We’d hoped to be able to make a trip to one of the uninhabited Islands of the Hebrides this time round, and sure enough word came from Nick – who runs trips on his boat the “Lady Anne” – that he was planning on heading off to the Monach Isles, or Heisgeir, on Friday. You might remember we did a wildlife watching trip with Nick when we were here last year – seeing all sorts of birds including a close encounter with a White Tailed Eagle, so we knew we’d not be disappointed.
There were 10 of us in total including nick and his crewman Duncan – plus the adorable Ruby, a black Labrador belonging to Fergus, the owner of the North Uist estate, a lovely chap universally known simply as “The Laird”. The trip across to the Monachs took just over two hours from Kallin Harbour on Grimsay and was a fabulous chance to see various areas from a completely different angle to the usual – including the North ford causeway…
…very strange to be passing underneath something so familiar from above!
The Monachs consist of 5 main islands – the tiny Stocaidh, Ceann Ear, Sibhinis, Ceann Iar and Seillaidh. All 5 are uninhabited now and have been since the 1940’s when the last residents left – previously they had had a sort of “lifeline” provided by the regular visits of the Lighthouse Board to the lighthouse on Seillaidh (Shillay) but when the lighthouse was turned off during the war those visits ceased and they felt it was just too difficult to maintain a life there with no contact with the mainland. The village now lies abandoned and derelict…
…although a couple of the buildings – the Schoolhouse and the Mission Hall – have now been restored. The schoolhouse is still used by fisherman who put in to the islands on occasion and visitors to the Island join the select band who know where to find the key!
We walked across Ceann Ear and around Sibhinis – and could happily have spent longer than the 5 hours we had there. There was wildlife aplenty, and in common with the rest of the Hebrides glorious white sand beaches to be enjoyed.