Part of welcoming visitors to our islands is sharing our day to day lives and helping them to gain more insight into island life. Tourism is just one part of life on the Small Isles. Every day, locals get on with a multitude of jobs from crofting and construction to public services and the creative industries. Life is varied and busy, just like on the mainland.
One of the most visible industries for visitors is farming.
There are a number of farms across the isles. The Island of Muck is very fertile with most of it operating as a single farm with the sea as its boundary. Farming here means cattle (mainly Luing) and sheep (mainly North Country Cheviot) and selling their offspring is the main form of income. The farm also has an important role to play in conserving and enhancing the environment for wildlife.
Canna Farm on the Isle of Canna, is traditionally managed as a hill farm. Comprising 1126 Ha (Hectares), it's made up mostly of hill ground with some good fertile land on the inbye (that’s the inner land away from the sea). The farm runs 600 North Country Cheviot ewes, which produce store lambs and breeding stock. The lambs are sold in September and the best females are retained for replacement breeding stock. The farm has a suckler herd of approximately 50 cows, mostly Shorthorn cross and Aberdeen Angus cross, plus a small herd of pedigree Belted Galloway - a traditional and hardy breed highly respected for its slow maturing and so rich, marbled and exceptionally flavoured beef. You can try some at Cafe Canna.
The farm is run with conservation and wildlife in mind, and several areas are shut off from March to September to provide early cover and breeding areas for the rare Corncrake, which is an important annual visitor to Canna.
On Eigg you may come across Sarah and her collies gathering sheep (north country cheviots) on the hills. Spring is one of the busiest times for her. The cold weather is on the way out and the lambs start to arrive. Farmers have to keep a really close eye on the animals and help out when needed which means very little sleep for the duration of lambing. It also means heading outdoors when everyone else is heading inside to retreat away from wild weather.
Spending more than a few days on the islands gives you a chance to really immerse yourself in island life and learn more about the rhythms of the seasons. Learn more not just about farming but also the range of businesses and creative endeavours run from the islands. Come along to one of our local events such as a ceilidh, a concert, a celebration or the inter island games which this year (2024) will be held on the island of Muck on Saturday 10th Aug. Becoming a temporary local may well lead to you becoming a permanent one.