Eigg, at 5 miles long by 3½ miles wide, is the second largest of The Small Isles occupying the area between the Isle of Skye to the north and the Ardnamurchan peninsula to the south. With over 60 inhabitants, it is also the most populous.
Eigg can be reached from Mallaig via the Small Isles Ferry and, seasonally, from Arisaig. Summer will also give you a wider choice of boats, of timings and of options to combine trips to other Small Isles.
The island is extremely distinctive in views from the mainland, in part because of the steep rise to the plateau that characterises the northern half of the island, which looks like a line of regular cliffs from Arisaig. But the most distinctive feature is the near vertically-sided crag of An Sgurr, which looms above the southern end of the island.
The main centre of population is at Cleadale, at the north western end of the only road of any significance on the island. Geography dictates that Eigg's only pier, which used to offer a less than secure or sheltered landing, lies at the south east end of the same road. A new slipway was completed in Autumn 2004, finally allowing the ferry to berth and doing away with the need for passengers and goods to transfer to and from a flit boat.
The final years of the last Millennium were amongst the best in Eigg's history. Ownership passed to the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust on 12 June 1997, placing the islanders' destiny at least in part in their own hands for the first time ever. Another stakeholder in the Eigg Heritage Trust is the Scottish Wildlife Trust, who now manage the island as a nature reserve.
The earlier history of Eigg was a deeply troubled and very bloody one. This was the location of the monastery in which St Donnan and 52 of his monks were murdered in 617. In 1577 some 395 MacDonalds, hiding from a MacLeod raid in a cave on the southern side of the island, were suffocated when the MacLeods tried to smoke them out. The cave, since known as Massacre Cave, can still be visited. The following year the MacLeods took their revenge at Trumpan Church on Skye.
In 1588 Eigg was plundered by Spanish mercenaries; and in the aftermath of the 1745 rebellion the island was again sacked and the young men deported in reprisal for supporting the losing side. And if all this were not enough, Eigg was subjected to some clearance after a change of ownership in 1829.
Numerous subsequent changes of ownership have seen Eigg enjoy some prosperous periods of development; and suffer from others of uncertainty and stagnation. Little wonder that the move to partial ownership of the island by the islanders in 1997 was seen as such a cause for celebration.
Visitors can enjoy a range of activities on Eigg. Hillwalkers will enjoy the challenge of An Sgurr (at 393m or 1290ft), though make sure you know how long you have before your boat returns, while the the northern hills rise to Sgorr an Fharaidh at 340m or 1116ft. Elsewhere there is a wide variety of coastal scenery on offer, ranging from beaches to cliffs, and including, as already mentioned, caves with an unfortunate history.
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