The people of easdale are very lucky to have the puffer on their doorstep. It offers warm hospitality, excellent food and even its own brand of comestibles, all of which are worth eating and taking away! But the puffer is not only worth visiting, it is worth going to visit. The very short boat trip helps to work up an appetite, as does a walk round this fascinating island which has a unique history. The puffer has won numerous awards and deserves to win more - it is an example of how excellence can be found even in the smallest and most distant places, and a credit to the family team who have made it work and work brilliantly well.
MICHAEL RUSSELL MSP
Easdale Island is the smallest permanently-inhabited island of the Inner Hebrides, on Scotland's west coast. Situated in the Firth of Lorn, about 16 miles south of Oban, Argyll, it covers an area of less than 10 hectares.
Easdale Island lies about 200 metres off the Island of Seil which itself is connected to the mainland by the 200 year-old Clachan Bridge, the "Bridge over the Atlantic". Continue for four miles and at the top of the hill catch a glimpse of the Island and dramatic sea views down the Firth of Lorn. There is no vehicular access to Easdale Island, so park your vehicle in the car park at Ellenabeich and catch the small passenger ferry by sounding the klaxon in the tiny waiting room on the pier.
The tiny car-free island of Easdale has much to offer the short or long term visitor. The five minute ferry crossing creates a sense of adventure and escape from the rat race, and visitors feel immediately welcome amongst the small thriving community which occupies the former slate quarriers' cottages. From the middle of the 17th century to the early 20th century it was an important centre for slate quarrying. The Island had as many as seven working quarries, some of which extended down to 300 feet below sea level. Together with other quarries on the neighbouring islands of Seil, Luing and Belnahua the Island gave its name to the famous Easdale Slate which was exported to Glasgow, Ireland and beyond in fact all over the world.
At the peak of the industry in the second half of the 19th century the population was in excess of 500. A storm in 1881 flooded the quarries, and thereafter the industry declined until the last slate was cut in the 1950s. By the early 1960s the population had dwindled to only 4. However since then the population has steadily increased and now stands around 60 with many young families. Most of the old quarriers’ cottages have now been reconstructed and renovated.
Easdale is a living, working island with a vibrant community. It is quite unique and different from other islands as there is no farming, crofts or livestock. The village nestles around the architecturally recognised harbour, behind the only hill on the Island which shelters it from the Atlantic winds.
Follow the slate paths which circle the Island and climb the hill to take in unrivalled views of Mull, the Garvellochs, Scarba and beyond. The unique landscape and flooded quarries are reminders of the slate quarrying which sustained the island for many years, and Easdale’s history and heritage are captured in the award winning and community owned Museum. The shoreline offers the opportunity for beachcombing, soaking up the fresh Atlantic air and wildlife sightings. Seals and dolphins can often be seen close by, and occasionally sea otters, basking shark and minke whales make an appearance. Many species of birds can be sighted from the island including shags, buzzards, golden eagles, white tailed sea eagles, kestrels, ravens and many different gulls.
The iconic community hall (renovated in 2003) hosts an annual arts programme from spring to September featuring theatre, music and exhibitions. The hall was the first project for ‘Eilean Eisdeal’ the community development company with charitable status which was formed to aid future regeneration on the island. Eilean Eisdeal hosts ‘The World Stone Skimming Championships’ on Easdale Island in September and the event has become a major fundraising event for the community. Other annual events include ‘Atlantic Adventure Day’, Ne’er day ceilidh, Burns Supper and Pantomime.
From Oban, take the A816 south following signs for Campbeltown. After about 9 miles take a right turn on to the B844, which is sign posted for Easdale.
About 4 miles further on you will cross Clachan Bridge, the famous 'Bridge Over the Atlantic', bringing you onto Seil Island.
Continue along the road to the village of Balvicar. At Balvicar follow the road around to the right at the junction with the road to Cuan. Continue on the road over the hill to the conservation village of Ellenabeich.
At the end of the village you will find parking signposted. The passenger ferry to Easdale can be summoned during operating hours by pushing the klaxon or light buttons in the ferry waiting shed on the pier.