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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Tiger Moth

At Canna House I showed our group the Hebridean moth collection – mostly specimens from Canna and Barra – in cabinets in the entomology room. We took turns to crowd into the little space, jostling with butterfly nets, a moth trap held together with large coloured paper clips, rows of diaries for every year from 1924, scores of butterfly books and field guides, the complete works of Freud and Jung and nine different books on UFO’s (maybe there is something really special about Canna?)

At first glance and even after overcoming the sort of distaste that can be produced by looking at lifeless insects, trapped and pinned, the specimens seem small and unremarkable, the collection hardly spectacular. It was the drawer of Tiger Moths that elicited real delight. They really are fabulous creatures, with large orange bodies, dark brown spots on parchment-white forewings and dusty vermilion hind wings. I had worked on my own in that little room for three days in June. Being there again, but this time with other people, widened the gulf between looking at cabinet specimens and seeing moths and butterflies out in the landscape; the gap between the lab and the field – between the studio and the world?

The next day we sailed to Mingulay – beautiful island, inhabited only by huge colonies of sea birds (who share it for a few weeks each summer with artist Julie Brooks). I sat by the Priest’s House – abandoned soon after it was built, now ruined – and tried to draw the empty horizon. It’s amazing how much one invests in the horizon after only a few days on a boat at sea. Walking back down to the beach I glanced down and right at my feet was a Tiger Moth, wings closed, dozing in the morning light. I bent down to have a closer look and put my hand out.  Slowly, sleepily, it fluttered onto my hand and rested there – just long enough for me to take a blurry picture – then flew off.

The encounter was a harbinger of good things to come – the walk to Mingulay’s majestic cliffs – and made me feel very optimistic about how taking this ‘moth work’ forward.  It highlighted the importance of keeping one’s eyes open without being overwhelmed by all those anxieties about how experience becomes art – of the importance of being precise, of being attentive.

Author: Alison Turnbull


Joins the expedition for week 2 Alison Turnbull is an artist whose past work has taken inspiration from architectural plans and botanic gardens to create paintings in which science, art and nature meet.
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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 ›