On islands

I recently spent a couple of weeks working on the beaches of Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Life can be tough sometimes. It was the beginning of May, pre-midges and so often hot in Scotland. We did have lots of sunshine whilst the rest of Britain swam in rain but oh, so cold! There was a bitter north east wind for most of the trip which brought in hail storms for at least a couple of days.  Despite the wind, and dressed in our best winter outfits, we walked miles across some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and counted cockles, worms and anything that didn’t escape the sieve. We also found a little time to look around the islands and managed to visit the magical standing stones at Callanish at dusk one chilly, damp evening and then again for a proper look on a rather better afternoon. We saw golden eagles, lapwing, golden plover, oyster catchers, snipe. We heard cuckoos, unusual these days on the mainland. And on our last night on Harris, we realised that the strange krkking sound outside the  bed and breakfast was from newly arrived corncrakes, at least one of which was in the yellow flags 30 metres or so from my bedroom window.

Coincidentally I was reading Isles at the Edge of the Sea by Jonny Muir, the story of a young journalist’s summer spent travelling throught the Hebrides wtih his tent, taking in a number of fell races on the way. Not the best literature but enjoyable nonetheless. It set me wondering about the Scottish islands I’ve visited over the years for diving trips, family holidays, work, and with the help of Number 2 son I made a list of islands I have at least set foot upon. I surprised myself with its length and with the memories and stories it generated for me.  There are too many stories for this post but I will try and write about some of them in the coming months. Mind you, I always promise these things and it never seems to happen!

So here, in no particular order, is my list:

  1. Bass Rock
  2. Fidra
  3. Isle of May
  4. Cumbrae
  5. Wee Cumbrae
  6. Bute
  7. Arran
  8. Gigha
  9. Islay
  10. Jura
  11. Seil
  12. Scarba
  13. Lunga
  14. Garvellachs (3 islands)
  15. Easdale
  16. Canna
  17. Eigg
  18. Rum
  19. Mull
  20. Ulva
  21. Linga
  22. Little Colonsay
  23. Staffa
  24. Coll
  25. Luing
  26. Skye
  27. Scalpay
  28. Scarp
  29. Barra
  30. South Uist
  31. Benbecula
  32. North Uist
  33. Harris & Lewis
  34. St Kilda group (does this count as 4 as I’ve trodden on all four of them?)
  35. North Rona
  36. Sula Sgeir
  37. Rockall
  38. Orkney Mainland
  39. Hoy
  40. Sanday
  41. Shetland Mainland
  42. Yell
  43. Unst
  44. Papa Stour
  45. Foula
  46. Out Skerry

I’m sure there are several I’ve missed and there are a number of notable exceptions which perhaps I’ll have to rectify over the next few years. It doesn’t include islands I might have dived next to but haven’t set foot on. I have friends who will have visited far more islands than this and will probably have climbed all the Munros as well, but hey.

So here’s a challenge to my blogging friends:- If you were going to make a list, what would it be?

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