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

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Time Travel

Between the glacial valleys and plateaux of the Yorkshire Dales and the purplegrey expanses of the North Yorkshire Moors, the Vale of York spreads out like a quilt: a flat, agricultural landscape where, as a child in the 1970s and 80s, I learned how to be and be in the world. I remember barley fields full of wildflowers, annual feasts of mushrooms gathered from cow pastures, the calls of cuckoos marking out the boundaries of summer, and the fish-filled beck, alive with minnows, sticklebacks and trout, that ran through the village where we lived. Returning there as an adult, I always expect to arrive at this landscape of memory, but it is a landscape that only exists in the past, industrial farming and subsidy geared towards profit and productivity rather than stewardship of the land to meet the needs both of humans and of all those other forms of life. I always arrive now with a sense of loss: no wildflowers, no mushrooms, no cuckoos, no fish, not there, not now.

We were moored in a bay off Vatersay. Grey mist and a soft horizon, smudging the line between sky and sea; drizzle, wet wind, rain. I walk across the beach, over the dunes, and into the machair. Stopped still in a field of flowers: skyblue, pink, purple, eggblue, mustardyellow, pinkwhite. Snails that had adapted to crawl over sand. Meadow pippits singing on all the fenceposts. And the next day, on South Uist, corn marigolds ablaze in a field of rye.

I think it has been thirty years since I have been in a field like this.

At Barra, anchored in the harbour, we watch a bunch of teenage boys, fully dressed right down to their fresh white trainers, leap from the end of the pier into the sea, and it looked to me as though they were testing the possibility for leaping into the future; away, perhaps, from here. That night, we watch a group of women weave their way through waulking songs, pounding on the table of tradition, their past translated into sound.

I rarely manage to be so fully in the present as I have this week: alert to the landscape, to each island’s topography, to the infinitely variable living skin of the sea; alert to the nuances of the wind, the light, the weather; and alert all the time to these islands’ continuous present, to their visioning of new models for the future, and their living landscapes of a rich and fertile past.

Author: David Harradine


Joins the expedition for week 2 David Harradine is an artist working across performance, installation, visual art and publication. He is co-founder and artistic director of Fevered Sleep. His current work is focused on the connections between light, landscape, weather and place, and on the subject of ageing.
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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 ›