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New book: Sign Here

Sign Here, a photobook about signs by Anne Ward

A new book, called Sign Here is now available in the shop. It’s the fourth in a series of photobooks – a collection of signs – old and new, from the hand-lettered and beautifully drawn, to the idiosyncratic and frankly falling-apart. This was the first book I started laying out, as I like signs and have been photographing them for years, but for some reason the other three books jumped the queue.

Here are some favourites:

St Boniface Kirk sign, Papa Westray, Orkney
Papa Westray, Orkney

Blue plaque: Mrs Humphrey's House - Temporary Hospital for scurvy ridden whale men who had been trapped in the ice for months
Stromness, Orkney
Gym sign, Dalmarnock
Dalmarnock, Glasgow
No Parking: Children's Play Area
Wanlockhead

Sign Here is £8 including UK P+P.

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A Day on Jura – part 1: Nothing To See Here

The main road on the isle of Jura

This the main road on Jura that runs from the west coast to Ardlussa on the east. There isn’t a lot to see, but the wilderness is part of its charm. George Orwell wrote 1984 here, calling it an ‘un-gettable’ place.

The Paps of Jura

What you can’t miss is ‘the Paps’ of Jura. These three mountains are visible for miles around, and make the island’s skyline easy to identify from any direction. Even though they are omnipresent, they are also strangely out of reach.

Red deer at Ardlussa, Isle of Jura

Jura is also famous for having more deer than people (around 7,000 deer v 200 people), so there’s always that.

The Islay-Jura ferry

To get there, there is a car ferry from Port Askaig on Islay to Feolin (a 5-10 minute crossing) or the Jura passenger ferry that runs from Tayvallich on the mainland to Craighouse, the main town on Jura.

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The long walk to Oronsay

Oronsay Island, Southern Hebrides

Oronsay is a tiny island, connected to Colonsay by a beach which is only accessible at low tide.

The walk between Oronsay and Colonsay, Southern Hebrides, Scotland

A 4-5 hour circular walk takes you over the crossing to see the priory and an RSPB sanctuary.

The beach between Oronsay and Colonsay, Southern Hebrides, Scotland

Compared to the other tidal islands I’ve visited (Burgh Island, St Michael’s Mount, Cramond Island) the walk to Oronsay was a long and not particularly enjoyable schlep across wet sand and standing water.

The marker on Oronsay island, Inner Hebrides

I’d love to say it was worth the walk, but I was so fed up I turned back as soon as I got to the waymarker. Sorry Oronsay! Another day perhaps.

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A trip to Colonsay

Colonsay bookshop and sheep, Isle of Colonsay

Colonsay is a small island (population 125) in the Southern Hebrides (part of the Inner Hebrides) off the west coast of Scotland. The ferry runs daily from Oban, or from Islay twice a week in summer.

There is a bookshop, a microbrewery, two gin distilleries and Colonsay house and gardens (closed when we visited). It is also covered with beautiful quiet beaches and has its own species of bee.

We hung about on Colonsay Golf Course, which has a fantastic setting, like the Bunabhainneadar tennis course on Harris. It operates via an honesty box, and local rules allow “a free drop for balls disappearing into rabbit-holes or taken by the ravens”.

It was covered in relics of something or other and led down to a deserted bay.

After a trip to Oronsay (of which, more later) the last stop was something to eat at the excellent Colonsay Pantry before the beautiful journey back to Islay.

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Islay – a round church, a square lighthouse and other architectural highlights

Portnhaven Church, Isle of Islay

Portnahaven Church was designed by Thomas Telford and built in 1828. The two doors are reputed to allow the populations of Portnahaven and the neighbouring village of Port Wemyss to enter separately and remain segregated when inside. Very Christian!

It is one of the best remaining examples of a ‘parliamentary church’, part of a wave of church-building (funded by Parliament) designed to better serve churchgoers in remote areas. Thanks Maraid for the tip-off.

The Round Church in Bowmore, Isle of Islay

Kilarrow Parish Church, more commonly known as The Round Church sits at the top of Bowmore’s main street. It was built in 1767 and is one of few round churches in the UK. The story goes that it was designed to be round so the devil couldn’t hide in any corners, but this seems to be more fiction than fact.

The church is not usually open apart from Sunday mornings, but you can arrange a visit by contacting the parish clerk on the number at the entrance.

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse on the Mull of Oa is a beautiful thing from any angle. We visited at 7.30am on the hottest day of the year.

It is Scotland’s only square lighthouse, and was commissioned by Walter Frederick Campbell, the Laird of Islay, in memory of his wife Lady Ellinor Campbell who died young in 1832. There is a beautiful dedication to her on one side of the lighthouse.

You can walk across the little path to get right up close (except at high tide). The lighthouse itself is not usually open to the public.

Further reading: a great tour of the lights of Islay and Jura by a very dedicated lighthouse-bagger.

The Royal Arch Masonic Hall, Bowmore, Islay

And finally… a pleasing doorway. Bowmore’s Royal Arch Masonic Hall has been beautifully restored and is now Bowmore Lodge holiday accommodation.

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The lonely petrol pumps of Islay

Port Askaig garage, Isle of Islay

I’ve been on the Isle of Islay for a few days. This Brutalist shelter was the first thing I saw after getting off the ferry at Port Askaig.

I thought it was a bus stop, but it’s a lone petrol pump. The shape of the island is cut out of one side.

Port Charlotte Garage, Isle of Islay, Scotland

After that, I couldn’t help noticing other tiny garages. This one was in Port Charlotte.

Bowmore Filling Station, Isle of Islay, Scotland

Bowmore Filling Station, in the middle of one of the main town’s streets seemed like a megastore in comparison.

All operated by Gleaner, a family-owned Scottish fuel supplier.

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Weston-super-Mare – Wonkey Donkey

Wonkey Donkey, Weston-super-Mare

After leaving the pier, sadly Wonkey Donkey was closed.

Crazy golf scene, Weston-super-Mare

Weston-super-Mare has at least three crazy/adventure golf courses in close proximity. The old ones are the best.

“Person per tramp” – an example of business speak that doesn’t quite translate outside the business.

Haile Selassie blue plaque, Weston-Super-Mare

Good story on this blue plaque in Weston’s local newspaper – “Although invited to, he never jumped the queue and would happily chat with other visitors.”