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Impressions of the Pentland Firth

"Showers Over Hoy" - watercolour - 16 x 26 cm

This is a series of paintings I made recently of the Pentland Firth; the stretch of sea that separates the Orkney Islands from mainland Scotland. It is a treacherous channel, full of strong currents and tidal races. The islands are often shrouded in cloud, giving them an air of mystery. Most of them are fairly low-lying, but the island of Hoy has some mountains and dramatic sea cliffs, and the famous rock stack known as the Old Man of Hoy*.

"Sunlight on Hoy" - watercolour - 24 x 36 cm

The southernmost island is Stroma, which lies just off the coast of Caithness. It had a thriving community at one time, but now it has been abandoned. It has a haunting quality, with the ruins of numerous cottages lining the skyline.

 "Stroma and Rough Water" - watercolour - 24 x 36 cm

 "Stroma and Hoy" - watercolour - 16 x 26 cm

On a fairly calm day I was watching the ferry to Orkney sailing by Stroma, and the ship was pitching up and down quite dramatically in the rough sea. The waves weren't being caused by a strong wind, but by a strong tidal race running through the channel between the island and the mainland.

"Sailing by Stroma" - watercolour - 16 x 26 cm

 "Looking Over South Ronaldsay" - watercolour - 16 x 26 cm

The Pentland Skerries are a group of small islands at the eastern end of the Pentland Firth. The largest one, Muckle Skerry, has a very essential lighthouse to warn shipping of their presence.

 "The Pentland Skerries" - watercolour - 24 x 36 cm


  1. Good morning Keith!... Today's cycle of six seascapes clearly depicts the rugged danger of this area for shipping. As well... one can feel the isolation and vulnerability one must feel living on the head... open to the whim and the might of unforgiving weather conditions.

    You never fail to inject an interesting array of facts and historical information that further lights up and adds "atmosphere and colour" to your magnificently simple... but direct painting style in your paintings. Bravo Keith!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

    1. Hi Bruce, you are right to identify the weather as being a dominant factor in this area, affecting not just the landscape but the strong communities who inhabit these wild places.

      All the best,

  2. So many beautiful paintings! I was interested in the reference to Muckle, as I did a painting of the Muckle Fulga lighthouse last year. Unfortunately, I have never actually seen the lighthouse, and I had to rely on photos. I did it for a wonderful lady who is 93 years-old. She comes from the Shetland Islands, and she was telling me how, when she was a child at school, they would go on excursions to the island and then climb up the ladders to the lighthouse at the top, Spending so much time looking at photos from the area made me almost feel as though I had actually been there, but, after seeing your wonderful paintings, I do feel that I have been there, not only physically but also emotionally. Thank you, Keith.

    1. Muckle is an old Scottish word for 'large', so it's quite common to find it attached to place names. Muckle Flugga is the most northerly point in the British Isles. I think I remember your painting of it and it was suitably sombre and dramatic.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the tour.

    2. Thanks for that, Keith; I had no idea that muckle actually meant 'large'.

  3. What a gorgeous watercolour these are, soo much less is more into these!!

    Real bellyglowing stuff, if you know what I mean.

    Keep them coming!!

    1. Thanks René, I keep striving to simplify as much as possible, so I'm glad you see that quality.

  4. Beautiful paintings Keith, the skies are all very different, nice cloud shapes and colors.

    1. Thanks Caroline, it's a good place for seeing lots of different skies.

  5. Hi Keith, the paintings bring back memories of various trips to Orkney and Shetland over the years. I particularly like the muckle skerry painting - this seemed one of the most isolated spots I've ever seen as we sailed past on the ferry to Kirkwall.

    1. Hi Karl, yes I imagine you would be familiar with this stretch of water. Imagine what it must have been like to be a lighthouse keeper on Muckle Skerry!

  6. How I love the use of your limited palette, it's calming and makes your landscapes look so uncluttered... The viewer is left to take it all in.. and it's all beautiful.
    thanks for coming by my blog .. I really appreciate that.
    Barbra Joan

    1. Thanks BJ for your perceptive comments.


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