Moving to the Scottish Islands - LISMORE LIFE
Eva Tombs-Heirman and her husband Sebastian, have recently taken the life-changing decision to move to a Scottish Island - in this case Lismore.
Below are 10 questions that I asked Eva about the move and life on Lismore.
1) Why did you decide to move to a Scottish Island?
Scottish islands have a mysterious pull. What that is is not easy put into words. But some feel it and some don’t. It may be the rich heritage and culture, the fascinating history and language and music of the islands. Maybe it is to do with the beautiful colours of the landscape skies and sea. The clean air, the trees and wild flowers that abound certainly play into it also. After 30 years of living in the city (Edinburgh, though pleasant is still a city), having brought up six children, nursed my mother till the end, my husband finished his job and I though, it’s now or never. He agreed with me and we sold our house and the rest is now.
2) Why did you decide on Lismore?
I first came across Lismore while my husband was still working and soon realised that I wanted to live here. I would have lived in a shack on my own and have my husband visit on weekends, or me visit him in the city. This is possible; Lismore is at the end of the rail network. There is a ferry to Lismore that leaves Oban harbour which is adjacent to the railway station. There are also much cheaper busses to Edinburgh and Glasgow. And the car takes 3 hours to Edinburgh 2 to Glasgow. So I searched, imagined and kept a close eye on real estate website and finally found my land by talking to a farmer here. Problem; we would have to sell the house in Edinburgh. My husband was willing, but I felt a bit mean. We negotiated for 5 years to agree to the land and a price then there were issues with access that needed resolved and all it was 7 years before it was ours. We sold our house, submitted plans for permissions and moved here.
3) What are the main differences about living on an island compared to the mainland?
Some of the differences are:
- More expense; you need a car on the mainland as well as on the island. If you want frequent access to the mainland and use the small foot ferry at Appin. If you want to sell animals, a farmer or crofter, will need to transport livestock to market on the mainland.
- Peace and quiet, there are few cars on the island and our road only goes to our house.
- A modicum of self-sufficiency is required. There is a shop but it is small and fresh bread, vegetables, eggs etc. although obtainable are not in plentiful supply. Organisation and list making are needed to keep up standards of food and materials.
- The clothes you wear, footwear in particular are functional rather than fashionable. Waterproofs, hats, thick socks, warm jumpers, that sort of thing.
- Loneliness could be a problem for some.
4) What are the best things about living on Lismore?
The best thing about Lismore is definitely the community. With 200 people on the island people help and support each other tremendously. Learning how to live in community is a really important skill and they do it very well; and of course the beauty of the views from Lismore. With the waters of the Lynn of Lorne all around to set the picture and the mountains of Argyll with Ben Cruichan as the crown to the East, Ben Nevis, Schuir Dearaich and Ben Findlay to the North East, views up the loch to Ardgour and across to the North West and West to Morven, to the South to Ben Mor on Mull and on a clear day the Paps of Jura in the South East. Truly spectacularly spellbinding. Yesterday there were 3 eagles flying overhead above us here. The wildlife abounds. Because Lismore is a limestone island, the only one in Scotland, it is fertile and green and covered in wild flowers if the sheep are kept in check that is.
5) When do you expect/hope your house to be ready?
We have been working on the land and the house for 8 months and have still to pour the foundations! The weather and the fact that everything heavy has to be brought in by boat delays everything. That and the weather. IT RAINS A LOT! I will tell you when it is “ready”. But there is a rumour going around that Mr Dempster and Mr MacColl are doing the founds tomorrow! Maybe it will be habitable in 2 years. Meantime we live in the shed, the new barn and a small caravan for visitors. When people visit they bring a sleeping bag and sleep on a platform in the barn, or camp outside.
6) How will you make yourselves self-sufficient?
I will have a poly tunnel, (Half-built already, just waiting for a dry sunny day to finish it). The gates for the fence around the site are almost stock proof (there are 40 sheep and 12 cows on the site). Once this is complete I can lay down my vegi-garden which is about ¾ of an acre in size. Hens ofcourse will be a feature once I figure out how to deal with the mink.
7) How do you hope to achieve the 'high quality low impact standards' you strive for?
The new house we have planned is based on passive house principles. Which means lots of insulation, local building materials whenever possible, air recovery system and a woodburning stove for top heating in the winter. Also Solar heating for the hot water. The most important aspect however is in the design. With solar gain and minimal heat loss being the most important features of a cosy inexpensive to run home. Gadgets such as wind turbines, PVs etc. are not part of the plan as they aren’t necessary for a well built house. So I’m told. They can always be added later if needed.
8) Where do you see yourselves in 5-10 years time?
Here, happy and busy.
9) is it possible to come and visit (and maybe help out)?
Visitors are (almost) always welcome. Please email or phone to . Contact details are on our website: www.lismoreislandhome.com
We can always do with some help, so skills such as hard labour, digging drainage ditches, tree planting (in Nov and March), drystayne dyking, fencing, and very soon, building, plumbing, wiring and many other such are in demand.
10) Where can I find more information?
I have created a small website with more information and plenty of pictures so have a look and hopefully you will be inspired to create your own Scottish Island Home somewhere: www.lismoreislandhome.com