There is something fundamentally slow about leaving the car behind on the dock. Knowing you can't take the fast life with you. Instead, just leaving it all behind and opening your eyes for the adventure ahead. Because that's what happens when you drop your rucksack on the rugged metal deck of the Isle of Eigg ferry! We were full of excitement and anticipation. Ready to show Scotland's hidden gem to Thea's mother, Anna! An island known for its culture, beauty, sustainable living and the historic community buy-out. This is in every sense, a blog post about an island that has nailed the art of living slow.
This post was made possible with help from the Slow Adventure in the Northern Territories (SAINT) project. Read more about our fantastic new sponsor here! Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are our own.
Leaving the busy life behind
Leaving the mainland proved harder than first expected as the wind was fierce enough to delay our ferry a few hours. It was a great way to adjust to islander time, and take things as they come. Finally onboard, the white foam around the bow was a strong contrast to the dark depths. After a few hours on the boat, having sailed past Rum, we landed on Eigg ready for the next big adventure.
Renting bicycles from Eigg Adventures
The best way to get around on Eigg is by bike. As a visitor you are not allowed to bring your car on to the island. There is a road, and some locals use cars, but most walk, bicycle or use quad bikes. As we arrived, we were met by Owain from Eigg Adventures. They run a bike rental right at the harbour, making it easy for visitors to rent their holiday transport. The Island is quite long and there is a hill that makes the journey from one end to the other a little challenging, but not hard. We highly recommend renting bicycles and save your feet for the off-road landscape.
When did you last rely on a bicycle for transportation?
As a kid or teenager? Maybe living in a large city as a student? It's easy to forget the freedom you feel with a bicycle. All of a sudden cycling became "training" and the freedom disappeared. The bike itself is tucked away in the back of a dark garage. We can tell you right now that the feeling of leaving the car behind was fantastic. The bicycle became our friend once again and relying on our own muscle power to move was great. Feeling the air, looking at the views and enjoying the bumps and bends in the road made the trip really fun. Not constrained by engine noise or smelly fumes, our introduction to slow island life was as perfect as it could be. Thea's mum had not been on a bicycle for a few years, and by the wonderful smile on her face you can see how good it felt.
Tasty beer and a comfortable bed
The Isle of Eigg is a larger island than we thought and for everyone reading this post we would recommend that you stay at least five days. The longer you stay, the more you get a feel for the energy and atmosphere that is so unique to the island. For our first Isle of Eigg experience we stayed with Stuart McCarthy at the Glebe Barn - a guesthouse overlooking the bay, with lovely white beaches. The three of us rented the cosy loft apartment. It was great to be welcomed by Stuart who runs the place, and to learn he also runs the local craft beer brewery: Laid Bay Brewery!
Laig Bay Brewery
The Laig Bay Brewery is located on the middle of the island. It is small, very small, but it serves its purpose and produces seven different beers! We loved the "Independence IPA" (A nice name for an independent island) and "I am the Eiggman" - who doesn't like the Eiggman? Goo-goo-g’joob! The beers can be bought locally in the Eigg shop down at the marina, and you can also get a taste at the bar on the ferry.
Passionate about beer & local community
The Laig Bay Brewery is run by two beer-loving enthusiasts, Gabe and Stuart. In some way these two positive and passionate men are the very picture of the Eigg community. They are creative, open-minded and not afraid to rely on each other. They care about their community, and next to their love of beer this is also a reason for their success. The people we met on Eigg prove that a community where everyone is respected and involved is actually possible. Within a couple of hours of visiting Eigg, you're on first name terms with everyone you've met, and they'll always ask who else you've met. This is a place where you slow down and talk to everyone.
Meet Craig, a local guide full of good spirit, stories and local knowledge!
Craig is one of the people we talked about earlier. His local knowledge impressed us and he showed us around the Island on one of those days where you look out the window and you realise that you don't really fancy a hike. In other words it was bracing weather. Rain, wind and shifting conditions made the whole experience intense. Despite this, Craig found a route where we got to see a lot of the island. He told us stories about life in the old days and he showed us some amazing views, including big boulders and other fascinating geological features. We even had lunch in the shelter of a big boulder, giving us some respite from the weather. The rain was hammering down and the wind made the dense rain feel almost horizontal, but we were fine, hiding behind our big rock!
Eigg's Independence and the electrification project
Eigg is a special place for Scotland.
A little over 20 years ago, a community buy out of their island secured the people of Eigg with ownership of their land, ending the problems the islanders had with absentee landlords. Over £1.5m was raised to buy out their former landowner.
Since then, the island has flourished. Broadband internet has brought opportunities, tourism means trade, jobs and revenue, while community driven projects have established renewable energy, better home security and infrastructure. Since 2008 they've been powering all homes and businesses with a balance of solar, wind and hydro power with the community owned "Eigg Electric" power company.
To our surprise their energy grid is almost unseen, reducing the human touch on the landscape. Cables are underground rather than overhead, and everyone limits their use in order to fairly share the resource.
Eigg's population has grown to over 100 residents for the first time in recent history. It's easy to see why people are looking to Eigg for inspiration in renewable energy, sustainability and community spirit!
Enjoying homemade slow food at the Lagorna Restaurant!
Sue is another strong Island character we met during our stay on Eigg. She's lived on the island before the buy out and knows everyone and everything that happens. She runs the Lagorna Bed & Breakfast, where she also has a wonderful slow food restaurant. Most of the food is locally sourced and she grows a lot of herbs and other ingredients on her croft. When we came cycling down to the restaurant we caught her foraging some herbs from the garden, before running back to her simmering pots. Having dinner at Lagorna was like having dinner at someone's home. The menu was set and it truly tasted like a home cooked meal, followed by nice conversations with Sue after her amazing chocolate dessert!
The essence of slow life
To us the community on Eigg seemed unique, and their history of independence is great motivation for keeping up the community spirit. People are happy and neighbours seem to listen and care for each other. Like any community, Isle of Eigg is a place with different people, strong and soft voices, where conflicts can occur, but regardless of any difference there is a will to create and live together. We are overwhelmed by our Hebridean visit and if you're looking for more information about the different providers we visited you can find the contact information below.
Lagorna bed & breakfast: https://lageorna.com/
Laig Bay Brewery: https://laigbaybrewingco.wordpress.com/
Guided walks with Craig: http://www.eiggadventures.co.uk/guided-walks-on-eigg/
Bicycle rentals: http://www.eiggadventures.co.uk/bike-hire-on-eigg/
The Glebe Barn: http://www.glebebarn.co.uk/
The Isle of Eigg ferry time table can be found here.
For more information on these providers, and other slow adventure inspiration in Scotland, check out the wonderful Slow Adventure brochure here: http://www.slowadventure.scot
We'd like to thank SAINT, the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, and the European Union for their support in making this post happen!