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Off the Beaten Path: The Isle of Eigg

As world governments are attempting to make it harder and harder to exist outside the major cities, it’s important to remember that there are many examples of communities making a go of things without meddling bureaucrats.

The Isle of Eigg, a small island off the west-coast of Scotland, is one of such cases. Community-owned and outfitted with its own sustainable energy grid, the Isle of Eigg is an intriguing case study showing us what can happen when a community comes together and forges its own path.

Freedom on the Isle of Eigg

The “Braveheart” moment

The “Braveheart” moment

The history of the Isle of Eigg is an interesting one. People have inhabited the island for over 8000 years and a clan feud even led to the massacre of most of the population of the island – around 400 people at the time – in the 16th century.

Fast-forward to more recent times, when the Isle of Eigg has been owned by several private individuals over the last century, almost as a vanity project. While the more recent owners had grand visions of what they would do with the island, under their ownership the island fell into a state of disrepair. The islanders knew they had to take control if they wanted to turn things around, so they formed the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust in 1991, in an effort to raise enough funds to purchase the island themselves. When the latest owner put the island up for sale in 1996 after using it as security for a high-interest loan, the Trust doubled-down on its efforts to raise the needed £2 million required.

The David vs. Goliath story of the tiny isle vying for its freedom brought in donations from across the country, including £900,000 from a mystery donor. Thanks to their successful fundraising efforts, in April 1997 the islanders were able to purchase the island for £1.5 million and take control of their destiny. Check out this article for the full history of the Isle of Eigg and how the people got their island back – it is truly fascinating and inspiring.

Sustainable power grid

Sustainable power grid

The motivation for moving the Isle of Eigg to an off-grid sustainable electric system was based on logistical, financial, and environmental concerns.

Relying entirely on diesel generators for their power was a logistical nightmare, as all fuel had to be shipped from the mainland in large barrels and then transported to each house to fill up the individual generators.

In 2008, the Isle of Eigg became the first community in the world to launch on off-grid system powered entirely by wind, water, and solar. This combination of energy sources ensures they can produce electricity in nearly any type of weather. While they still have backup generators and use wood stoves to heat their homes, their renewable energy sources can provide as much as 90% of the required energy for the island.

They even have a sustainable forestry program in place to ensure wood supply and expand the woodlands.

With an aim to reduce emissions to net zero by 2025, the islanders continue to push forward with sustainable solutions. Regardless of how you feel about the whole climate change and net zero discussion, it is truly inspiring to see them exercise self-determination and build a community that upholds their values.

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Isle of Eigg Stats

Now that you’re a little more acquainted with why the Isle of Eigg has attracted such interest from outsiders, let’s get a little more into the nuts and bolts of the country.

Size and Location

Located just 10 miles off the Scottish West coast, south of the Isle of Skye, you will find the quaint Isle of Eigg. And quaint is an accurate word, because this little island is only 5 miles long by 3 miles wide!


If you’ve been to Scotland before, you know to expect a certain amount of cloudiness and rain. And the Isle of Eigg definitely has plenty of both. Averaging rainfall on 13 days per month in the summer and up to 22 days per month in the winter, some galoshes, a raincoat, and an umbrella are definitely a good idea!

Geography and Sights to See

Geography and Sights to See

This isle has everything from rocky peaks and white sand beaches to rolling green fields and woodlands.

The highest peak on the island, a pitchstone called the Sgurr of Eigg, was formed 60 million years ago when molten lava poured through the isle’s valley. Anyone who wants to get to the top of Sgurr and check out the amazing views is in for a challenging and rewarding hike on the winding path that has been carved to reach the summit. Once at the top, you can see the entire island, as well as the neighboring isles of Rum and Skye.

You can also check out the white sand beach known as the “Singing Sands” on the northwest side of the island. Comprised entirely of quartz sand that squeaks under your feet as you walk, the beach area also features some caves and waterfalls for those who love to go exploring. The bonus? If you are lucky enough to get a sunny day, you can go for an ocean swim!


With a population of only 110 people, this isle really is “wee”, although it is the most populous of the Small Isles in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides.

Getting there

There is ferry service several times a week to the Isle of Eigg and the other Small Isles from Mallaig and Arisaig on mainland Scotland. You can also charter a boat to take you there. So, right off the bat, you are in for an adventure sailing the high seas!

Other interesting tidbits

  • Only island residents are permitted to have cars, caravans, or motorbikes on the island. Visitors can walk, rent a bike or kayak, or hire a local taxi to get around.
  • There is only one main road on the island. It links the main settlement areas of Galmisdale in the south, where you will find the ferry terminal, and Cleadale in the north, where you’ll find the Singing Sands beach.
  • The community is working hard to increase housing availability for full-time residents, as interest in the island grows.
  • Be on the lookout for dolphins, whales, and even sharks when taking the one hour-long ferry trip to the island.
  • As of spring 2023, the community school had just seven students enrolled, but was expecting another five soon.
  • When the community’s resident GP passed away, his house was converted into a health center to support the residents of Eigg and the other Small Isles of Muck, Rum, and Canna.
  • The best time to visit is between May and September, when you get the warmest temperatures and the sunniest days. For information on traveling to the Isle of Eigg, visit their official website.

Lessons learned from the Isle of Eigg

Lessons learned from the Isle of Eigg

The Isle of Eigg’s story is inspiring because it shows what can happen when a community comes together and fights for self-determination. The island went from being under what some people referred to as a feudalist system with a wealthy individual owning the island, to a community-ownership model where the residents of the island took control and began to build the community they wanted to live in.

With their adoption of off-grid, sustainable power, this community has been able to improve the quality of life for its residents while staying true to its values, thus becoming a model for other communities who strive to do something similar. I encourage you to check out the links in this article to get the full story of the Isle of Eigg, it really has an incredible history and shows the power even a small group of people can have if they work together.

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Thanks for reading and have a great week!


LisaLisa is an aspiring expat from Canada who is working to put together her Plan B with a young family in tow. She is excited to pair her lifelong love of writing with her passion for offshore strategies and outside-the box investments in her weekly articles for Escape Artist readers. Follow this “rebel with a cause” as she walks the path less traveled and shares her experiences along the way.
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