Eilean Bàn – dwarfed but not diminished

Scottish Islands Explorer May/June 2015

Scottish Islands Explorer
May/June 2015

I have the good fortune to have an uncle who lives in Glenelg. It’s a great starting point for exploring a vast area of the north-west of Scotland: Skye, Lochalsh, Knoydart, North Morar, Lochaber, Badenoch, Ardnamurchan, Wester Ross, Mallaig – the list is almost endless!

Yet in the midst of all that grandeur sits tiny Eilean Bàn, home of a Stevenson lighthouse, ghost stories and the former lighthouse keepers’ cottages that became the final home of the author Gavin Maxwell. Maxwell was a naturalist, who became known world-wide for his Ring of Bright Water trilogy, books that opened the eyes of millions to the wonder of otters and the natural world.

The Gavin Maxwell Museum on Eilean Ban

The Gavin Maxwell Museum on Eilean Ban

It could be easy to overlook Eilean Bàn as the mighty Skye Bridge soars overhead.  But it’s an island with a long and interesting history and a visit to the Gavin Maxwell Museum or the island’s impressive wildlife hide is a worthwhile day out.

I’m glad that Maxwell’s life and work is celebrated on this island. I grew up with his books and laughed – and cried – through the eponymous film starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers.  And I’ve paid many a visit to Sandaig, the beautiful bay south of Glenelg, that was Maxwell’s home for so many years and immortalised as the ‘Camusfeàrna’ of his books.

The MV Glenachulish at Glenelg

The MV Glenachulish at Glenelg

In the current edition of Scottish Islands Explorer is an article I’ve written about Maxwell, the lighthouse and Eilean Bàn. In it I look at the island and its surrounding area, as well as the last days of that gifted, but troubled and complicated man, who, despite being a mass of contradictions, did so much to bring an awareness and understanding and love of the natural world to so many people.

So I’m glad to have an uncle in Glenelg and be able to explore this wonderful part of the world. I’m glad too that it’s still possible to enjoy the little ferry across to Skye. And an interesting thing about Glenelg?  It’s the only palindromic glen in Scotland!

Gavin Maxwell


Eilean Bàn

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