But now on to the widget which should provide more localised information:

NASA have created a Spot The Station minisite with all kinds of information where, when and how to spot the International Space Station. You can select a location and will be given information when the next pass is (and if you want to also future passes after it for longer term viewing planning). Now Islay isn't listed itself, the closest I could find was Coleraine in Northern Ireland (the closest place in Scotland was Glasgow I think). But with Coleraine being just across the North Channel it should be close enough to provide you with all the information you need (just as many people use the weather forecast as it is often more accurate for Islay than the Scotland forecast). Here's the widget:

I've spotted the ISS on Islay a number of times, on two occasions I managed to take pictures: International Space Station (ISS) passing over Kilchoman in 2015 and International Space Station (ISS) passing over Loch Indaal in 2016. Another time I watched it passing over Loch Indaal and Bowmore from the beach at Uiskentuie with friends on our way back from an evening out in Bridgend, a great end to the evening. Ideally try to be away from a place with any light pollution, but with fairly little of that on Islay anyway you should be able to spot it almost anywhere. On a clear evening look into the direction where it should appear from and you will soon spot its bright reflection racing over the sky. Happy spotting!

PS: I'm not sure if it will happen again this year, but the last two years it was passing over the UK at Christmas. If you have young children who still believe in Santa you can take them outside on Christmas Eve and tell them it's Santa in his sleigh on his way with the presents…

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Dihaoine, 03/Jun/2016

Friday Islay Picture #385 - ISS over Loch Indaal

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Yay, finally a Friday Islay picture again! About time, I hear you say, and you would be right. I really have to do better with blogging here. Anyway, before I get to a new Friday Islay picture something else: Happy birthday to my sister Imke! Some of you will have met her during her Islay visits, so I think she deserves a mention here. Apart from the fact that she's a great sister to have of course. But now on to the picture:

Picture of the ISS passing over a sea loch

It's not the greatest picture, but it also turned out better than I had hoped, so I've decided to publish it. It was really still too light for good pictures (this is a composite picture of 38 individual pictures), but I decided to give it a go anyway when the ISS passed over Islay in April 2016. The view is south over Loch Indaal from Port Charlotte pier, the ISS was passing from right to left.

Of course there's also another reason for posting this picture tonight: The ISS is passing over the UK right now. You can find the details of the June 2016 passes here. I've also come across an embedded applet provided by NASA showing the details recently, once I've understood how to embed it correctly I'll follow up with another post this weekend.

As usual I will post a larger version of the picture on the Islay Pictures photoblog on Saturday morning. Until then, happy ISS spotting and have a great weekend!

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Diciadain, 25/May/2016

Islay Pipe Band at the British Championships 2016

Islay Music in stencil

Quite a few people are blogging about the Islay Festival at the moment (for obvious reasons), so I'm going to blog about something different (although I'm posting pictures of Islay distilleries on the photo blog this week). The Islay Pipe Band competed at the British Championships 2016 in Paisley last weekend, here's a video of their performance:


After their many successes last year the band was promoted (not sure if that's the right term? I think the official term is upgraded, but I prefer promoted) from Grade 3A to Grade 2 for the 2016 season. Of course the standards in the higher grade are much more challenging and they have to compete against bands who have played in Grade 2 for many years. They achieved a very respectable 14th place, including some good results in the individual components. I'm confident with some experience they will soon break into the top 10 and better.

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Diluain, 02/May/2016

A belated WalkIslay 2016 report

Islay Events written in stencil

It's loooooong overdue, having promised it for last weekend I finally get to it this bank holiday weekend. After returning from Islay I tried to capture a little bit of the walking magic and managed to get out every day both weekends, taking bird pictures, watching birds and bluebells and enjoying butterflies/moths in the spring sunshine. So what remains in memory from the Islay walking week 2016?

It was a great week again, apart from one or two grey days it was dry and often sunny most of the time. However, it was probably the coldest Islay walking week since it started back in 2003. There was a very cold, frequently northerly, wind blowing most of the time. But that didn't stop us enjoying some wonderful walks, starting on the Oa:

Picture of a group of walkers next to a loch

I participated in walks on four of the six days, taking a break for other things on two days. The highlight of the first walk was the visit to Eas Mòr waterfall at Lower Killeyan. The second walk took us into the hills behind Bridgend with some great views over Loch Indaal. The third walk was along the River Laggan and out to Laggan Point. This walk was a bit grey and drizzly, but still very enjoyable with interesting conversations and sights.

Picture of the group of walkers descending a hill

On one of my non-walking days it was calm enough to fly my DJI Phantom 3 drone. I decided to drive out to Lagavulin to fly near Dunyvaig Castle. While it was overcast I think I got some decent pictures and video, I will aim to edit the video over the coming months. This picture should give you a first impression of the views (also check this picture of Dunyvaig Castle and Lagavulin Distillery from the air):

Picture of Lagavulin distillery with a seal in front of it

On the other non-walking day I participated in an online tasting by Bruichladdich distillery, helping to post local imagery while enjoying some excellent new Islay Whisky expressions. A very enjoyable and tasty evening.

The last walk to Beinn Tart a'Mhill on the Rhinns of Islay unfortunately couldn't go ahead as planned, so we had to improvise and walk to Kilchiaran instead. Here we were treated to the sight of some impressive Highland cattle braving the strong and cold northerly wind. But then again another group of walkers was tackling the highest of the Paps of Jura in almost winterly conditions while we enjoyed the sunshine at Kilchiaran.

Picture of a Highland Coo in strong wind

In summary it was a great week again, meeting old and new friends while enjoying walking in beautiful scenery. Many thanks to the organisers and walk leaders for making it such an enjoyable experience again. As usual I've taken plenty of pictures many of which will appear on the Islay Pictures photoblog over the coming weeks and months. I've brought home some great memories as well as whiskies from Laphroaig and Bruichladdich and beer from Islay Ales.

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