British islands …. with such an unusual title I will start by trying to explain exactly what I mean. It’s easier if I start at the end of the title with the last mention of an island where I am referring to the UK mainland (Great Britain which of course is an island) being England, Scotland and Wales. The second reference refers to an island off the mainland like the Isle of Mull in Scotland and the final island reference is what this is all about which is an island off that island. I hope that is clear if not read on and hopefully all will be revealed.
Port a Churaich – Iona – Mull
Seeing as I mentioned the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides for our first of the British islands where better to start than with an island that is reached from Mull and that, of course, is the Isle of Iona. Iona is a tiny island off the southwest coast of Mull and is only 1.5 miles wide by 3 miles long, with a population of around 120 permanent residents.
Iona is a deeply spiritual location and according to legend, Columba and his followers first landed at the southern tip of Iona at what is now called ‘Columba’s Bay’. The original Gaelic name was ‘Port a Churaich’ which means ‘Bay of the Coracle’. Columba’s coracle (boat) is described as being sixty feet long and covered with hides. Columba, an Irish prince, had gone into self-imposed exile following a bloody incident. He had vowed not to settle anywhere from which he could still see Ireland, and Iona was the first suitable place he found.
Jura – Islay – Great Britain
Whilst in the Inner Hebrides we’ll call at the Isle of Jura which is accessed from the Isle of Islay. Jura is one of Scotland’s last wildernesses. Viewed in the picture below from Islay with the instantly recognisable Paps of Jura in the background. The small ferry will transport you from Islay to Jura whilst the larger one is returning to the mainland at Oban.
Despite its size, Jura is only inhabited by approximately 200 people, who are outnumbered by the huge population of deer numbering almost 6000.
Scarp – Harris – Great Britain
The last island in Scotland is Scarp, in the Outer Hebrides which was abandoned in 1969. The island is reached by a short boat crossing over the Sound of Scarp from Hushinish, Isle of Harris but the sea here is very shallow and landing on Scarp can be difficult when there is a swell.
Scarp was the site of an experiment by German inventor Gerhard Zucker to deliver the island’s post by rocket mail. In July 1934 Zucker made two unsuccessful attempts at firing rocket mail between Scarp and Harris. Singed envelopes from the exploded rocket can still be seen at the island museum.
Cribinau – Anglesey – Great Britain
For the last of the British islands, we are off to the Isle of Anglesey just off the coast of North Wales. Located off the west coast of Anglesey is the small tidal island of Cribinau with the wonderful St Cwyfan’s Church also known as the Church in the Sea which can be reached on foot at low tide.
Old maps show the church standing on Anglesey but erosion by the sea as since separated the church from Anglesey. The original site would have been founded in the 7th Century and the building would have been of wattle and daub construction. The present building is said to date back to the 12th or 13th Century with the building undergoing many restorations including after this picture was taken a white lime wash. Personally, I prefer seeing the natural stone.
I hope the reasoning behind my title is now fully explained and that you have enjoyed visiting these British islands which despite their size and locations have such interesting history to share.
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