The Small Isles: Rum, Eigg, Muck, Canna

Transport - Cruises - Sightseeing - Accommodation - Books

Isle of Muck
View from Muck to Eigg

How to get there

Caledonian Macbrayne runs a ferry service from Mallaig to the Small Isles 6 days a week. Cycles can be carried for a small charge. No cars (except residents'). You stand a good chance of seeing whales, dolphins and porpoises.
A trip on the CalMac ferry allows you to see most of the islands on a day cruise. You can get combined bus/ferry tickets from Fort William to Mallaig and then cruise to the Small Isles. Visit the CalMac ferry web site for details.
Other day cruises operate in the summer on local boats from Mallaig and Arisaig:

  • MV Western Isles offers cruises to Loch Nevis (Inverie and Tarbert) from Mallaig harbour. Children go half-price. Tel: 01687 46 23 20.
  • AquaXplore is an offshore RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) operating from Elgol on Skye to the isles of Rum and Canna. Advance booking recommended. Telephone 01471 866 244 or freephone 0800 731 3089.
  • Sea.Fari Adventures offers scheduled boat trips from Mallaig and Armadale on Skye to cruise around the Small Isles and Loch Nevis (Knoydart) and go whalespotting. Contact Peter Fowler. Tel: 01471 833316 / Mobile: 0797 3509387.
  • Arisaig Marine runs cruises to the Small Isles giving you between 2 and 5 hours ashore on the islands of Eigg, Muck and Rum. The MV Sheerwater operates daily timetables from late April until late September, departing Arisaig at 11am. Tel: 01687 450224. The harbour office also contains a tea room, showers, toilets, shop and a laundrette.

Map of the Small Isles
Maps by Expedia.co.uk Travel
www.expedia.co.uk

For any quiz participants out there looking for the colloquial name for the Small Isles, the answer you are probably looking for is "cocktail islands", a phrase which is thought to have been used by a journalist several years ago, although is not really used locally.

Tours
North West Frontiers offer guided walking trips to the Small Isles.

If you intend to go hiking, particularly in the hills, you will need the scale of maps provided by the Landranger series (2cm per mile) produced by the Ordnance Survey which is the official map agency of the UK. These can be purchased via Amazon in the UK:

ISLE OF RUM

Isle of Rum
Photo copyright Joanne Mackenzie-Winters 2007 - More photos

Bought by the Nature Conservancy Council (now called Scottish Natural Heritage) in 1957, it is one of Scotland's finest National Nature Reserves. It is of international importance for many of its plants, habitats and birds. SNH offer guided day walks in the summer, looking at the nature, wildlife, archaeology and geology of the island. Visitors are welcome to follow the 2 simple nature trails laid out around the village.

Visit the Scottish Natural Heritage web site to download PDFs of free leaflets and booklets about Rum.

On a visit to Rum you may be rewarded by sightings of deer, otters, seals, goats and eagles. Over 100,000 Manx shearwaters nest in the hills. Be warned though, the island is said to have the highest rainfall in the Inner Hebrides thanks to its 2000 foot high mountains which catch all the clouds coming in from the Atlantic. And the midges are huge apparently! The island has a population of around 22 (2011 census).

Rum was the site for the reintroduction of sea eagles in Scotland. The red deer research by Edinburgh and Cambridge Universities is one of the longest running studies of a population of large mammals anywhere in the world.

The Rum Cuillin mountains are the remains of a huge, ancient volcano and attract geologists from all over the world. Deposits of platinum and other minerals have been found on the island by scientists from Essex University in England - but not enough to start mining!

Overlooking Loch Scresort, a sheltered bay halfway up the east coast where the ferry arrives, sits the reddish form of Kinloch Castle, an extravagant Edwardian dream, built by wealthy industrialist George Bullough in 1900. It was featured in the BBC 'Restoration' competition in 2003. Guided tours take place daily in the summer and on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12.30pm in the winter - phone 01687 462 037 to avoid disappointment.
Kinloch means 'at the head of the loch'. The Bullough family mausoleum can also be visited if you want to walk over to it on the other side of the island.

Isle of Rum
Photo copyright Joanne Mackenzie-Winters 2007 - More photos

It is thought that George Bullough changed the island's original Gaelic name from Rum to Rhum because he didn't want the island associated with the alcholic drink and it was then changed back to its original name in 1991 by the then Nature Conservancy Council.
Kinloch Castle Friends Association, founded in 1996, is a registered Scottish Charity and produces a newsletter.

Local guide Gavin Copland based at Brocholme Croft offers guided walks up into the mountains, as well as 4x4 safaris over to Kilmory and Harris for a chance to see the Red Deer, Golden and White Tailed Eagles, the Rum ponies plus the historical and geological sights of the island. Special tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the summer are designed to fit between ferry sailings. Mobile: 07809 301 641.

Accommodation on Rum:

  • Kinloch Hostel is situated next to the castle and sleeps 32 people in 8 dorm style rooms with a bunk and 2 twin beds in each. Facilities include 2 self-catering kitchens, 2 dining areas, a lounge, showers and toilets.
  • Ivy Cottage Guest House offers dinner, bed & breakfast accommodation in 2 ensuite rooms. Contact: Fliss and Sandy on 01687 462744.
  • Camping: there is a basic camping area by the shore of Loch Scresort, with 2 toilets, 2 hot showers, fresh water taps and 2 camping shelters. 10 minutes walk from the ferry terminal. 5 minutes walk from Kinloch Castle. First come, first served. Tel: 01687 462404. Click here for more details. Can get midgey when it's not windy! Camping cabins are also available.
  • 2 bothies (at Dibidal and Guirdal) run by the Mountain Bothy Association.

More accommodation options may become available in 2014, please check isleofrum.com for details.

There is a well stocked shop in the village. Apart from groceries it also sells local crafts, postcards, stamps and souvenirs.
The Village Hall is always open for people to use to escape from the rain or midges or both!! A cafe/teashop is available there several afternoons a week during the summer. It offers tea/coffee, cake, soup and other home made food. Phone 01687 462026 to checking opening times.
Rum Crafts has a craft shop on the shoreline near the village.
Rum Bike Hire is available from the craft shop. Contact Fliss Fraser. Tel: 01687 462744

The Rum Community Ranger service has a programme of guided walks and talks from Monday - Friday during the summer plus a wildlife cruise and otter watch - tel: 01687 462404.
The otter hide is situated along a path which is easily reachable from the ferry terminal (turn left at the top of the pier).

For additional information, visit the community web site: www.isleofrum.com

For local news, read the report from Rum every month in the local community newspaper West Word.

For Books about Rum - see below.

ISLE OF EIGG

Eigg
Photo copyright Joanne Mackenzie-Winters 2007 - More photos

Eigg is the second largest in the Small Isles group. Its distinctive outline is provided by a sloping ridge of lava known as the Sgurr which runs down the island like the backbone of some prehistoric creature. In fact the name Eigg comes from the Gaelic word meaning 'notch'.

If you walk along the road from the pier through the moors, you will reach Laig Bay. About a mile to the north are the Singing Sands of white quartz. There are also a few historic ruins on the island including Iron Age forts, a 6th century Christian church and Viking burial mounds.

The island has been bought and sold several times in the past. Not all of the owners have been particularly liked by the inhabitants whose supplies are transported on the ferry from Mallaig. After many empty promises, the German owner who bought it in 1995 put the island up for sale. In August 1996, the islanders launched a public appeal to raise money so that Eigg could be properly managed by the islanders themselves in partnership with the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Highland Council. In April 1997 their offer of 1.5 million pounds was finally accepted and they happily took possession on 12 June 1997.

By the ferry pier, the Galmisdale Bay Cafe, Bar & Restaurant (formerly known as the Eigg Tearoom) offers food all day (Tel: 01687 482487). Closed Wednesdays and Sundays. Next door is a fully licensed shop with post office and crafts.
A minibus meets the ferry and can give you a lift.
Eigg Adventures offers bike hire plus wilderness trips with kayaking, mountain biking and walking. Tel: 01687 315012.

The Cleadale Crofting Museum (or Tigh Iain Dhonnachaidh - Gaelic for croft number 6) shows the way people used to live on the island. It is looked after by Eigg History Society in an old blackhouse. Admission free. Donations welcome.

To find out what's happening on the island today, read the news report from Eigg every month in the local community newspaper West Word.
Photos and more info are on the Eigg community web site.
The population of this vibrant island grew from 67 in 2001 to 83 in 2011 according to the official census figures.

Eigg Box will be a workspace on Eigg for island-based artists and creative businesses to share with visiting artists from Scotland and beyond. As well as different sized work spaces, Eigg Box might also have a small exhibition area.

Accommodation on Eigg:

  • Sue Kirk, Lageorna, Isle of Eigg PH42 4RL. Tel: 01687 482 405. Self catering cottage, bed and breakfast and restaurant.
  • The Earth Connections Eco Centre in the old Lodge runs residential eco courses and holidays to promote green living. Courses feature beekeeping, bushcraft, renewable energy, 'the Good Life', ecology, etc. while holidays can include yoga, wildlife watching and much more. Contact Norah and Bob Wallace. Tel: 01687 482495.
  • Kildonan House B&B, Isle of Eigg PH42 4RL. 1 double & 2 twin rooms. Contact Marie. Tel: 01687 482 446
  • The Glebe Barn. Field Study and Outdoor Centre and self-catering independent hostel (24 beds), 1 mile from harbour. Contact Karen Helliwell. Tel: 01687 482 417.
  • Campsite at Cleadale (north end of the island) in a designated area. Yurts and bothy also available. Contact Sue Hollands (tel: 01687 482480).
  • Eigg Yurts. Contact Phil Seddon and Clare Miller. Tel: 01687 460317 / Mob: 078 11 078 747

More details about various self catering properties are given on the Eigg community web site.

For Books about Eigg - see below.

ISLE OF MUCK

Isle of Muck
Photo copyright Joanne Mackenzie-Winters 2010 - More photos

Run as one large farm, the island is the smallest and flattest of the group, but there is still lots to see and do for those who enjoy getting away from it all. Population around 30.
The craft shop, tearoom and restaurant have a wide range of meals available (tel: 01687 462990 or 01687 460057).
The Green Shed sells crafts and offers craft courses.

More info and photos of the island:
Community web site: isleofmuck.com
Muck School has its own web site with local info

Isle of Muck craft shop and restaurant
Craft shop & restaurant photo copyright
Joanne Mackenzie-Winters 2007 - More photos

Accommodation on Muck:

  • 4 self-catering cottages (sleeping 10, 5, 5-6 and 6-7), plus a replica Mongolian 'Yurt'. Phone 01687 462362 or email info@isleofmuck.com
  • Port Mor House Hotel is situated near the pier. It has 8 bedrooms and excellent food. Contact Toby Fichtner-Irvine and Mary MacEwen. Tel: 01687 462365.
  • Godag House: Offering full board or B&B, this house is half a mile north of the harbour. Contact Julie MacFadzean - tel: 01687 462371.
  • Carn Dearg B&B in Port Mor has 2 bedrooms (1 double & 1 twin). Evening meals are available. Contact David or Libby Barnden - tel: 01687 462363.
  • The Bunk House: Basic, comfortable accommodation in 3 bedrooms for individuals or groups. Contact Rosie Soutter. Tel: 01687 462042.
  • Camping on the island is free of charge but check at the Craft Shop for good sites.

ISLE OF CANNA

Isle of Canna
Photo copyright Joanne Mackenzie-Winters 2007 - More photos

The furthest of the Small Isles from the mainland. From afar, it appears small and whale-shaped, with a solitary stack rising out of the sea near the east coast. Currently in the care of the National Trust for Scotland and with a population of around 20. Looking out over to Skye sits Compass Hill, so called because the iron in its basaltic rock affects compasses up to three miles away.
This is a beautifully scenic island and a car is not really needed for exploration (vehicles are only allowed by permit from the National Trust for Scotland).
10 safe yacht moorings are available to visitors at £10 per night per mooring.
The Canna Feis (festival) is usually in August.

The community shop sells gifts and handmade crafts. Café Canna opens for the summer season from April 2014. Chris and the team serve light snacks, lunches and evening meals. Open daily (but on Tuesdays only from 6pm). Tel: 01687 462251.

Saint Columba's Presbyterian Church was built in 1913 and has a very nice ornamental wrought-iron gate. Rarely used nowadays, it is called the 'rocket church'. The Roman Catholic church, originally built around 1770 is St Columba's and has a plaque in memory of Margaret Fay Shaw and John Lorne Campbell who lived in Canna House.
Canna House and its amazing archives are open to visitors on certain days.

The Canna Local History Group has a useful web site.
Ray Perman, author of The Man Who Gave Away His Island, A Life of John Lorne Campbell of Canna, writes a blog about Canna.
The Canna Community Development Trust has a wealth of info about visiting the island.

Connected to Canna by a wooden bridge is the tidal island of Sanday. St. Edward's Chapel is being restored as an arts centre.

Accommodation on Canna:

  • Tighard Guest House has 3 double/twin rooms. Tel: 01687 462474.
  • The National Trust for Scotland offers self catering on the island.
  • The Isle of Canna Community Development Trust have a dedicated camping area on the island and camping is welcomed. Toilets and showers are available at the farm (showers operate with a £2 coin).

Books about Canna:

Books

A Drop in the Ocean: The Story of the Isle of Muck
Read the fascinating tale of one of the Hebrides unique thriving small communities through the colourful anecdotes of Lawrence MacEwen, whose family have owned the island since 1896. A wonderfully benevolent, and eccentric character, his passion and love for the island and its continuing success, has always been of the utmost importance.
Author: Polly Pullar. Published in July 2014.
Order your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
The Small Isles
For many a spectacular skyline and magnificent scenery is their first awareness of the islands off Arisaig and Mallaig, yet their history is as central as their geographic situation to the story of the Hebrides. It was their misfortune that economic change and historical accident led to their marginalisation and the loss of so much of that extraordinary past.
This is the first book ever to be written on the collective history of these 4 islands. It provides a wide ranging, fresh and provocative analysis of these islands and their history.
Includes maps, population tables, details of stone crosses, some b/w photos.
Author: Denis Rixson. Paperback. 223 pages. Published in June 2001.
Order your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Rum: Island of Deer
This new book by John A. Love reveals the human story of the island of Rum, both in the tragedy of the clearance and in the interlude of the Bullogh period when the folly at Kinloch was built. It also covers the history of the island stretching back to the mesolithic period and the earliest settlements in Scotland.
Includes sections of old b/w photos, colour photos and portraits. Hardcover. 317 pages. Published in July 2001.
Order your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Rum: Nature's Island
Review by HIGHLAND NEWS: If you have already been to Rum, then this book will make you return. If you have never been to Rum you will just have to go to this magical island.
Written by Magnus Magnusson and published in co-operation with Scottish Natural Heritage to mark the 40th anniversary of the acquisition of Rum by its predecessor, The Nature Conservancy. Description by the publisher:
Thoroughly researched and written in a lively accessible style, the book includes comprehensive coverage of the island's geology, animals and plants, and people, with a special chapter on the Edwardian extravaganza of Kinloch Castle.
There is practical information for visitors to what was once known as the Forbidden Isle; the book provides details of bothy and other accommodation, walks and nature trails. It closes with a positive vision for the island's future: biologically diverse, economically dynamic and ecologically sustainable.
Order your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Eigg: the Story of an Island
Written by Camille Dressler (a French resident on the island).
Following the ownership battle for the island in 1997, this text tells the story of Eigg, from its earliest inhabitants to the present, detailing its recently-acquired independence and community ownership. The book draws extensively on oral history from the islanders themselves and from local archives, with stories of clans, pastimes, wartime, childhood and crofting.
Paperback. 228 pages.
Order your copy from Amazon.co.uk

Other accommodation is available on the mainland around Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig.
See the Road to the Isles web site accommodation page.

External Links:
The Hebridean Trust
Local news from the islands each month
Small Isles DVD by Cinescene