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Eigg
Location
OS grid reference: NM476868
Names
Gaelic name: Eilean Eige
Norse name: Unknown
Meaning of name: Scottish Gaelic for 'notched island' (eag)
Area and Summit
Area: 3,049 ha
Area rank (Scottish islands): 28
Highest elevation: An Sgurr 393 m (1289 feet)
Population
Population (2001): 67
Population rank (inhabited Scottish islands): 50 out of 97
Main settlement: Cleadale
Groupings
Island Group: Small Isles
Local Authority: Highland
Scotland
References: [1][2][3]
Satellite view of Eigg (Landsat image viewed using NASA World Wind software). The island in the bottom right of the picture is Eilean Chathastail.
Satellite view of Eigg (Landsat image viewed using NASA World Wind software). The island in the bottom right of the picture is Eilean Chathastail.
A contented looking sheep on Eigg, with the Mainland in the hinterground
A contented looking sheep on Eigg, with the Mainland in the hinterground

Eigg (Scottish Gaelic: Eige) is one of the Small Isles, in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. It lies to the south of the Isle of Skye, and to the north of the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Eigg is 9 kilometres long from north to south, and five kilometres east to west. With an area of twelve square miles, it is the second largest of the Small Isles after Rùm.

Contents

[edit] History

Bronze Age and Iron Age inhabitants have left their mark on Eigg. The monastery at Kildonan was founded by an Irish missionary, St. Donnan. He and his monks were massacred in 617 by the local Pictish Queen. In medieval times the island was held by Ranald MacDonald. A lengthy feud with the MacLeods led to the massacre of the island's entire population in the late 16th century. They had taken refuge in a cave on the south coast, and they were suffocated by a fire lit at the entrance.

By the 19th century, the island had a population of 500, producing potatoes, oats, cattle and kelp. When sheep farming became more profitable than any alternative, land was cleared by compulsory emigration - in 1853 the whole of the village of Gruilin, fourteen families, was forced to leave.

The Scottish geologist and writer Hugh Miller visited the island in the 1840s and wrote a long and detailed account of his explorations in his book The Cruise of the Betsey published in 1858. The book includes a description of his visit to the Cave of Frances (Uamh Fhraing) in which the whole population of the island had been smoked to death by McLeods from the Skye some hundred years earlier. Miller was a self-taught geologist; so the book contains detailed observations of the geology of the island, including the Scuir and the singing sands. He describes the islanders of Eigg as "an active, middle-sized race, with well-developed heads, acute intellects, and singularly warm feelings".

[edit] Recent events

An 1892 map of Eigg.
An 1892 map of Eigg.[4]

After decades of problems with absentee landlords, the island was bought in 1997 by the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, a partnership between the residents of Eigg, the Highland Council, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The story of this community buy-out is told in Alastair McIntosh's book Soil and Soul: People Versus Corporate Power published in 2001. At the time, the population was around 60; in 2005 it was 87.

The ceremony to mark the handover to community ownership took place a few weeks after the 1997 General Election and was attended by the Scottish Office Minister, Brian Wilson, a long-standing advocate of land reform. He used the occasion to announce the formation of a Community Land Unit within Highlands and Islands Enterprise which would in future support further land buy-outs in the region.

The first major project of the Heritage Trust was An Laimhrig, a new building near the jetty to house the island's shop and Post Office, a tearoom, craft shop, toilet and shower facilities.

There is a sheltered anchorage for boats at Galmisdale in the south of the island. In 2004 the old jetty was extended to allow a roll-on roll-off ferry to dock. The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry "Loch Nevis" sails a circular route from Mallaig around the four "Small Isles" - Eigg, Canna, Rùm and Muck. There is also a small passenger ferry, the M V Sheerwater which operates between Eigg and Arisaig on the mainland.

[edit] Electrification project

The next major project of the Heritage Trust was to enable the provision of a mains electricity grid, powered from renewable sources. Previously, the island was not served by mains electricity and individual crofthouses had wind, hydro or diesel generators and the aim of the project is to develop an electricity supply that is environmentally and economically sustainable.

The new system incorporates a 9.9 kWp PV system, three hydro generation systems (totalling 112 kW) and a 24 kW wind farm supported by stand-by diesel generation and batteries to guarantee continuous availability of power. A load management system has been installed to provide optimal use of the renewables. This combination of solar, wind and hydro power should provide a network that is self sufficient and powered 98% from renewable sources. The system was switched on, on 1 February 2008.[5]

The Heritage Trust has formed a company, Eigg Electric Ltd, to operate the new a £1.6 million network, which has been part funded by the National Lottery and the Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company.[6][7]

[edit] Geography

The main settlement on Eigg is Cleadale, a fertile coastal plain in the north west. It is known for its quartz beach, called the "singing sands" on account of the squeaking noise it makes if walked on when dry.

The centre of the island is a moorland plateau, rising to 393 metres (1,289 feet) at An Sgurr, a dramatic stump of pitchstone, sheer on three sides. Walkers who complete the easy scramble to the top in good weather are rewarded with spectacular views all round, of Mull, Coll, Muck, the Outer Hebrides, Rùm, Skye, and the mountains of Lochaber on the mainland.

[edit] Wildlife

An average of 130 species of bird are recorded annually. The island has breeding populations of various raptors: Golden Eagle, Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, Hen Harrier and Short and Long-eared Owl. Great Northern Diver and Jack Snipe are winter visitors, and in summer Cuckoo, Whinchat, Whitethroat and Twite breed on the island.[8][9]

[edit] See also

[edit] Gallery

[edit] References

  1. , 2001 UK Census per List of islands of Scotland
  2. , Haswell-Smith, Hamish. (2004) The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh. Canongate.
  3. , Ordnance Survey
  4. , Harvie-Brown, J.A. and Buckley, T. E. (1892), A Vertebrate Fauna of Argyll and the Inner Hebrides. Pub. David Douglas., Edinburgh. Facing P. LVI.
  5. , Ross, John (1 February 2008) "Island finally turns on to green mains Eigg-tricity". Edinburgh. The Scotsman.
  6. , "Isle of Eigg, Inner Hebrides, Scotland - 2007" Wind and Sun Ltd. Retrieved 20 September 2007.
  7. , "Island energised by lottery cash" BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 20 September 2007.
  8. , "Eigg-ceptional summer". Scottish Wildlife (November 2007) No. 63 page 4.
  9. , "Bird watching on Eigg" Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust. Retrieved 27 December 2007.

[edit] External links

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1907 edition of The Nuttall Encyclopædia.

Coordinates: 56°54'N, 6°10'W


(Source: Wikipedia)
 
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