Daily Mail

Bunk off to the Hebrides

This bothy in the wilds of Scotland is remote – and perfect for a cosy break


The only time a crowd gathers on the Isle of Canna is for the arrival of the ferry five times a week in summer. Visitors bustle around the pier looking for their hosts like evacuees in wartime.

But once everyone is matched up and has gone on their way, peace swiftly descends — not that it ever really leaves this hebridean hideaway.

At nearly five square miles in length, Canna is one of the Small Isles, reached by the ferry from Mallaig, an hour’s drive from Fort William.

The population of Canna peaked at 436 in 1821 but, following the highland Clearances in 1860, numbers dipped to 127. It now stands at around 20.

Gareth Cole, chef at Cafe Canna, came here with his wife in 2018 having previously worked in IT in London. ‘We’d only previously visited Canna on the stopover ferry. We virtually had two hours on the island to decide if this is what we wanted to do and where we wanted to live. Thankfully we went for it and it has been absolutely amazing.’

Isebail MacKinnon works on the island’s only farm and runs the campsite and bunkhouse.

As part of the Isle of Canna Community Developmen­t Trust, she also manages the community shop and is involved with the renewable energy project.

her family is from Canna and she returned there in 2016 after working in London and Africa. ‘I

can see a lot of similariti­es between living off the west coast of Scotland and living in Ghana and Uganda, as logistics in both places are a bit challengin­g,’ she says.

My wife and I stayed at the bunkhouse, a mid-18th- century former bothy, perched alone at the foot of a basalt cliff with just a windswept sycamore tree for company. Accommodat­ion is simple, with two bunk beds and a separate shower and toilet block, but the views over Canna and the

isles of Sanday and Rum more than compensate.

Accompanie­d by her dog, Isebail brought a breakfast basket each morning. In the evening we dined at the cafe, a 15-minute walk across fields. The menu features local lobster and steak from the farm’s Belted Galloway cattle.

One night we were joined by a group who arrived by rigid inflatable boats from yachts anchored in the harbour.

We soon got to know the island’s visitors: a cyclist from New Zealand, a man who we’d earlier spotted camping solo on Sanday’s white sands, three students staying with a friend, and an intrepid young family of four who arrived by bike, kids in child seats and luggage on their backs.

The island is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, to which it was given in 1981 by the then laird, John Lorne Campbell, a Gaelic scholar and nature lover determined to preserve the island’s ecology and traditions.

his former home, Canna house, is being restored and a visitor facility is under constructi­on.

Ruined Coroghan Castle sits at one end of the beach near the pier on a rocky outcrop that looks like a sandcastle.

You can hike up Compass hill with its views over the island, or out to the lighthouse and back, past sea stacks which teem with puffins in spring.

The birds provide the only commotion you’re likely to encounter on this island, whose emptiness is the essence of its appeal.

 ?? ?? Isolated: Canna’s bunkhouse is a former 18th-century bothy that sits at the foot of a cliff
Isolated: Canna’s bunkhouse is a former 18th-century bothy that sits at the foot of a cliff

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