Isay Isay Isay - Abandoned Village

Isay Isay Isay


Isay Isay Isay - Top of the island

Isay Isay Isay – Top of the island

I recently visited the Isle of Skye for a weeks holiday. I have been to Skye on several other occasions, but generally have been passing through on the way to the Outer Hebrides, or on a brief tour on the way up to the Summer Isles or Ullapool. This was the first time I had spent a week on the island.

Having visited Skye before, I had been to all the major islands surrounding it such as the Small Isles (Canna, Eigg, Muck and Rum) as well as Raasay. I had arranged to go to Raasay again, so I was looking to visit another island, preferably one I had not visited before. I had two options. A visit to Rona or a visit to the uninhabited island of Isay. I couldn’t find any tour operators who were visiting Rona, so that option was ruled out pretty quickly.

I got in touch with Aillen and Gordon from Divers Eye Boat Trips at Stein in the north of Skye. They offered to take me out to Isay and leave me there for about 3 hours. This sounded great!

I set off early in the morning, as I was staying in the south of Skye at Isleornsay. The boat set off around 10am from Stein, in the north west corner of Skye. I approached the Harbour on a winding, single track road and descended into the village of Stein.  On the right hand side of the road is the Divers Eye Booking Office and Car Park, so I parked here and made my way down to the Harbour front. Gordon was already there preparing the boat and was chatting to another couple. They were going out on the boat for a wildlife watching tour and we were soon joined by another four people who had booked onto the wildlife tour.

Isay Isay Isay - Divers Eye Boat

Isay Isay Isay – Divers Eye Boat

The boat set off and as soon as it did, the heavens opened. Fortunately it was only a quick shower and throughout my trip there was intermittent rain, but nothing too severe. We made our way around Loch Bay and towards the small island of Sgeir nam Biast, where there was a small colony of seals, lying lazily on the shore.

From here, we made our way over to Isay and I alighted with a little help from the landing stage. I waved back to the other passengers, who were off to spot as much wildlife as possible before picking me up on their return journey.

Isay Isay Isay - by the shore

Isay Isay Isay – by the shore

As I stood on the island for the first time, I sat on a handy large stone postioned nearby and took stock. I didn’t know that much about the island, but I knew that there was an abandoned village close to the shore.  I could just about see it in the distance, so I carefully made my way there via a faint path close to the shoreline.

I scrambled down a hill to get my first good look at the village. The remains of the abandoned houses could be clearly seen from the bottom of the hill. I counted the ruins of about 20 houses and set out to investigate them further.

Isay Isay Isay - Abandoned Village

Isay Isay Isay – Abandoned Village

I am surprised that the island isn’t more widely known as the houses are reminiscent of ‘The Street’ on St Kilda. As well as the houses, there are also the remains of a General Store and further afield is the imposing Isay House. The island has been uninhabited since around 1860, after it was cleared as part of the Highland Clearances. Around 100 people lived on Isay at its peak in the mid nineteenth century.

Once I had taken some photos and had a good look around the occasionally eerie houses, I carried onto Isay House. The house is roofless and is missing half a wall at one end, but it is still a fair size. There is a grand staircase leading up to the first floor that is still in suprisingly good order. In the 16th century the House was inhabited by the Macleods of Lewis. The dastardly Roderick Macleod killed two families by calmly asking them to step outside while he gave them some good news. All so that his grandson could inherit the Isle of Raasay and land around Gairloch.

Isay Isay Isay - Isay House

Isay Isay Isay – Isay House

From Isay House, I then made my way to the islands high point and marvelled as the whole island came into view. In the distance, there were some rudimentary dry stone walls that looked like they could have been built as large animal pens, or possibly a boundary of some sorts.

My time on the island was almost at an end, so I made my way down to the slipway to await the returning ferry, which luckily arrived on time. The other passengers animatedly told me about some of their encounters with the local wildlife, including seals and myriad species of birds. The rain had now ceased altogether and we calmy sailed back into the Harbour at Stein. Truly, a day to remember.

Isay Isay Isay - abandoned houses with Isay House in the distance

Isay Isay Isay – abandoned houses with Isay House in the distance

Top tips for visiting scottish islands - Skara Brae

Top Tips for visiting Scottish Islands

Top Tips for visiting Scottish Islands


After travelling around the Scottish islands for years, I have some top tips to pass on when visiting these beautiful islands. Below are the first 5 (other installments will be available in the future):

1) When booking car spaces on Caledonian Macbrayne Ferries (to travel to the islands) in Summer or at busy times such as Easter or Bank Holiday weekends, make sure to book your vehicle and the driver/passengers in advance. These sailing can get full very quickly and if you arrive at the ferry without booking, you may be disappointed. This can obviously be a problem if you turn up for the last ferry of the day and you have booked accommodation for the night on another island and you cannot get there!

Top tips for visiting scottish islands - Calmac Ferry at Castlebay

Top tips for visiting scottish islands – Calmac Ferry at Castlebay

2) Go to the Caledonian Macbrayne website  and order a copy of their brochure which has all the ferry timetables in it. It´s free and it will help you to plan your journey/s, as well as giving booking information and prices. Also in the brochure is information about Island Hopscotch tickets. These can save you money if you are travelling to more than one island.

3) Also, when reading the Caledonian Macbrayne timetable, be sure to note down what time you have to be at the ferry BEFORE boarding. For vehicles this can be from 10 to 45 mins and for passengers can be up to 30 mins. For certain longer routes (see below), you will also have to complete a Passenger Registration card.

• Oban – Castlebay
• Oban – Colonsay
• Oban – Coll
• Oban – Lochboisdale
• Oban – Tiree
• Coll – Tiree
• Lochboisdale – Castlebay
• Tiree – Castlebay
• Uig – Tarbert
• Uig – Lochmaddy
• Ullapool – Stornoway

Passengers travelling on these routes must observe the check in times for registration for the particular sailing and be on board at least 10 minutes prior to sailing time. Each passenger must complete a Passenger Registration card. These cards will then be collected from you on boarding and, where applicable, the second (landing) part of the card needs to be be retained for collection on disembarking.

4) Buy a Historic Scotland  membership card. This will give you access to more than 70 top heritage attractions in Scotland. This is excellent value if you intend to visit lots of attractions when visiting Scotland and the Scottish Islands. Attractions include:

Shetland Islands – Mousa Broch, Jarlshof, Clickimin Broch, Scalloway Castle, Fort Charlotte etc
Orkney Islands – Skara Brae, earls palace, Knap of Howar, Maeshowe, Ring of Brodgar etc
Outer Hebrides – Calanais Standing Stones, Dun Carloway Broch, The Blackhouse at Arnol, Kisimul Castle etc
Inner Hebrides – Iona Abbey, Iona Nunnery, Rothesay Castle etc
Mainland Scotland – Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Linlithgow Palace, Fort George, Urquhart Castle etc

Top tips for visiting scottish islands - Skara Brae

Top tips for visiting scottish islands – Skara Brae

The membership card costs £49.50 per year for 1 adult or £54 for 1 adult and up to 6 children (age 5-15). Please bear in mind that it costs £18.50 to visit Edinburgh Castle during peak season!

5) If you visit the Scottish Islands in summer, make sure to take a midge repellent. The midges in certain parts of Scotland (such as the Isle of Rum) can be horrendous and they can ruin your holiday if you are not prepared. This is especially true for campers or people who plan on being in the outdoors a lot (walkers, climbers etc). I have used Avon Skin So Soft, which has worked well, but there are others such as Smidge with a good reputation.

If you have any feedback on these Top Tips, please do not hesitate to contact me at

In cold water - swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

In cold water – swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

In cold water - swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

In cold water – swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

Tamsin McVean is a cold water swimmer with a difference. She swims each day of the year, solo, no wet suit, and then captures her experiences in a beautiful, evocative blog that has caught the imaginations of a growing international audience. As a writer and photographer, she captures the raw essence of living on an island and swimming each day in its fierce cold sea. This is wild swimming and raw living with a difference. She lives on the quiet Hebridean island of Lismore, close to Oban on the west coast of Scotland. I managed to catch up with Tamsin and ask her about her love of cold water swimming her life on Lismore and the highs and lows of living on a remote Scottish island.

What inspired you to start cold water sea swimming?


 I live on an island croft, that shores onto a fresh water loch, with a beautiful Hebridean sea all around.   I never made the decision to start cold water sea swimming.  It just happened, I think out of some inner necessity.  I had been through several very difficult years.  It was a time of intense crisis.  Initially, there was a period of extreme loss, all within a very short timeframe.  All the usual things that many people experience singly, all came at once for me.


In cold water - swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

In cold water – swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands


Two months after my marriage broke up, my father died, and I lost my mother at the same time to Alzheimers.  I later became very ill myself, and then withdrew internally after my best friend here on the island was tragically killed in a car crash, the very day after we had shared with each other the difficulty of coping alone,  of the hard realities of isolation and loneliness.  Even whilst living in a community.  Trauma and loss are incredible triggers by themselves, but when you are living with this and trying to cope alone, without the support of family or close kin, it is a much more difficult ask.  For me it was utterly overwhelming.  I also had two broken hands at the time and when later I became more seriously ill, I started to really struggle coping.  This was just the initial tipping point and the start of some very difficult years. There came a tipping point, when something had to change.  So, I wasn’t inspired to start cold water sea swimming.  But the sea drew me to it.  From there, cold water swimming inspired me and my life, to start again.

My body took me to the sea, every day, in all weathers, storms, hail, snow, sunshine and calm, when I literally had nowhere else to go and no one to turn to.  I went with nothing and I came back each time, feeling renewed, strengthened and that I could get through another day.  It was a very deep instinctive feeling inside, that took me there.  To hold me and to keep me safe.  That is when my life transformed itself and a deeper creative inspiration and way of living came.

In cold water - swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

In cold water – swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

Why did you start a blog and what are your aims for the blog in the long term?


I started the blog simply as a way of recording each day’s swim.   I called it My Daily Raw Swim, Cold Running Tides.   It was something simple I could do for myself.    It was quite simply my voice.  Initially, I posted each day’s swim onto social media simply as a way of date stamping images and giving me a simple manageable discipline of writing a short paragraph each day.  To make sense of it.  To show that I was alive and well.  Ultimately, it was my voice at a time of silence.

At the outset, it was also a cry for help.  I was very lonely, so I joined the Outdoor Swimming Society, an online group. It is incredible to me know, how I met a community of sea there.   We shared stories, experiences, tips and made friendships.  Over time it has also become a tremendous creative and professional resource.  Some folk have also booked to stay a few days at my Smiddy cottage – artists, musicians, wildlife lovers – and others have come just to swim with me here. It has been an extraordinary experience, and once which is very moving for me.

The blog has grown organically and I would hope to keep it this way.  I always try to live each day without too tight, restrictive or prescriptive a structure, which I find can limit the creative process in many ways.  This also allows the blog to keep evolving and subtly changing.  My other work here on the island, crofting and my Acupuncture, Remedial and Holistic Health clinics on the island and in Oban are increasingly merging into this.

Originally, I posted pared back, simple prose and quick images on the blog. Then it was featured in the Sunday Times Magazine, How Does it Feel to … Wild Swim (May 2017) and was also aired on Radio Scotland and RTE Radio 1 Ireland.  With sponsorship by Dry Robe International, I am now a brand ambassador and lifestyle advocate for this inspirational brand and we are working together on projects for the coming year. It has all happened very quickly for me and perhaps this is because it started from a raw flame of truth.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself. It is working now as a multi-media showcase across different platforms and which ideally, when it is working well, seeks to break down the traditional barriers between subject/object and participant/viewer. I make short films, swim clips and also love to use still images and more unusual images taken in the water. I am loving exploring using a hand held in water photography and my words and images are now featured in magazines and print.  I use a Sony A6000 gifted by Sony Cameras, with an in-water professional housing, a GoPro Hero 6 and am looking to invest in a professional film kit.  I love to write poetry and also to explore word art.  I guess I’m enjoying pushing back the boundaries, in myself as well as my creative work. I would hope the blog and my own media becomes inreasingly immersive over time. I am also now working with a London literary agent on a book and a screen play, having been approached by a couple of publishing houses over the summer.  I can now see in time how My Daily Raw Swim: Cold Running Tides blog may become a wonderful real time reference point for this.


In cold water - swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

In cold water – swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

How long have you lived on Lismore and what gave you the idea of moving to a remote scottish island?


I have lived here on the Isle of Lismore for 14 years, and the last 7 years alone.  I always loved the Highlands as a child.  We used to travel up from the south, by the sleeper train, only in those days your car was also on board and overnighted with you. I loved waking up, with all the freedom of the mountains and the sea.  The raw wildlife and beautiful nature, has always been an integral part of my own being, ever since I was a child.  The idea to move here came having spent years working and living intensely hard down south, and wanting to bring my life and work back into balance.  I came here to start a family.  And also to be part of a close, welcoming and thriving community, having loved living in a very small hamlet community down south.  Most of all, I wanted to live close to nature and closer to the Scottish wilds.

What is your favourite place on Lismore and why?

I love Allastra, which is a headland at the north westerly point of the island.  It has a wildness and yet an intimacy to it, that is breathtaking.  It is not easy to get to and this adds to its appeal.  It is a bit of a hike from my own door, but you can only get to it by walking or now, swimming to it by the sea.  It is a place of freedom – of cliffs, woodlands, tiny coves and stunning skyline views of the smaller islands and the sea.   My favourite place there is a secret…!  But it is also hard to describe, as I found it by chance and there are no real markers.  Just following sheep tracks through dense ancient trees.  But maybe, if you come stay or have a retreat, some time out at The Smiddy, I will walk with you there…


[vimeo id=”249585704″ width=”600″ height=”340″ position=”left”]
What are the best and worst things about living on a remote island?


That’s a difficult question.  It is hard in some to say the best and worst things about island living, if it’s your home!  Island living is unlike anything else I have ever experienced.  Before I came here, I had travelled the world over and lived in many beautiful places.  But this is home to me now.


Ultimately, I came here to live more closely to wildlife.  I live, breathe and work creatively with this and so this for me is the island’s greatest strength.    Island living is unlike any other, for its potential for living amongst wildlife.  The raw beauty yet also intimacy of Lismore’s wildlife, is unlike anywhere else I have lived.  I live in very close proximity to nature every day.   Each morning, I swim in the sea, walk the hills, work the croft, or am just watching and listening.  I like to feel the wind and the weather on my skin.  With the sea all around, this lends a wholly different intensity to a raw simple life that is lived quietly.   Each day is felt and experienced differently, due to its wildlife, raw elements, changing light and weather.  I welcome wildlife into my life and it is a gift that comes so freely, it is, for me, and I hope for others, a truly inspirational way to live.


As an immersive and somatic experience, this is translated into writing, photography, film and also my healing and clinic work.  It is my breath, so for me, this has to be one of the most nourishing aspects of living here.
In cold water - swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

In cold water – swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands


Cold water sea swimming has lent an extra edge to this traditional landscape of soil.  If you live on an island, sea is like the moon to the soil’s sun.  Each lends itself to the other.   It brings its own energy, perspective, moods and shift.  These days, it is the sea that shapes how I experience living on the land.  This is a really interesting, exciting and a beautiful blue space and dynamic that I am still loving to explore, and to share with others.


Landscape here though means, not just the soil and terrain itself, but a close proximity with our island community.  And this is also a great strength.   Community here is a strong and vital island resource.  We are incredibly fortunate to have such a vibrant dynamic and relatively young community here. As with everything, life isn’t static and this island itself is changing.  So it will be really interesting to see what the next 10 to 15 years brings.


I would say for me, living alone without family, is the hardest challenge.  It was my dream to have my own and so this hits doubly hard.  Therefore, I guess isolation is the biggest challenge.  There is always community, friends or folk here to meet and interact with, but I do miss having that closer proximity with close kin or loved ones near.  This translates for me, I hope now, into a source of strength and inspiration.  Island living is ideally suited if you have an open mind, are resilient and interested in pushing back your own brakes and boundaries and living creatively.  Self-sufficiency is not just about soil, croft, produce, livestock, craft, culinary adventure or wild foraging.  It is also of resilience, strength and innovation of mind.  The most exciting aspect for me is the impetus it lends to its creative expression and translation through a life and how this then is shared and experienced with myself and with others.


So ultimately, in my end is my beginning.  You could say, the best and worst things are each other’s inspiration.  They are mutually beneficial and organically evolving over time.  I hope I am able to keep them flowing in this way.  It is good to step up close to one’s own challenges, to try and reframe these and create something beautiful out of this too.  For me, there is no better place to find this than here.  And an island life is a great internal and external source of fulfilment through its potential for creative expression and joy.


In cold water - swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

In cold water – swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

What are the main problems that Lismore faces, both now and in the future?


A changing world, I think, is what all of us here on Lismore face alongside most other places.  There are of course, within this, unique challenges for rural communities and arguably, even more so, for island communities.  Sometimes there is a lack of budgetary allocation or skilled centralised administration, resulting in normal services being disrupted.  For example, gritting of the roads, ferry services etc.  Often there is a lack of planning and quick responsive action, or contingency measures planned out and discussed in advance.  Here, we have our own active Community Council, Island Trust and Heritage Centre, who are each singly and collectively always looking at ways to integrate strategic planning with funding bodies, including the Council.  I wonder if, now more than ever, it is vital to have an island plan that represents our collective voice, in order to allow us to be better equipped with working together with a cohesive island vision – and therefore to actively work together to secure the future we would like here.  

Have you visited any other islands around Scotland.  If so, which is your favourite and why?


I have visited many of the other islands here in Scotland, including Arran, Colonsay, Islay, Skye and Raasay amongst others.  My favourite place that I have visited is Oransay.  This is as much for its wildlife, as its history and also stunning swimming that is much more strongly tidal, with its populations of Common and Atlantic seals.  I have visited here many times and I have talked with the RSPB bird warden there about the scope for spending an extended period to volunteer or work there.


I do have another favourite island.  Or rather it is a small cluster of islands that I have yet to visit. They are the uninhabited islands of Mingulay, Berneray and Pabbay.  I would love to explore these wilder islands, not just as a haven of seabirds including puffin, kittiwakes and razorbills, but also for their evocative history and once rich history of  older islander fishing and crofting communities.  I love old Norse literature and poetry, which I studied many years ago and Mingulay is also rich in ancient Celtic and Norse folk traditions and Viking place names.
In cold water - swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

In cold water – swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands


Do you think there has been an increase in tourism after the recent programmes about scottish islands? How has this impacted on Lismore?


I think mainstream media, has undoubtedly helped Scottish islands in this respect.  Also, increasingly so, the role of responsible social media.   Here on Lismore, as in so many other Scottish islands, farming and crofting communities are changing.  Increasingly, they are looking to support themselves through inspirational and dynamic diversification.  Tourism that is low impact on the environment and community infrastructures that is well managed environmentally, will be vital for this.  I see environment tourism as the way ahead.  There is such scope and potential here to supplement livelihoods with innovative enterprise, creating employment and work, as well as to protect our fragile wildlife and species.  Green and blue space tourism will ultimately create more jobs for indivdual’s, by nature of it working closely with the public, rather than more traditional industries with technology that will soon be electronicized or managed by robotised programming.  It’s some way ahead, but it is a reality.

Our terrain and infrastructure here is not conducive to an  influx of diesel or petrol tourism on wheels, just passing through and out again within a single day.  But we are well set up for walkers, cyclists, kayakers and so on.  More importantly, for tourism of short or longer stays, many islanders here offer holiday rentals and places to stay including a wonderful Bunkhouse.


In cold water - swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

In cold water – swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

How do you see life for yourself in the next 5-10 years and do you foresee any major changes on Lismore?


My own life is changing and evolving just now.  So 5-10 years time is going to be an exciting fast forward.  I see life for myself here, focused on my creative work.  I am currently writing a non-fiction memoir, and screenplay and we are also discussing storylines for fiction work.  I am lucky as I also experience the world very visually and so I would hope to also be developing my photographic and film work.  I would hope in 5-10 years, my main workplace and studio will be here on Lismore.  But I can see myself moving around much more, visiting the other islands and beautiful wild raw destinations in the Outer Hebrides.  I would love also to explore Norway and that stunning fractured coastline of inlets and fjords.

The major changes I see for Lismore, will be linked to the future of farming communities, subsides and the ability to creatively think outside of the status quo.  There may be a real temptation to split up and sell off land that is not receiving once traditional EU subsidies.  Yet there is huge scope for innovative and sustainable, environmental tourism, local industry and business.  I think investing in people and people skills in this environment and landscape is the way forwards and in so doing, also protect and celebrate our beautiful wild surrounds.  


In cold water - swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

In cold water – swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

Where can I find out more information about your blog and Facebook page?


Tamsin McVean: My Daily Raw Swim – my is website:


For a taster of our island from the sea, please visit – a lovely wee film I made called Island.Reel.


The home shore of my blog is at


Accomodation at: The Smiddy, Isle of Lismore for Raw Simple Life Holidays: Wild Swimming & Therapy Retreats.


All Photos by Tamsin Mcvean
In cold water - swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

In cold water – swimming around Lismore and other scottish islands

Gigha - Gigha Hotel

God’s Isle – Welcome to the Isle of Gigha

God’s Isle – Welcome to the Isle of Gigha

“Welcome to God’s Isle”. So said the friendly sign welcoming my family and I on our arrival on the Isle of Gigha one of the jewels of the Inner Hebrides and the furthest south of the chain.

The island is approximately five and a half miles long by one and a quarter miles wide. The unusually mild climate and quiet undulating roads make the Isle of Gigha a Walkers and Cyclists paradise.

Afte departing from the regular Cal Mac Ferry from Tayinloan on the west coast of Scotland, my family and I drove the steep slip road that wound its way through to the main road at the only village, Ardminish. From here we made our way slowly down to the extreme south of the island. The single track road ends at a short Pier adjacent to what looks like an old, stone storehouse with a solitary wooden bench outside. There are gorgeous views from here over to the Kintyre peninsula and the nearby islands of Gigalum and Cara. In 2016 Gigalum was advertised for sale at around £450,000 which would be cheaper than buying a one bedroomed flat in London! This article shows what you would be acquiring for your nearly half a million pounds.

Isle of Gigha - South Pier

Isle of Gigha – South Pier

Heading back from the Pier, we next passed the Village Hall, a detached building that is the hub of activity on the island as well as being used for public meetings and private functions. The Hall is located opposite the entrance footpath to Achamore Gardens, which would be our next destination.

Isle of Gigha - Village Hall

Isle of Gigha – Village Hall

Achamore Gardens are a mile and a half south of Ardminish. The gardens were the vision of Sir James Horlicks, who made his money from the famous chocolate drink.  He lived here until his death in 1972.  Gardeners from all over the world come to marvel at the myriad of exotic plants, shrubs and trees.

There was no main entrance to the gardens, just an informal honesty box that asked for a small contribution towards the upkeep of the gardens.


Isle of Gigha - Entrance to Achamore Gardens

Isle of Gigha – Entrance to Achamore Gardens

There were two walks available, one that lasted an hour, the other a more leisurely two. We decided that the one hour trail was for us, so we set off and followed the appropriate trail markers. As we slowly walked around, my daughter was inquisitively running around each corner. The rich summer colours, subtle shades and fantastic shapes, so rarely seen by a child of tender years, enchanted her. The warm, damp conditions created a natural humidity that enveloped us like a dense fog in a black and white horror film.

All too soon we arrived back at the entrance and wished that we had taken the two hour trail. Our fingers traced the route on the wooden map.  “We can come back another day”, I said to my daughter, which seemed to placate her for a while.

After this splendid walk we returned to the car and drove up to Kilchatten (or St Cathan’s) Church and graveyard, which dates from around the 13th century. The Church became derelict in the 18th century.  In order to preserve the Church, conservation is underway to keep this important monument from falling into any further disrepair.  On the south of the road opposite the lower end of the graveyard, there was an old well dedicated to St Cathan. Unfortunately, the specific position of the well has now been lost.

Isle of Gigha - Kilchattan Church

Isle of Gigha – Kilchattan Church

Next to investigate was the north of the island. Most of the amenities and housing is in the south of the island, so the north is sparser, but no less spectacular. The main attraction (if you can call it that) is the ‘Giants Tooth’. It is a large Bronze Age Standing Stone, also known as the Hanging Stone, believed to be because criminals were hanged from the top of it.

Isle of Gigha - Giants Tooth

Isle of Gigha – Giants Tooth

Next, we headed back to the Gigha Hotel near the main village. The only Hotel on the island, it is an imposing, brooding piece of architecture which dominated the surrounding scenery. The Ferry was not due for another hour, so we found a table in front of the main window and greedily demolished the excellent coffee and biscuits provided by the friendly lady on reception.

Isle of Gigha - Gigha Hotel

Isle of Gigha – Gigha Hotel

As the hour rescinded, we boarded the ferry and made a promise to visit ths beautiful island again.  The next time, we will stay overnight and experience life on the Isle of Gigha at a more leisurely pace.


Lee Allen

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans? Life, loves and knitwear in the Shetland Islands

Frances Taylor is the author of the ‘My Shetland’ blog detailing her love of Shetland ponies and other animals.  I managed to catch up with Frances as part and ask her some questions about her life in Shetland and the famous shetland ponies in cardigans advert.
Shetland Ponies in Cardigans - Lerwick

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans – Lerwick

1. How long have you lived on Shetland for and how did you become interested in Shetland ponies?

I have lived in Shetland since 1996.  My husband, 2 infant daughters and 3 cats moved up from South London because we wanted a better place to bring up our children.

Since early childhood, I have always wanted my own pony and was never allowed.  I did, however, learn to ride.  When we finally found a house to buy in Shetland, after renting for a few months, it had 5 acres so I started to rescue old ponies that needed a retirement home.

2. What inspired you to start a blog and what is the main focus of the blog?

I predominantly wrote the blog for my two daughters, who were away at school, then university, on mainland UK so they could see what was going on at home and not feel left out. The main focus of the blog is my daily life, my thoughts/feelings and my animals.

3. Do you look after any other animals apart from Shetland ponies?

Obviously, there are the 6 Minions (my rescue Shetland ponies).  I also have a small Icelandic horse stud – we breed, ride, train and compete.  There are then 4 rescue Shetland sheep – The Boyzenberries.  They are very tame, like dogs, come when they are called and are very entertaining. 2 dogs and 1 cat plus 9 chickens!

4. How did you get involved with Visit Scotland’s Year of Natural Scotland campaign featuring the “Shetland Ponies in Cardigans”?

We had a phone call from Visit Scotland requesting if we had any ponies that could wear a Fair Isle sweater.  We are used to weird requests!  At the time we had about 30 breeding and riding Shetland ponies so we looked around and wondered who would be most amenable to this job.

The obvious choice was Fivla, a small grey mare who belonged to my youngest daughter.  Fivla had been with us since she was 6 months old and now older, was probably the easiest pony ever to work with.  She could live in your house.  She has perfect manners and the kindest temperament.
Fivla’s best friend is Vitamin, a larger black breeding mare who, although never ridden, would follow Fivla’s lead and do anything that was asked, without malice or unhelpfulness.
We were asked to measure the ponies and duly did.  The cardigans arrived and looked very odd until we tried them on their respective new owners.  They fitted perfectly and suddenly it all made perfect sense!

Visit Scotland sent up a photographer and we drove him round our area showing him a variety of potential locations, talking about the best lighting for the shots.  We did a few evening shots, worked out what helpers we would need and the next day, bright and early, we set off to create an internet sensation!


Shetland Ponies in Cardigans

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans

5. What is your favourite place on Shetland and why?

My favourite place in Shetland is a croft a few miles down the road.  Situated in a glaciated valley, this is sheltered winter accommodation for my Icelandic mares and their foals in one field full of grass as well as the Shetlnd ponies who have a larger hill field.  There is evidence of possibly a substantial Neolithic settlement and I walk my dogs, with my little ponies following, trying to imagine how folk lived in those ancient times.  It is a very good place to think, to chat with the ponies and to put the world back into perspective.

6. What are the best and worst things about living on a remote island?

The best thing about living here is the remoteness. I love that.  I love not being part of the rat-race and not being dragged along the materialistic route of life.  I didn’t want my daughters brought up like that either.

The worst thing about living here – postal charges by couriers.  It’s a rip off especially when the thing could go in an envelope with a first class stamp!

7. What are the main problems that Shetland faces, both now and in the future?

Shetland’s problems are mostly that that out-lying islands do not receive the support and funding like the main island.  Everything is in Lerwick, our capital, and outwith, you are just another forgotten annoying statistic.

Unless Shetland embraces the 21st century technology with support from those that already have this luxury, they will be left behind.  Also, our broadband is not great!
8. Have you visited any other islands around Shetland.  If so, which is your favourite and why?

Yes, I have visited some.  There are still others on my list.  My favourite one, so far, is Unst, though each one has its own merits.  Unst has some breathtaking scenery.

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans - Hermaness on Unst

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans – Hermaness on Unst

9. Do you think there has been an increase in tourism after the recent programmes about scottish islands?

Yes, I do.  It is a good thing.  Shetland is a very well kept secret and, apart from folk thinking that there are murders every week, I think our visitors are surprised at just how amazing Shetland is.

10. How do you see life for yourself in the next 5-10 years and do you foresee any major changes on Shetland?

I don’t see myself moving from Shetland. I really cannot imagine myself living anywhere else, to be honest.  There is a magic and I feel it every time I return from south.  When the little plane lands on the runway into the sea, I am so happy to be home.  Everything feels right again.

11. Where can I find out more information about your blog and is it possible to visit you?

My blog is called My Shetland.  My contact details are there.  If you want to visit, give me a shout. I always enjoy introducing folk to my animal family.

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans - Frances Taylor

Shetland Ponies in Cardigans – Frances Taylor

Scottish Island News – November 2017

Scottish Island News – November 2017

There are some interestimng articles about Scottish islands this week.  the first is an article about volunteering on the remote island of St Kilda.  Something I have always wanted to do. The artice explains what the rocess is for undertaking this and the positives and negatives of actially doing it, although there is mainly only positives for me.

Volunteering on St Kilda is all about DIY and clearing ditches. Yay! | Travel | The Guardian

Wanted: DIY-er with retail skills – or shop assistant handy with paint brush. Must be happy to be marooned on a remote Scottish island for a fortnight in May with 11 strangers and minimal sanitation. Ever since the National Trust for Scotland was bequeathed St Kilda in the 1950’s,

volunteers have taken the wild, three-hour Atlantic boat ride to the four “islands on the edge of the world”. Volunteering on St Kilda is all about DIY and clearing ditches. Yay! | Travel | The Guardian


The next article is about another remote island, Handa.  The island is located on the north west coast of Scotland and is a National Nature Reserve.  The Scottish Wildlife Trust is looking for a Ranger to look after the island, wildlife and visitors.  Handa is a beautiful island, but I imagine it can be quite severe in winter.  Some of the cliffs are extremely high.

Britain’s most remote job: fancy spending your winter on an uninhabited island with just 200,000 birds for company?

Those with that feeling should definitely apply for Britain’s most remote job –  a  ranger is wanted on an uninhabited  island  which is home to over 200,000 seabirds as well as Britain’s remotest and most expensive public toilet. The  Scottish Wildlife Trust is looking for someone to tend to the birds on the remote isle of Handa for £14,500 a year. However, some 7,000 plus visitors come to the island every summer, which has become so popular the Wildlife Trust installed a comfort stop. Britain’s most remote job: fancy spending your winter on an uninhabited island with just 200,000 birds for company?


The third article is about visiting the Outer Hebrides, something I have done on several occasions. Here, the article gives good advice on things to do and places to see as well as recommendations for food and drink etc.

What to do and see in the Outer Hebrides | The Independent

The Outer Hebrides are islands of extremes: 119 islands (of which just 14 are inhabited) dangling in the far north-west corner of the map of the UK. They’re an area of beautiful, isolated beaches where you can enjoy Robinson Crusoe moments, your footprints the only ones on the sand. The wildlife, too, is breathtaking: deer to dolphins, otters to golden eagles are all easily spotted.  There’s a food trail, pointing you to the many small-scale outlets where you can enjoy salmon, chocolate cake or a dram of whisky produced with water from the island’s own hills. What to do and see in the Outer Hebrides | The Independent


The final article is an interesting story about Simon Yates, who was famous as having the film ‘Touching the Void’ based on a life and death experience whilst mountain climbing in Peru. If you haven’t seen the film, tracj it down, it is excellent.

Simon is about to complete a challenge that I am trying to complete myself.  He has visited all the scottish islands that have a regular ferry service.  There are around 90.  I have currently visited just under 70, so I still have around 20 to visit.

Cumbria climber to complete 20-year isles quest – BBC News

Simon Yates became a household name in the 1980s following a harrowing expedition to Peru with climbing partner Joe Simpson. This weekend, Yates is to visit Cumbrae, the last isle on his list. He has also visited the Shetland Islands, including its isles of Foula and Fair Isle, accompanied by his family. Cumbria climber to complete 20-year isles quest – BBC News