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The Island of Rum: Your Guide to Explore

Posted on May 07, 2014 by Jonathan Willet

Island of Rum

Wilderness Guide Jonathan Willet explains some of his favourite highlights from an iconic island from the West coast, The Island of Rum: Your Guide to Explore.

Where is Rum?

Rum is the largest of the Small Isles (Muck and Eigg are the other two) on the west coast of Scotland. It is a fantastic place with eerie solitude in some areas, Edwardian grandeur, TV celebrity and some amazing hills to be climbed. There now is a good track to get across the island so if you have your bike you can easily access the two road ends in an hour or two. 

The Island of Rum: Your Guide to Explore

Where to go?

Kinloch is the only settlement on the island and where you find the grand Edwardian pile of Kinloch Castle. This was built by Sir George Bullough a Lancastrian Industrialist. It was completed in1900,  took three years to build and cost in today’s money £15 million, though the labour costs to day would be much greater. The stone was imported from Arran and the gardens are rooted in 250,000 tons of Ayrshire topsoil. A tour of the opulent interior is well worth it.

The Island of Rum: Your Guide to Explore

You can head over to the sandy beaches of Kilmory in the north of the island. This area has been made famous by Autumnwatch and its footage of the rutting Red Deer. Studies of the Red Deer on Rum have been going on since 1953, making it one of the longest scientific studies on mammals on the world. Seemingly East Africa was the first choice but political unrest there made the researchers choose Rum. The sandy beaches are formed from the erosion of the erosion of the Torridonian Sandstone of this area giving them a pinkish hue.

Heading south-west you can take the track to Harris and view the impressive Bullough mausoleum. Built in a classical Greek style is does stand out somewhat. It is possibly the only Doric temple in the Highlands and Islands. The previous mausoleum can be seen in a bank a few hundred meters to the west. It was made of concrete and had an interior of colourful Italian mosaic. One visitor commented that it looked like a Victorian toilet, which caused an irate Sir George to have it blown up and a more classic one built.

The Island of Rum: Your Guide to Explore

What to do on Rum?

The most obvious things to do though are climb the Rum Cullin. These hills have wonderful Norse derived names indicating their place in a Norse kingdom stretching from the Isle of Man to Shetland for nearly 400 years. Askival, Hallival and Trollval all pure Norse. Trollval was possible named after the Manx Shearwaters as their nocturnal calling made the inhabitants think that the Trolls were speaking. Upto 25% of the world’s population of this bird breed on Rum. Both the Skye and Rum Cullin were formed from a collapsed magma chamber or caldera.

Perhaps the greatest pleasure on Rum is to just visit deserted beaches full of interesting flotsam, or look for the impressive wild billy goats or Golden and Sea Eagles or take the rough coastal path to Papadil or just marvel at the quiet of the place.

But a word of warning the midges are fierce, so from mid-May to September be prepared. As far as I know Rum has the only story of a midge fatality in Scotland. A clansman who had been having it off with the chief’s wife was caught and staked out in high summer on the moor, naked. The next day they returned to find him dead! 

For more information on Rum and the rest of the Inner Hebrides, check out our Locations page.

Have you got any Rum stories or tips to share? Please add them in the comments.

About the author

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Jonathan Willet

Jonathan has a wealth of experience in biodiversity, history and landscape. With degrees in zoology and ecology and 20+ years as a wildlife guide, his regular blogs are always packed full of informational gems.

Read more articles by Jonathan


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