In July 2011 Cape Farewell embarked on a month-long expedition by boat across the Scottish Islands, bringing the notion and experience of expedition home to the UK, with an exploration of island ecologies and cultures, and of the strategies for sustainable and resilient futures being implemented across the Scottish Isles. More ›

The Crew

The expedition crew of 40 includes island artists, storytellers, film makers, playwrights, architects, designers, musicians, community leaders, social scientists, ecologists, marine biologists, oceanographers, poets, acclaimed Gaelic singers and a chef.
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Video highlights

Watch video highlights from the expedition ›


Life’s good on Eigg. The sun’s out. The tea room down by the old slipway is doing a roaring trade. The Shearwater ferry’s over from Arisaig on the mainland, and has delivered musicians Gabe McVarish and Ross Martin to the plaintive strains of shoreside piper Dona. They’re playing tonight with Eigg musician Damien Helliwell in the community hall up in the woods above the pier. Oliver, Fiona and Antoine were up early on a fishing trip with local Ian Lever and bounced out in a small open boat into the bay between Castle Island and Eigg. They came back wet and elated with a basket of shining mackerel.

Community cook-up tonight with the ceilidh, and everyone’s invited. We’re nearing the end of our first week, and have generally found our sea legs, though Rody asked someone in the shop yesterday if she had, by any chance, a sprung floor. We were doing well with the sea toilet too, until a knot of seaweed got into the system, and the night was punctuated with the sounds of people pumping frantically to no avail. Being on a boat is all about proximity and shared resources, and reminds us of our habits of easy consumption. Here there’s no looking away, no throwing away.

The true value of things is restored to them: water, food, sleep, warmth, solitude and good companionship are all equal, all equally necessary and all need to be negotiated moment by moment. Until we’re up on deck, in a 22 knot breeze, with the mainsail bellying out and Jo and Mat on the winches, Rody at the helm with Jim alongside, and the rest of us braced in various places on the deck, riding the long swell and watching gannets plunge headlong into the sea.

Time for a bike ride over to Laig Beach or the Singing Sands, where Eigg historian Camille Dressler is guiding some of us through the island’s ancient and more recent past. Others have peeled off with John Booth for a tour of Eigg’s ingenious combined renewable energy system, which brings solar, wind and micro-hydro power together to supply the islands needs.

Scottish Wildlife Trust warden John Chester has taken Tom marching off into the hills in search of birds and butterflies, and a group of us spent the morning with Bob and Nora at the Earth Connections Sustainability Centre – a hugely imaginative project currently transforming the old Lodge into a teaching, training and research facility sharing pragmatic adaptive responses to climate change, resource use and the study of human ecology. It’s an incredibly inspiring island; its population diverse, skilled and committed exploring a range of approaches to stewardship, community development and responsible resource use.  And they know how to throw a good celebration too.

Rody Gorman’s just published a new volume of poetry: Beartan Briste (Burstbroken Judgementshroudloomdeeds), Cape Breton University Press. It’s beautiful. In Gaelic and English.

Author: Ruth Little


Joins the expedition for week 1, 2 and 3 Ruth Little is Associate Director at Cape Farewell. She is an Australian dramaturg, teacher, writer and former academic who lives and works in London, where she is Literary Manager of the Royal Court Theatre. Much of her work with writers and theatre artists explores the territory at the edge of chaos, and the dynamic relationship between order and disorder.
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  1. avatar Renee Aroney says:

    Sounds like life is incredibly full and inspiring on Song of the Whale – love hearing all your news – may the seas be kind to you all and the silvery sea spray invigorate x

  2. avatar Kristina says:

    It was an inspiring night to spend with the Cape Farewell crew on Eigg. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to have met up with you all and enjoyed the wonderful hospitality and friendliness of the locals as well as the amazing landscape. Keep the wind in your sails for your next two weeks on the boat and see you soon! -Kristina

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Sea Change Programme

Puffin from the Bird Yarns project, part of Cape Farewell's Sea Change programme.
Grown out of the Scottish Islands Expedition, Cape Farewell’s Sea Change is a four-year programme of research and making across Scotland’s western and northern isles. Sea Change involves over 30 UK and international artists and scientists, working collaboratively and independently to consider the relationships between people, places and resources in the context of climate change.... Read more ›

A timely reminder of how valuable an outsider’s perspective can be

Community Energy Scotland’s annual conference offered a timely reminder of how valuable an outsider’s perspective can be.  It was reported on some research into how different countries are taking forward the development of renewable energy. The study looks at several European countries including Scotland, as well as five states in America. The most striking feature... Read more ›

First there was an island – then there was a boat

Shiants 2
“First there was an island – then there was a boat”, so begins a poem by Shetland writer Laureen Johnston.  Since owning my first boat at the age of eleven, I have been an obsessive explorer of islands, the smaller and more remote the better.  Once, in the grip of a sudden attack of aquatic... Read more ›

‘On these isles’

Lawrence has a 7am coffee break after feeding cattle.
‘On these isles’ is a project by photographer Ed Smith, whom we had the great pleasure of meeting when visiting the Island of Eigg. Ed has spent large periods of time on Eigg and other Inner Hebridean isles capturing life there in pictures. Have a look at more of his images and this project at... Read more ›

A gaelic song

Mary Jane Lamond, Jo Royle and Julie Fowlis Video by Ruth Little

Cape Farewell – we know what to do, can art help us get on and do it?

The following is an excerpt from Sara Parkin’s article found on the Forum for the Future website. …I was fortunate enough to join the crew for one week of a four week tour of Scottish Islands, starting with Skye and Canna before crossing the Minch to Mingulay, Barra and South Uist. The weather was kind,... Read more ›

Islands and Visions

Eigg Barbecue on Song of the Whale
There is a sea view when travelling from Eigg to Mallaig where you have a 360° vision of the Small Isles, Skye, the mountains of Scotland, Mull and, far into the distance, the Outer Hebrides. At 6 am yesterday the grey of the sea bled into the numerous blues of the mountains all dramatised by... Read more ›

Annie Cattrell and Jo Shapcott in conversation about week 4 of the expedition

Annie 1
JS Annie, what is it about islands? AC I like the fact that there’s a larger proportion of sea than land mass visible. There appears to be a completeness and self-sufficiency about the individual islands even though they are all distinctly different. There seems to be a big distinction between uninhabited and inhabited islands –... Read more ›


Photo by Sion Parkinson
(1) On the crossing from Ullapool to Stornaway on the Calmac, I wrote myself a list of rules, a set of behaviours that would concentrate my efforts, or assuage any guilt from any feelings of impotence, in my seven days aboard the ship. (1.1) Rules: (1.1.1) Take photographs, more than you need to, get in... Read more ›


Cotton Grass marking  Dwelling Rona
It was my birthday when I went to Rònaidh first. A place I wanted to see since I was little but I had always missed the boat. It is about forty miles north of my house near the Butt of Lewis. I went on the sixth of August aged thirty eight on the yacht ‘Song... Read more ›

Mary Arnold-Forster

Skye architect Mary shows the house of Fred Taylor she designed and reflects on the progress on Eigg and other green based aspirations for the islands architecture and energy supply.   Video shot by David Buckland     Sketches by Mary Arnold-Forster

Farewell and Ahoy: Log of a Voyage

Photo by Mary Smith
“Back in the kitchen.  A new group has joined Song of the Whale. There is an overlap of crew, Cape Farewell folk, and the artists and scientists who will sail together this coming week. They are planning to sail to North Rona, the Shiants and the coasts of Skye. But I’ve left the ship though... Read more ›