Visit the Island of Ulva

With its history of human habitation going back to prehistoric times, the island of Ulva in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, and has some interesting natural and historical attractions for visitors to explore. Geologists have concluded that the region in which Ulva is situated was volcanically active millions of years ago, and it’s this volcanic activity that led to the formation of the spectacular basaltic column-like cliffs, referred to as ‘The Castles’ on the south coast of the island. The hot lava cracked as it cooled and over the centuries the elements eroded the weaker matter between the cracks, leaving huge columns behind. Later glacial activity dug out the sea lochs – Loch na Keal and Loch Tuath – on the north and south east sides of the island.

The interior of Ulva is primarily sweeping moorland and more than 500 species of plants have been recorded on the island. Bracken is found in abundance, with heather, bluebells, pinks, orchids and sundews also plentiful. While large parts of the island are treeless, there are up to forty-three species of trees in the forested areas, including Scots pine, Japanese larch, European larch, Sitka spruce, juniper, Wych elm, alder, sweet chestnut, sycamore, walnut, three types of oak trees, four types of cherry trees and other fruit trees.

As is the case with many of Scotland’s islands, Ulva has a wealth of wildlife. Visitors to Ulva are likely to spot golden eagles, sea eagles, buzzards, pheasants, grouse, ravens, puffins, gannets, shag, kittiwakes, common tern, Arctic tern, eider ducks, curlews, oystercatchers, redshanks and gulls, to mention a few. Land mammals include rabbits, red deer, mountain hares, stoats and hedgehogs, with marine mammals including otters, whales, porpoises and dolphins.

Ulva has featured in the lives of many famous individuals, including Scottish missionary David Livingstone, whose ancestors came from Ulva, and Scottish historical poet, playwright and novelist Sir Walter Scott who reportedly was inspired by Ulva when writing his poem The Lord of the Isles. Other literary figures who visited Ulva include James Hogg and John Keats.

When Ulva was bought by Mr Francis William Clark in 1835, he evicted up to two-thirds of the islands inhabitants in the notorious “clearances” that took place in the Highlands of Scotland at that time. By 1889 there were only 53 people left on the island. Ruined buildings remain where villages once thrived – a reminder of that terrible time in Scotland’s history.