parties five years on
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of my favourite Edinburgh DJs
was giving it not so much large but
certainly far and wide a couple of weeks
ago. Not in a strobe-lit urban nightclub
full of weekend ravers but in a marquee overlooking
the sea on the edge of Europe. This
was the party to celebrate the anniversary of the free ownership
of the Isle of Eigg
by its inhabitants.
That night the population of 70 who live on
the island doubled. They came from Knoydart,
Arisaig, Mallaig and Rum to join the revels.
A marquee, tables groaning with food,
the ubiquitous ceilidh bands, a fair few
drams and dancing into the wee small hours
with DJ Dolphin Boy on the decks.
islanders really do have some accesses of
which they are rightfully
proud. Not least liberating the island from
the ownership of the eccentric millionaire
Keith Schellenberg and his equally weird
successor the German artist Maruma.
important though is the precedent they have
set in confronting some of the anachronistic feudal land laws in Scotland.
Since the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust made history by
buying the island for themselves, other
communities such as Knoydart and Gigha
have begun to look for the same level of
is all about to change. With almost £800,000, the inhabitants of Eigg,
in partnership with the Scottish Wildlife
Trust and the Highland Council, have been able to begin to live a vision
which may eventually take the island back to its heyday when it supported
a population of more than 400.
they continue to welcome visitors to the island. It's
a great day out and an easy boat ride on the Shearwater from Arisaig
or on a bigger Cal-Mac ferry from Mallaig,
which has a smaller "flit" boat to take you ashore at Kildonnan.
£8m causeway and ferry terminal is being built at Kildonnan. This will
bring in vital prosperity for the island and allow bigger construction
works to take place with heavy transport. But that's a few years away and
at the moment when you arrive you find yourself at the tearoom, shop and
community centre - a vital focus for the island - where you can get your
bearings, find somewhere to stay or stock up on provisions before heading
out to discover the raw charms of Eigg.
its size - about three miles across and five
miles long - Eigg has a diverse landscape and you can easily lose yourself
here for a day or more. It is a fecund environment which supports lots of
wildlife. Hundreds of bird and plant species, including the Manx shearwater,
come to nest on the cliffs here every year, and rare wild orchids
thrive on the boggy moorland.
sharks, minke whales and porpoises are
frequently seen sporting in the waters around the Small Isles, and the
Shearwater will usually linger for passengers to see such a sight on the
best walk and vantage point on the island is An Sgurr,
the distinctive ridge visible for miles and the largest exposed piece of pitchstone
in Britain, for those who care about that sort of thing. It is not a demanding
walk but takes about two hours from the pier at Kildonnan.
From the top you can see north to the Cuillins of
Rum, and Skye in the distance, and to the
south the Ardnamurchan peninsula and Mull.
you don't feel up to that, there are beach walks, and at Laig
Singing Sands are a strange phenomenon although they wouldn't sing for me.
difficulties and goings-on of recent years are nothing new to the people
of Eigg. The 7th century St
Donnan, a Pictish saint, established a
Christian monastery here. According to tradition the queen of Moidart
sent her warriors - all women - to slaughter the population. By the
16th century, the island was in the hands of Ranald Macdonald,
the descendant of Someried, the king of the
then, the island's history has been one of
struggle and survival. In the 19th century, the Highland clearances left
Eigg pitifully uninhabited and it is from this legacy that the current
population is re-emerging.
thing you should check out before you leave Eigg is the Lodge and its
gardens. Then it's easier to understand the
bitterness of the islanders after years of
their island being no more than an idle summer retreat for an
in the 1920s, the house with its pillared facade looks like a hill-station
in Kashmir. The property itself is closed and fairly derelict, awaiting
the outcome of a Historic Buildings report on its future, but the gardens
Gulf Stream which takes the chill off these parts allows palms, Himalayan
azaleas, acacia trees and rhododendrons to
flourish. It seems like another world. This could become a latter day
Utopia, but to turn it into paradise is going to take a lot of hard work.
they are a friendly bunch on Eigg and it's one place you can be sure that
every penny, euro or dollar you spend in the
tearoom goes back into the island.
It is Scotland buying back its future — theirs and ours.
© Peter Irvine
(zur Vergrösserung aufs Bild klicken)
Cleadale bay mit Blick auf Skye
(Fotos: © Uli Sauer)