The Artists of Eigg

Eigg is home to so much more than just beautiful countryside and wildlife…

As a community essentially separated from the outside world it should come as no surprise that there is an entire culture and art community completely endemic to the island.

Many people tell us how striking the landscape is around Eigg and we’re inclined to agree with them. Indeed, the scenery is so splendid around our islands that we often have dozens of artists at a time coming to visit us here desperate to capture the wild nature of our island either on film, paper or in the form of music. Many have tried, but it’s up to you to seek out their work and decide if they’ve succeeded or not. Eigg has been presented as charcoal sketches, photograph exhibitions and ice sculptures – this series of works only helps to contribute to the artistic allure that the island has for visitors.

For those seeking a refuge from the distractions of the modern world and a chance to truly connect with nature, Sweeney’s Bothy is the place to stay on Eigg.

This single room space offers artists the opportunity to get truly ‘off-grid’ and discover what they’re truly capable off. Perched on a piece of croft land with a commanding view towards the neighbouring isle of Rum, this hut was designed by artist Alec Finlay in conjunction with Creative Scotland’s Year of Natural Scotland in 2013. All artists and creatives that stay in the bothy are encouraged to share their experience on the website after their trip is completed, their thoughts as well as the work that they have produced during their stay has contributed to an ongoing exhibit of the creative scene in Scotland.

A handful of artists also live on the island including a number of musicians, crafters and producers. Check out their work through the sites below:

Damian Helliwell

Nowhere is folk music more loved and cherished than in Scotland, so it should come as no surprise that a number of folk musicians have called Eigg their home over the years.

Over the course of a year Damian Helliwell and a talented group of musicians put together a folk music record that became critically acclaimed upon release. Metta served as Damian’s compositional debut and served to place Scottish music firmly in the realms of World music.

Website: www.metta-music.com

Gabe McVarish

Although he might sound Scottish by name, Gabe is a born and raised American hailing from Northern California. The talented fiddle player was two-time winner of the US Junior National Scottish Fiddle Championship before reaching the age of 17, his natural born talent for his instrument soon sent him to his ancestral homeland in Scotland. After studying music in the Highlands and spending years busking around the world, Gabe settled in nearby Lochaber to record, write, perform and teach.

Website: www.gabemcvarish.com

Catherine Davies and Pascal Carr

With the aid of Pascal Carr, Catherine Davies has been making baskets and weaving willow on the Isle of Eigg for nearly 20 years. After spending a weekend learning how to weave baskets in 1999, Catherine became enamoured with willow-work. Soon she’d obtained an award from the Millenium Forest for Scotland to promote the use of willow. In 2000 she moved to the Isle of Eigg to plant willow and build a workshop where she could continue her work in peace.

Website: www.all-about-willow.co.uk

Pictish Trail & Lost Map Records

Pictish Trail is the recording name for Johnny Lynch, an auteur music artist with a style that is completely his own. After running Fence Records in Fife for a decade he upped sticks and moved to Eigg where he launched his own record label and started recording more of his own music. In 2014 he celebrated living on Eigg by holding his very own music festival there, celebrating the artists on his label and the joy of island life.

Website: www.pictishtrail.co.uk

Our Top Walking Picks on Eigg

The Isle of Eigg is a one-of-a-kind destination.

Less than 12 square miles of unspoiled landscape, it’s best enjoyed on foot – which is a good thing because visitors are forbidden from taking their own vehicles onto the island.

The few vehicles that you will see trundling about Eigg are either trial electric off-road buggies or cars that have been on the island for decades. Many visitors comment on the dilapidated state of some of these cars and for good reason; the remaining vehicles on the island have been granted an MOT exemption, so owners tend to leave any repair work to the last minute.

If visitors think the state of our cars are bad then they should see what our ovens look like! One of the drawbacks to living on an island is that it’s kind of difficult to get hold of New World cooker spares here (or any kind of spare parts for that matter!), so we tend to only buy hard-wearing appliances or run what we do have into the ground.

As a visitor to the island you won’t have to worry about any of these niggles though. All you’ll have to concern yourself with is making sure you see as much of the island as possible and as we’ve said, the best way to do that is on foot.

These five walks are well worth checking out whilst you’re here:

The Sgurr of Eigg

Home to the annual Easter Eigg run, the Sgurr dominates the landscape.

It’s the tallest point on the whole island so, naturally, a brilliant start to your journey that will give you the opportunity to get your bearings and appreciate stunning views across to the neighbouring isles.

The Massacre and Cathedral Caves

One of the darkest parts of the Isle’s history, 400 local inhabitants were brutally murdered here when a long running feud with the Macleods of Skye came to a head. Remains of these people were discovered as recently as last year prompting a rare visit from the police. The Cathedral Cave is also worth walking to but can only be entered at low tide.

Forgotten Settlement of Grulin

Only crumbling walls remains of the small village of Grulin which was once the home to as many as fourteen families. Once home to a small thriving community of crofter, the Highland Potato Famine of 1847 struck the families there particularly hard, causing the then-owner of the island, Dr. MacPherson, to evict the entire population who left their homes to ruin.

Galmisdale and Lodge Gardens

Even on a rainy day the Lodge Gardens are pretty enough to warrant a visit, the same goes for Galmisdale Bay, which is why we recommend this excellent walk which incorporates both of them. Take a look at the historic Clanranald Pier, before exploring the Kelpie Woods and discovering the impressive Lodge along with its formal gardens.

Kildonan Loop

Finally, this 3-4 hour long walk is ideal for walkers looking for a challenging way to fill half a day. Taking in coastal views, stunning flora and even giving you an opportunity to spot some wild seals, this is a great route to introduce you to the island and incorporates the ruins of the Kildonan Church, home to many interesting stories and legends.