A Rum experience – once tasted never forgotten
Once it was known as the forbidden isle where uninvited guests were kept away at the point of a gun. Now the Inner Hebridean island of Rum couldn’t be friendlier or more welcoming.
The stunningly beautiful island measuring just eight miles from shore to shore is an often overlooked world-class destination for anyone looking for a restful break surrounded by an abundance of wildlife and history.
Just a short ferry journey from either Arisaig or Mallaig the crime-free island with a permanent population of just 22 people is one of the four Small Isles situated on the west coast of Scotland. Rum is by far the largest and is made up of a cluster of hauntingly beautiful volcanic peaks.
Scotland’s first settlers arrived here around 7500 BC when Mesolithic man built a community at the head of Loch Scresort where they turned the highly sought flint-like bloodstone into arrow heads to trade throughout Western Scotland and further afield.
Full story and spectacular images in Scotland Correspondent magazine
By the early 7th century Rum and the other Small Isles marked the frontier of the Pictish kingdom and a frequent target for Viking marauders.
In later times the islands were a stronghold of the Lords of the Isles fought over by rival clans until the Jacobite wars of 1715 and 1745 sparked the beginning of the end for traditional life on the Small Isles.
In 1845 Rum was sold to the second Marquis of Salisbury who transformed it into a Highland estate by forcing many of inhabitants to leave for Canada and replacing them with sheep and red deer. On one day alone in the 19th century more than 400 people left Rum for the New World.
By 1870 the island had become the private playground of Lancastrian textile mill owner John Bullough who bought it for £35,000. In order to keep it as an exclusive retreat he ordered his gamekeepers to shoot at passing boats to deter visitors giving rise to the island’s “forbidden” reputation.
In addition to building Kinloch Castle, an Edwardian time capsule which remains a major attraction for visitors, the Bullough family tried to change the name of the island.
Rum is of pre-Celtic origin and means wide island or Isle of the Ridge, which is descriptively appropriate. However, the family thought it too close to the alcoholic beverage of the same name so started spelling it as Rhum in an attempt to make the island sound more romantically Gaelic.
However, with the advent of the First World War, the family lost interest in the island and eventually sold it in 1957. It became a designated National Nature Reserve, managed by Scottish Natural Heritage, and is today part of the Small Isles National Scenic Area.
In addition to being a Special Protection Area for Birds, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation it is also the setting for 17 nationally important ancient monument sites.
The 26,000-acre island is home to one of the world’s largest colonies of breeding Manx shearwaters, a flourishing population of white-tailed sea eagles, an enormous herd of red deer along with plenty of otters, Rum ponies, wild goats and highland cows.
The seas around Rum provide a home for basking sharks, minke whales, harbour porpoises, bottle-nosed and common dolphins along with the occasional sunfish, orca or leatherback turtle.
The island is renowned as a paradise for walkers, climbers, wildlife watchers, cyclists, fishing enthusiasts, canoeists and kayakers.
Although accommodation on the island is limited – there is Ivy Cottage Guest House, a small two-bedroom B&B; some basic camping facilities with two cabins and a bunkhouse for backpackers – that can be an added attraction!
There can be few places where it’s possible to genuinely escape the rat race and feel as if you have an island to yourself while still enjoying all the necessary comforts and amenities. For any couple looking for a romantic getaway, Bramble Bothy, tucked away at the head of Loch Scresort, is perfect for an off grid escape.
This stylish shepherd’s hut, which can be booked through Best Scottish Cottages, sleeps two. It has all the comforts and facilities anybody could want for a relaxing retreat with the added bonus of fantastic views out across the bay to Skye and the mountains beyond.
Intended as a romantic hideaway couples are encouraged to relax in a comfy armchair in front of the wood burning stove or enjoy sitting out under the star-filled night sky with the possibility of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Over the years the word ‘rum’ has come to be associated with something strange or peculiar – the only thing odd about the Isle of Rum is that more people don’t know about it.