I made a left turn on my way out of the Community Hall, as instructed, by one of the locals at the Eigg Makers’ Market. “Follow the path until you reach the tarmac,” he told me, and then repeated the directions that Laraine (from Eigg Adventures) had given me.
After turning left, I immediately became distracted by two large flowering hydrangea bushes. We had a hydrangea bush in our back garden, when I was growing up, in Oakland, California. In a garden that was otherwise full of hardy trees, root vegetables, and the remains of my family’s first (and second) attempt at owning goldfish, the hydrangea bush served a symbol of hope, growing pink, blue, and purple hydrangeas harmoniously.
Sometimes, we would snip off one of each colour, and display them in a vase on our dining room table. “These came from our garden!” The vase boomed with pride. “Can you believe it?” The dining room table asked in reply.
At some point while standing in between two hydrangea bushes, I remembered that I had given my backpack, with all of my groceries, to a man with a van, well over an hour ago. The man with the van, Greg, had presumably dropped off my backpack, at my AirBnB, well over an hour ago, as well.
So, I sped off on my bicycle.
Soon, I’d learn that hydrangeas would not be the most exotic plant I’d find on Eigg.
Palm Trees on the Isle of Eigg?
Pictured above is the Isle of Eigg’s Earth Connections Eco Centre, however, it is commonly referred to as “The Lodge” by the islanders. Formerly home to Keith Schellenberg, the second to last Laird of Eigg, the old Lodge remained, for the most part, empty since Schellenberg’s departure in 1995. In 1995, Schellenberg sold the island to Marlin Eckhard Maruma, a fire-worshipping German artist, and a self-proclaimed “professor”. Maruma would only last a year as the tenth and final Laird of Eigg, putting the island back up for sale in 1996, prompting the Isle of Eigg’s Community Buyout of 1997.
On Eigg, the old Lodge, was lying empty and in disrepair. So we put forward a business proposal to the Isle of Eigg Trust and community, to turn it into an Eco centre, which would help us to live on the island and benefit the wider community too.Bob & Norah, the founders of Earth Connections Eco Centre
Once a home befitting a Laird, the Earth Connections Eco Centre is an impressive space, surrounded by exotic plants, including – yes – palm trees! (Look to the right of the image above.) Bob and Norah, the founders of Earth Connections Eco Centre, use the space to their advantage, by hosting a variety of ecocentric courses, retreats, escapes, and volunteering opportunities. I wasn’t aware of Earth Connections Eco Centre before my trip to Eigg, but I did happen to meet Norah while I was there, and I can safely say, you will not meet a warmer soul on the island.
The Main Road
After a rather bumpy ride along the trail (for this rusty bicyclist), I finally made it to the Isle of Eigg’s main road. Overjoyed, as I was, to have reach a paved road, I could’ve got down on my hands and knees to kiss it, but I almost instantly had to make way for a van. The main road on the Isle of Eigg is a single-track road, and on such roads it is common practice for bicyclists to pull over and allow for vehicles to pass. Lucky for me, this was not just any van, but Greg’s van! The van that my backpack, and all of my groceries, were in!
Brightly, I waved at Greg.
Expressionless, he nodded in return.
At the start of my journey along the main road, I found myself surrounded by fields of wild grass and wild flowers. On my left, the fields grew taller, into hardy trees, and on my right, the fields vanished into the sea. I could just make out Mallaig, on the mainland, in the distance, and I smiled.
The persistent young man from the Netherlands, who had made his way, unannounced – not once, but twice – into my room at the hostel the prior evening? He was on the mainland. The group of 15 English tourists, that continually cut in front of me to place their entire group’s food order, before I could order one single pint of Tennent’s? They were on the mainland, too.
Perhaps, for some, they feel an instant sigh of relief the moment they step foot in Scotland, but for me, this isn’t so. When I first arrive in Scotland, I am inundated with requests to meet and catch up by family and friends. Often times, we leave notes for each other through our letterboxes, as we don’t have any other means of communicating. It can take days, let alone weeks, to arrange a meeting through notes in letterboxes. (That being said, I wouldn’t change it for the world.)
This is why, when I’m in Scotland, I always plan what I call a “holiday within my holiday”. Usually, I spend 4 nights and 5 days on an island in the Inner Hebrides, and this year, I’d chosen the Isle of Eigg. It isn’t until I’m on an island that I feel a weight lifted from my shoulders.
“Per mare per terras,” I said, the motto of my clan, as I stared across the sea. My clan is Clan MacDonald, the clan that once inhabited the Isle of Eigg.
“By sea and by land.”
You’ll know you’re close to Cleadale when the mainland disappears on your right, and the Isle of Rùm appears on your left. The Isle of Rùm, like the Isle of Eigg, is rather distinctive. However, whereas Eigg has one – albeit, incredibly unique – peak, Rùm is made up of several peaks, some seemingly implausible for an island of its size. On the left (or below, if you’re viewing on your phone) is an image of Rùm, as seen from the main road on Eigg. At this point, I’d finally reached the steep hill that Laraine (from Eigg Adventures) had told me (however many hours ago) would lead to Cleadale.
Little did I know, when I stopped to snap this picture, that this would be the last I’d see of Rùm – the last I’d see of parts of Eigg, even – for three days straight.
Next week, I’ll share my fourth and final blog post from Day 1 on the Isle of Eigg. I never thought I’d write four blog posts about my first day on Eigg, but it was, far and away, the best day – weather-wise – of the entire trip! A storm would roll in that evening, enveloping the island in a shroud of clouds, making it impossible to see the mainland, the neighbouring isles, or even Eigg’s very own distinctive peak, the mighty An Sgùrr.