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Eigg Map 1892

The Isle of Eigg

The Isle of Eigg (Eilean Eige) is one of the Small Isles of Scotland and part of the Hebrides. It lies about 15 km off the west coast of Scotland, to the south of the Isle of Skye. It may only be about eight km long and five km wide, but it’s a singular place. This is partly because Eigg has been owned by its community via the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust for over 25 years. Consequently, buying the island in 1997 was a momentous and historic change. Instead of being at the whim of sole ownership, the Heritage Trust is responsible for the stewardship of the island. This involves its buildings, natural heritage and sustainable developments, all undertaken on behalf of the resident islanders. These days, Eigg has a fascinating history, superb wildlife, and a vibrant community of 110 souls, likely the highest number of residents for centuries.

If you wander over west, where the hills lie all clothed in deep green
Down to black seas where the seals slip unseen
And in the Arisaig of nowhere, there’s a boat that will go there
Bring whisky for waves
And let the spray leave you clean.1

Talisker, Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust. NV. 60% Cask Strength.

Talisker Isle of Eigg

Talisker Isle of Eigg

Eigg also has unique whisky connections, even though it was always too small and remote to enable its own whisky distillery. However, Eigg’s contribution to the historic spirit lies in the fact that two brothers from Eigg (Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill) left to settle in nearby Skye in 1825. After some false starts, they founded Talisker in 1831. This famous distillery has become one of the greatest and is now part of the Diageo group.

In 2000, Talisker released Heritage Trust, a limited edition Millennium vatting Single Malt Whisky, to celebrate the Heritage Trust’s buyout of the Island in June 1997. Being a vatting, it probably comprises old and younger spirits (minimum of 8 years) from selected casks. I can’t tell you how it tastes, but being Talisker, it will undoubtedly be volcanic! See my article on Talisker here.

Only 352 numbered bottles of this unique expression were produced, of which 102 were given to the islanders in commemoration. The remaining 250 were sold to raise money for various island projects. Hence, it’s officially sold out.

However, there is a bottle, priced at £495.00, at Hedonism, London. Bottles also occasionally appear at auction.



Before the Buy-Out

There she rises out of mists to the sounds of the pipes on her shores
They sing of men in a land with no laws
And by the dawn you’ll be losing, brain cells while you’re boozing
They’ll leave you wheeling like gulls
But you’ll come back for more.

The history of Eigg is, in many ways, a typical Highlands tale but with an unusual modern twist. Archaeology shows occupation dating back 8,000 years to Neolithic times. Eigg was an essential location for early Irish Christianity and was subsequently under Norse rule as part of the Kingdom of the Isles.  Scottish rule commenced in 1266. Later, Eigg was marked by Clan feuds, crofting, post-Jacobite retributions and emigration.

During the past two centuries, the entire island was under the feudal ownership of a Laird, a rich man’s plaything, yet sorely neglected and repeatedly sold. By 1975, the population had dwindled to just 30 islanders. Following another unhappy period under sole ownership, the islanders began raising money for a buyout. Democracy was successfully achieved in June 1997 when the Heritage Trust bought it for £1.5 million after a long fundraising and legal campaign.2.

Natural History

Eigg. An Sgurr in summer

Eigg. An Sgùrr in summer

On the journey to Eigg, look out for Dolphins, Porpoises, Minke whales, and Basking sharks. The Scottish Wildlife Trust manages the isle as a nature reserve. Indeed, Eigg is one of the most beautiful Hebridean Islands, dominated by the high peak of An Sgùrr. Rising to 393 metres, it’s sheer on three sides but rewards with spectacular 360 views.  Visitors come to Eigg for its scenery, coastlines, complex geology, wildflowers, and birdwatching.

There’s a great diversity of habitats: coastal beaches, unimproved farmland, willow and hazel scrub, native woodland, raised bog and moorland. Eigg is known for its wildflowers, as there are hundreds of species, many of which are rarities, including twelve different orchids. There are sea otters and many birds of prey, including Sea Eagles. Eigg can also claim an impressive list of birdlife with 130 regular species.


The night’s all but gone but we’re still holding on
And my lips have turned blue and her hair was blue too
I’ve lost all my friends, blown my brains out to sea
Oh, Eigg, you have cracked it, but I think you’ve cracked me.


Since the buyout, the Trust has developed an ecological ethos. In 2008, Eigg became the first island in the world to generate all its electricity from renewable green sources. It now has a high-voltage electricity grid built by and for the community. With all the cables buried, there are no pylons. With a mix of wind, hydro, and solar power, Eigg can generate electricity all year in all weathers. Compare this to when there was no mains electricity on the island, and dirty diesel generators were necessary, with the added complication of needing expensive fuel to come by boat. Now, they are merely an emergency backup.


The music won’t end ‘til we’re all round the bend
And I can’t feel my face but in this sacred place
High rocks surrounding us, thick mist enshrouding us
Our own secret isle
Where the world can’t get hold of us.

A Circular Economy

In addition, Eigg has Broadband internet. This helps support jobs, especially in the creative, arts and tourism sectors, so in turn, it retains existing islanders and attracts new ones.  Tourism is an integral part of the economic mix, with around 10,000 visitors annually. With few empty properties, Eigg has a housing association for property rental and controls new builds. A GP now covers the Small Isles, based on Eigg, so healthcare is also improved. There’s a cooperative brewery and record label, with regular fairs and festivals in the summer months.

While living on Eigg is not without its challenges, there’s no doubting the remarkable transformation in the quality of life achieved on Eigg while protecting its distinctive natural environment. This experience is now shared with other Scottish islands through the Scottish Islands Federation.

And as we stagger back to boats that will tear us away from her shores
Part of my heart in her harbour stays moored
And though she breeds bad behaviour, her beauty will save you
If it’s freedom you need
Then let the isle be your cure.


And finally

The Isle of Eigg embraces Dùthchas, the Gaelic concept of the connection between land and people, natural heritage and cultural belonging. It’s a virtuous circle and shows what can be achieved locally by working together despite the challenges. What an inspiration!




  1. The Isle of Eigg, Lyrics ©️Katherine Priddy, 2001. From her album The Eternal Rocks Beneath.
  2. Eigg, the Story of an Island by Camille Dressler.  Published by Polygon. ISBN 0-7486-6224-3.



What3words Location

Getting there

From Mallaig to Galmisdale (Eigg): Daily car ferry sailings all year via CalMac.

From Arisaig to Galmisdale (Eigg): The Arisaig Marina passenger ferry MV Sheerwater runs from April to September.

Transport Note: Cars, Motorbikes and Campervans are not allowed on the island (unless you are a resident or have a Blue Badge).  Electric and push bikes are available to rent, and there’s a local Taxi. The island is small and walkable.

Food and Accommodation: Check out this website.

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