Isle of Eigg – Jewel of the Hebrides

The journey is part of the pleasure when visiting the Isle of Eigg, one of the Small Isles of the Scottish Inner Hebrides, whether you travel by ferry from Mallaig which operates all year round, or take the ferry from Arisaig during the summer months. With some exceptions, vehicles are not permitted on Eigg Island, but visitors will soon discover that this is no hardship, as this lovely island with its mysterious caves and singing sands beach, should really be explored at leisure. As a jewel in the Hebrides crown, the Isle of Eigg offers visitors stunning scenery, geological marvels, rich biodiversity, cultural treasures and legendary history, along with traditional hospitality.

Located to the north-west and featuring a fertile coastal plain, Cleadale is the main settlement on the island. It’s well-known for is beach of ‘singing sands’ – the sand being quartz which makes a squeaking noise when walked on. The moorland plateau of the island is dominated by a pitchstone, volcanic rock formation, known as An Sgurr, rising to a height of 1,289 feet with three of its sides being sheer. The view from the top of An Sgurr is spectacular, and on a clear day visitors who have made the fairly strenuous walk will be rewarded with views of Mull, Muck, Coll, Rùm, Skye, the Outer Hebrides, and even the mainland’s Lochaber mountains.

The Isle of Eigg is home to actively breeding populations of a number of raptors, including Buzzards, Peregrine Falcons, Golden Eagles, Kestrels, Hen Harriers and both Long and Short-eared Owls. In the winter months, birders are likely to spot Jack Snipes and Great Northern Divers of the loon family, while in summer the island is visited by migratory passerine species such as Winchats, Twites and Whitethroat warblers as they settle in to breed.

Spurred on by being placed in the top ten finalists of NESTA’s Big Green Challenge in 2008, residents of Eigg Island continues to pursue ‘green’ goals and promote awareness with regard to the negative effects of climate change. Projects such as solar water heating, domestic insulation and alternative fuels have received attention, and efforts were rewarded when, in January 2010, the island was selected as one of three joint winners in the Big Green Challenge run by NESTA – National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

As is the case with any country with an ancient history, Scotland has experienced many conflicts, generally driven by religion and greed for land and power. The Isle of Eigg‘s history also tells tales of conflict and tragedy. Landmarks related to the human history of the island include the ruined church at Kildonan and the aptly named Massacre Cave. The island is run by the Eigg Heritage Trust which aims to promote sustainable development, while conserving the natural and cultural heritage of this charming Small Isle of the Scottish Inner Hebrides.