The Shiant Isles

 

The road less travelled, the course less steered, the Shiant Isles. Summer is coming! She still has to come a long way, but before you know it she’s there! Better be prepared and get ready to go exploring. Have a look at what lies between Scotland and Iceland. Here are some hidden gems. Out of the way on a course less steered. Full of mystery and legends. Hidden away in a fog or just behind the horizon.

Position

The Shiants or as the name gives away, “enchanted” Isles are situated 4 miles south east of Lewis, in the Minch

Geology

The Shiants are outliers of Skye, although they are closer to Lewis. The rock formations are similar to those of Staffa, the Giant causeway, and parts of Mull- columnar basalt. Forming spectacular cliffs of over 120 meters in height! This is relatively young rock. The north shore of Garbh Eilean boasts of a beautiful natural arch.

 

History

Local history goes back further than the beginning of time. The Shiants are often described as a resort for fairies and elves. The feared Blue Men of the Minch are known to visit the place. With their craving for poetry they scare innocent fishermen. The legend might have been brought over by slaves from Africa taken by the Vikings in the 9th century. A more earthly account of inhabitation goes back to the middle ages. Fishermen used the Islands as a summer home while a shepherd and his sheep took to the grassy hills. In later years a church was erected with the accompanying grave yard. This suggests permanent habitation. Small crops of corn were grown while cows and sheep grassed at the hill. In the early 19th century only a shepherd and his wife were living on the island. They collected birds and their eggs to extend their income. One day the shepherd was lowering his wife down the face of one of the cliffs when the rope parted. The helpless wife tumbled down the cliff into the icy sea. The shepherd realized his wife never learned to swim but the dead birds she collected kept her afloat. Just long enough for her husband to see the tides carry her away forever into the Minch. An extended description of the Islands and their history is given by Adam Nicolson in his book, Sea Room. His father, Nigel Nicolson bought the Islands in 1937and passed them down to his son. Before him Comton Mackenzie (author of Whisky Galore and The Monarch of the Glen) owned the Shiants. These day the Group in uninhabited. Except for summer visitors who take refuge in the restored cottage on Eilean an tigh and Biologists who count the birds nesting in the barrows.

Visit the Shiant Isles in 2016

The Tecla will visit the Shiant Isles, just like in 2015, as part of her trips in Scotland. The crew fell in love with the islands because of the amazing cliffs coming out of the sea. Steep rock walls coming up for over a hundred meter. Stepping on the land you will find many birds, there is even a Sea Eagle breading on the island! In 2016 there will be four voyages with a possible stop over on the Shiants. Sail from Ullapool to St Kilda and it will be one of our favourite stop overs. If weather and wind permit it, the Shiants are also a possible stop over between Ullapool and Oban.

Wild live

2 percent of the world’s puffin population breed on the Islands. Together with Kittiwakes, Guillimots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Shags and the Great Skuas and many more species have been seen. A spectacular sight is the Eagels who nest on the northern side. Strange inhabitants are the survivors of an ancient ship wreck, the black rats. They are protected by law and are free to plunder the hill in search of young puffins. There is a common seal colony and the waters around the Isles are often frequented by porpoises, basking sharks, blue sharks, and Minke whales.

Chart

Shiant islands
The Scottish Islands, H Haswell-Smith
Hebridean Island hopping, M Coventry
Outer Hebrides, Clyde Cruising ClubS

Sail there in 2016

Visiting the Shiant Islands in 2016? Join us on one of the following trips and get there by sailing ship!

T2016-2 // 25-4 until 1-5

T2016-3 // 2-5 until 9-5

T2016-4 // 10-5 until 16-5

T2016-13 // 12-9 until 18-9

Sailing Schedule

Legends
A rime by the ghostly legends of the storm kelpies or Blue Men:
Blue Chief: Man of the black cap what do you say
As your proud ship cleaves the brine?
Skipper: My speedy ship takes the shortest way
And I’ll follow you line by line
Blue Chief: My men are eager, my men are ready
To drag you below the waves
Skipper: My ship is speedy, my ship is steady
If it sank, it would wreck your caves