Isle of Eigg
(7 June – 1 July 2004)

Read about Eigg here

See my photos here

Posting from Eigg: I’m sitting in the village tearoom sipping hot chocolate, eating a slice of millionaire shortbread, and listening to the criac as a horde of tired partygoers gaze out the window at the rain. We have a Eigg 'Bank Holiday' today following on from a weekend of serious partying. The islanders held a grand party on Saturday evening to celebrate the anniversay of the Community Land Buyout 7 years ago and they were in **serious** partying mood. The 'do' kicked off about 9pm on Saturday night and the music didn't stop until about 10am - so we are told! Myself and Alison and Berni (the other 2 Scottish Wildlife Trust volunteers) stayed until the traditional/folk music bands finished at 5am and the disco began. Then we walked home in the daylight!!!

Then last night the partying started all over again! This time at an 'informal' gathering of traditional music players in the tearoom/bar. We admitted defeat and left at 3am - but our 'boss' John, the SWT warden was still there when we left. Originally he told us he would be round to see us to start work about noon today - but as we haven't seen him yet, I think he's admitting work is rained off today as it's been pouring down for hours.

We’ve all 'decamped' to the Eigg tearoom/community office to use there pc and get warm. Our cottage is pretty basic and even with a log stove is difficult to keep warm and dry.

The island is wonderful - hills and oceans - what more could anyone want? The work is varied - not too inspring bracken bashing and much more fun stuff like checking the Arctic Tern colonies and looking for nests of birds of prey, all the while identifying dozens of flowers, lichens, mosses and birds. John is so knowledgeable and I'm thoroughly enjoying learning about the working of a nature reserve We’ve seen lots of Arctic Tern chicks and they are so bonnie and so funny. They are about 5cm in length and to hide from danger they stick their head behind a stone in a “I can’t see you, so you can’t see me” mode.

Part Two

Today (Sunday, ie day off) we are taking a boat ride over to a neighbouring island of Muck. This is smaller than Eigg and has a pop of about 30.

We've having continuing fun doing the conservation work – we really can see where we’ve made difference at the bracken bashing. We’ve cleared wee ‘crop circles’ around the planted native trees (birch and oak), so they will stand a chance to out compete the bracken now. We've been tramping the mountains and moorland looking for Red Throated Divers and looking for Eagles (saw them in the distance). On Friday we watched an otter fishing for a while in the late afternoon sunshine after walking around the coast for hours looking at birds nests.

Also on Friday morning we went into the school to share the Moths we'd caught in an overnight moth-trap to the children - 4 children in the school.

Friday and Sat nights were further informal gatherings in the tearoom/bar with a wee bit music, plenty of craic and even more drink. We left the party still going on at 3am.

I was up fairly early this morning and wandered of to sit on the rocks beside the shore watching birds for a while. Very relaxing. Better go and catch the ferry to Muck and will be in touch again soon

Part 3:

Home again. I enjoyed Eigg immensely and was very sad to leave the island today! It was all I hoped it would be - and more. The island is beautiful, the wildlife spectacular and the people very friendly. Myself and the other volunteers were really welcomed into the community and spent many happy hours enjoying the 'craic' with the islanders. This included spending each Saturday evening in the bar until the 'wee sma' hours' (hmm, that's ~3am or later on more than one occasion!) But it was a case of 'when in Rome...' We felt so safe and relaxed on the 10 minute walk home along the lane to our cottage and enjoyed the almost 24 hour daylight.

Because of the welcome, I didn't want to leave the island on the weekends (in case I missed something!) to go to Skye or Knoydart to go up mountains as I had originally planned. I've not practised any of the Mountain Leader skills from my training course except for a bit of micro navigation in the mist on Eigg at about 300m. But I am a whole lot fitter, having spent every day tramping around the island, walking miles through deep heather and bracken and/or along the rocky shore. We even had a (beautiful) 10 minute walk from our cottage to the public showers each morning.

I'm afraid I didn't keep a journal and am hard pressed to describe the experience of the month on the island to you. I think it's one of these experiences that will leave a lasting impression. It was so much more than the work experience I was hoping for (although that was great and better than I imagined) and although the weather was bad for June (it was the wettest June since records began) it was still great fun. I know I will be back again for a visit to show Neil my 'tramping grounds'. Neil did not manage to get over last month due to being so busy, but Craig came across and camped from Monday till today. He joined me and the other volunteers in a farewell dinner with the Wildlife Reserve Warden, John, last night. That was fun.

~ Sheila ~

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