Douglas MacQueen's blog

Dark world of Granite Noir comes to Aberdeen

The 2018 crime novel festival Granite Noir is getting under way in Aberdeen today and runs from Friday 23rd - Sunday 25th February 2018.  The festival has been organised by Aberdeen Performing Arts (APA), who describe the event on their website : "Over three days we’ll explore the enduring appeal of stories that plunge us into the heart of darkness - where morality is ambiguous, motives complicated, and even heroes harbour devastating secrets".

Spectacular lightning strike damages legendary ruin of Scottish castle on Skye

Stormy conditions have hit Scotland over recent weeks. Snow and high winds have been causing disruption and during awful conditions on 14th February the ruined castle of Caisteal Maol on the Isle of Skye was damaged by a lightning strike. It smashed the top off one of the two main standing parts of the ruin. In what a witness described as an unnerving combination of lightning, thunder, violent wind and wet snow. There then came a loud thunder crack and a massive fireball. In an instant the floodlights that illuminate the ruin's walls were extinguished.

Anniversary of Scotland to Ireland ferry disaster

On this day 31st January 1953 the coasts of northern Europe were facing one of the worst gales in living memory. It was on the morning of this day that a car ferry, The Princess Victoria, set out from Stranraer (Scottish Gaelic: An t-Sròn Reamhar) on the south-west coast of Scotland at 07.45 AM on a journey to Larne (Irish: Latharna) in the north-east of Ireland.

Shetland celebrates its Norse heritage with festival of Up Helly Aa

Shetland is an island group that lies to the north-east of Scotland. The islands are some 50 miles (80 km) to the northeast of Orkney and 170 miles (280 km) southeast of the Faroe Islands forming part of the division between the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the North Sea to the east. In Lerwick, the capital of Scotland's Shetland Islands, a fire festival named Up Helly Aa is held every last Tuesday in January. Other smaller such festivals are also held on other parts of the Shetland Islands.

Warning of threat to Scotland's historic sites by climate change

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) (Scottish Gaelic: Àrainneachd Eachdraidheil Alba), is the agency that oversees over 300 sites of national importance. They include Scotland’s most noted Neolithic structures, castles, abbeys, and ruins. Now, for the first time, HES has issued red warnings for almost a fifth of its sites placing amber, high risk warnings against another 70%. 

Ancient Scottish tradition of Burning of the Clavie celebrated in Burghead

Burning the clavie is an ancient Scottish custom. It is held on 11th January, which is the old Scottish New Year (Hogmanay) by the Julian Calendar. The event is still observed at Burghead (Scottish Gaelic: Am Broch), a fishing village on the Moray Firth (An Cuan Moireach). The clavie is a half-cask filled with wood shavings and tar, which is then  set alight. The flaming clavie is carried through the village and finally to a headland upon which stands the ruins of an altar, called the Doorie.

Moon is coming on a visit to Scotland and Wales

Museum of the  Moon is a seven-metre circumference art installation. Created by artist Luke Jerram, an installation artist, who creates sculptures, large installations and live arts projects, the moon is a stunning 1:500,000 scale replica. NASA provided the high resolution images for the sphere.

Name plaque from century old Orkney naval tragedy that was found in cormorant nest

South Ronaldsay is one of the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland. On January 12 1918 during awful weather conditions and a snowstorm, HMS Opal and Narborough ran aground off South Ronaldsay. Just one man survived and 188 sailors lost their lives in the tragedy. Some of the Opal’s crew were washed overboard, others were trapped in cabins and compartments unable to escape before the ship broke in two. The survivor, Gunner AB William Sissons, was from that ship. He managed to swim ashore and tried to scale the cliff and reach safety, but was to exhausted.

Ancient carved stones re-discovered in the Scottish village of Inchinnan

Inchinnan (Scottish Gaelic: Innis Fhionghain) is a village in Renfrewshire (Siorrachd Rinn Friù), in the west central Lowlands of Scotland. It is an area steeped in history and the name of the village is derived from a combination of the Gaelic word 'Innis', which an island or low-lying land near a river and the name of the 9th century Saint Inan.

Scottish reef identified as the biggest of its kind

Loch Carron (Scottish Gaelic: "Loch Carrann") is a sea loch in western Ross in the Scottish Highlands. It has now been discovered that it is home to an extensive bed of flame shells. Much larger than a similar feature in Loch Alsh (Loch Aillse) which been previously thought the biggest. Flame shells are a small, scallop-like species, which has numerous neon orange tentacles that emerge between the creatures' two shells. They group together on the sea bed and their nests create a living reef that supports numerous other species.

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