Infinite Scotland

Small Isles

Small Isles | Marine

Rum , Eigg , Canna , Muck . What beginnings they had, these four beautiful islands, each utterly different from the others, yet each with overlapping origins in how they now look. The quartet has both common themes and varied tunes. Landscape, wildlife, communities – all change from isle to isle here; all have linking threads.

Each island is a place to savour in the present day. Each can give great insights into Scotland’s past, including through histories and tales of the injustices suffered by island people in distant and not-so-distant centuries. Martyrdom, barbarity, oppression, greed and injustice all figure – sometimes repeatedly. So also do sanctity, perseverance, strength of will and music, within island surrounds so stunning that some would rate them among the fairest in the west.

Wildlife

Basking Shark

Wildlife

The Basking shark is the second-largest fish in the world. It can be many metres long, and has a huge, gaping mouth, which it often holds wide open as it swims. Plankton – the soup of tiny sea creatures which can feed fish and other, larger marine life – is what the basking shark eats. So in sum...
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Environment

Forming the Landscape

Environment

Around 60 million years ago a new ocean was in the making: the North Atlantic. And to start that process, where the ocean would emerge and then spread, centimetre by centimetre, the Earth swelled and buckled, cracked and heaved. Runnels carried white-hot rock in fast, liquid flows to deliver the stu...
More information
Culture

Hugh Mackinnon

Culture

Hugh Mackinnon was Eigg’s most distinguished 20th century tradition bearer and reckoned by some as the best historian of his generation in the whole of the Hebrides. Hugh lived from 1894 until 1972 and had a remarkable memory and store of tales, legends, songs and knowledge of island hi...
More information
Wildlife

Manx Shearwater

Wildlife

Rum is the biggest single-island colony of manx shearwaters anywhere in the world (around 120,000 occupied breeding sites), while Eigg is home to a few hundred and Canna and Muck a handful. They return to the islands in March and stay until September, each pair attempting to rear a single, chubby ch...
More information
Culture

Mesolithic People and Bloodstone

Culture

The first people to come here, nearly 9,000 years ago, were the among the earliest settlers so far recorded in Scotland. Rum was a focus of activity for these hunter-gather-fisherfolk of the “Mesolithic’ (Middle Stone Age) times. They made use of a distinctive kind of rock here - bloodstone.  T...
More information
Culture

Naming the Islands

Culture

In the past, according to a minister of the Small Isles in the 1790s, fishermen - famously superstitious about using some normal land-based names when they were at sea - referred to each of the four islands in unusual ways. Eigg was the Island of the Big Women; Rum  -the Kingdom of the Wild Forest;...
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Culture

St Donnan and the Island of the Big Women

Culture

St Donnan was an Irish priest and missionary of the Celtic church, who came to Scotland and spread the Christian gospel in parts of Pictland. Eigg was where he ended up, settling at first with twelve companions to establish a muinntir (community - in this case a religious one) on fertile gr...
More information
Environment

The Atlantic

Environment

The North Atlantic has grown, spreading outwards from an ocean-bed ridge at around four centimetres each year. Think of it in human terms. That’s three metres in a life of 75 years.  Sounds slow. But it’s been enough, over millions, and tens of millions, of years, to sunder Scotland from North ...
More information
Culture

The Clearances

Culture

“Clearances’. That word is scorched on Scottish history, especially in the psyche of people with roots and links in the Highlands, Hebrides and Orkney. People whose ancestors, perhaps, were pushed out of their homes and smallholdings. Those evictions made way for sheep, introduced by landowners ...
More information
Culture

The Islands

Culture

From the times of the Clearances onwards, the islands changed owners and uses. Rum became a field-sports playground for the mega-rich Bullough family, who built a baronial-style castle at Kinloch as a base for shooting parties. For more than 60 years beyond the time of the Bullough’s involvement (...
More information
Culture

The Massacre Cave

Culture

The most notorious massacre in all the Hebrides was perpetrated in the 15th century. One version of this has it that Macleods from Skye had been infuriated by what they felt was ill treatment of a party of their people who had been shipwrecked on Eigg (long a home to many MacDonalds). Whe...
More information
Other

The Singing Sands

Other

Take a walk on the little beach of Camas Sgiotaig near Laig, on a warm day when the grains of sand are dry. This is an unusual place, in world terms. But amazingly, there’s a beach with similar properties on Prince Edward Island, just north of Nova Scotia, in Canada’s Gulf of St Lawrenc...
More information
Culture

Viking Influence

Culture

Here, as throughout western and northern parts of Scotland, Vikings lived, farmed and went seafaring for several hundred years from the beginning of the 9th century. Their legacy lasts in different ways, including the pronunciation of Gaelic on the Outer isles of the Hebrides.  The traditional gall...
More information
Wildlife

Basking Shark

Wildlife

The Basking shark is the second-largest fish in the world. It can be many metres long, and has a huge, gaping mouth, which it often holds wide open as it swims. Plankton – the soup of tiny sea creatures which can feed fish and other, larger marine life – is what the basking shark eats. So in sum...
More information
Wildlife

Manx Shearwater

Wildlife

Rum is the biggest single-island colony of manx shearwaters anywhere in the world (around 120,000 occupied breeding sites), while Eigg is home to a few hundred and Canna and Muck a handful. They return to the islands in March and stay until September, each pair attempting to rear a single, chubby ch...
More information
Environment

Forming the Landscape

Environment

Around 60 million years ago a new ocean was in the making: the North Atlantic. And to start that process, where the ocean would emerge and then spread, centimetre by centimetre, the Earth swelled and buckled, cracked and heaved. Runnels carried white-hot rock in fast, liquid flows to deliver the stu...
More information
Environment

The Atlantic

Environment

The North Atlantic has grown, spreading outwards from an ocean-bed ridge at around four centimetres each year. Think of it in human terms. That’s three metres in a life of 75 years.  Sounds slow. But it’s been enough, over millions, and tens of millions, of years, to sunder Scotland from North ...
More information
Culture

Hugh Mackinnon

Culture

Hugh Mackinnon was Eigg’s most distinguished 20th century tradition bearer and reckoned by some as the best historian of his generation in the whole of the Hebrides. Hugh lived from 1894 until 1972 and had a remarkable memory and store of tales, legends, songs and knowledge of island hi...
More information
Culture

Mesolithic People and Bloodstone

Culture

The first people to come here, nearly 9,000 years ago, were the among the earliest settlers so far recorded in Scotland. Rum was a focus of activity for these hunter-gather-fisherfolk of the “Mesolithic’ (Middle Stone Age) times. They made use of a distinctive kind of rock here - bloodstone.  T...
More information
Culture

Naming the Islands

Culture

In the past, according to a minister of the Small Isles in the 1790s, fishermen - famously superstitious about using some normal land-based names when they were at sea - referred to each of the four islands in unusual ways. Eigg was the Island of the Big Women; Rum  -the Kingdom of the Wild Forest;...
More information
Culture

St Donnan and the Island of the Big Women

Culture

St Donnan was an Irish priest and missionary of the Celtic church, who came to Scotland and spread the Christian gospel in parts of Pictland. Eigg was where he ended up, settling at first with twelve companions to establish a muinntir (community - in this case a religious one) on fertile gr...
More information
Culture

The Clearances

Culture

“Clearances’. That word is scorched on Scottish history, especially in the psyche of people with roots and links in the Highlands, Hebrides and Orkney. People whose ancestors, perhaps, were pushed out of their homes and smallholdings. Those evictions made way for sheep, introduced by landowners ...
More information
Culture

The Islands

Culture

From the times of the Clearances onwards, the islands changed owners and uses. Rum became a field-sports playground for the mega-rich Bullough family, who built a baronial-style castle at Kinloch as a base for shooting parties. For more than 60 years beyond the time of the Bullough’s involvement (...
More information
Culture

The Massacre Cave

Culture

The most notorious massacre in all the Hebrides was perpetrated in the 15th century. One version of this has it that Macleods from Skye had been infuriated by what they felt was ill treatment of a party of their people who had been shipwrecked on Eigg (long a home to many MacDonalds). Whe...
More information
Culture

Viking Influence

Culture

Here, as throughout western and northern parts of Scotland, Vikings lived, farmed and went seafaring for several hundred years from the beginning of the 9th century. Their legacy lasts in different ways, including the pronunciation of Gaelic on the Outer isles of the Hebrides.  The traditional gall...
More information
Other

The Singing Sands

Other

Take a walk on the little beach of Camas Sgiotaig near Laig, on a warm day when the grains of sand are dry. This is an unusual place, in world terms. But amazingly, there’s a beach with similar properties on Prince Edward Island, just north of Nova Scotia, in Canada’s Gulf of St Lawrenc...
More information