I moved from London to Skye seeking peace, wilderness and a life closer to nature.
I found one of those things but the rest wasn’t quite what I expected…
On this funny old island I discovered new friends, hundreds of things to do and a diverse, vibrant community.
I was definitely closer to nature but my calendar has never been busier!
I fell head-over-heels in love with my new home here yet I’m still searching for that peace. I haven’t quite got there yet.
The desire to find a certain type of solitude with nothing but the hills or sea for company pulls at me like a little fishhook caught in the back of my mind.
So in 2015 I set about on a plan that would help me find it…
A solo expedition to an uninhabited island far out at sea; somewhere remote, wild and windswept.
No human contact, no electricity, no entertainment such as books or sketchpads. I’d be completely alone… wildlife and the landscape would be my only company.
It would be a kind of Castaway or Girl Friday experience, only without the sand or the sunshine!
I located my temporary home; a set of beautiful but precipitous craggy islands about 40 minutes out of Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides. Their owner, Tom, was incredibly kind and accommodating, if a little bemused by my requests.
Shortly after I’d secured my stay I was lucky enough to win a grant from Tim Moss’ brilliant Next Challenge and a big bundle of kit from Lyon Outdoors. It doesn’t seem like an unusual adventure so I was heartened to see that people were interested.
There’s a surprising amount of planning involved to be able to exist in such a pared-back way…
What safety measures do I need to put in place in case I fall and break an ankle? How do I get there?
Do I bring food supplies or do I exist on shellfish and seaweed? (I still remember Tom’s face as I proposed catching the invading black rats as my main form of sustenance…)
But when the opportunity to take part in Eden popped up in the middle of all this planning it was hard to turn down…
I temporarily postponed my solo trip.
The islands would always be there, this Eden project would not.
Besides, a year spent off-grid in the woods sounded like the perfect halfway stepping stone to my island adventure.
Now Eden has finished… I’m out and settling back into reality after Reality TV and, excitingly for me, my Girl Friday trip is back on!
At the beginning of next year I’ll be hopping on a boat and setting up camp as these feathered friends begin to arrive for the nesting season…
Spending a year off-grid in Ardnamurchan wasn’t exactly the immersive close-to-nature experience that I had expected.
In fact, it was more community-focused than I had ever imagined and it often felt like a constant battle to persuade certain people to respect the environment in which we were living.
Now my island trip is back on the only community I’ll have to interact with is the millions of puffins and seabirds that descend on the rocky cliffs each spring. They may turn out to be incredibly stinky neighbours but I can’t wait!