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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Virtual St Kilda

Although it took me three attempts, I have been lucky enough to visit St Kilda before. This archipelago, the remotest part of the British Isles lying 41 miles west of Benbecula, has been in the news again recently. Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a permanent settlement on Boreray, which could date back to the Iron Age. It was previously thought Boreray was just visited by the people of Hirta for seasonal hunting of seabirds and gathering wool from feral sheep. A survey team from the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland have now recorded an extensive field system and terraces for cultivating crops. They have also found an intact stone building buried under soil and turf. Hirta, the main island of St Kilda, was occupied until 1930 when the last islanders left after they asked to be evacuated because their way of life was no longer sustainable. The NTS said simple tools found on Hirta suggested Bronze Age travellers might have visited St Kilda 4,000 to 5,000 years ago from the Western Isles before people settled at an unknown date. These latest discoveries suggest that Boreray, as well as Hirta, had settlers and could change experts’ understanding of the archipelago’s history.

Earlier in July another team from Historic Scotland and Glasgow School of Art released its first 3D image in a project to digitally laser scan ruins in Village Bay on Hirta. The project called the Scottish Ten is recording all five of Scotland’s UNESCO World Heritage sites and five others around the world. It could see the development of virtual tourism coming to St Kilda following concerns that too many visitors could damage the environment. However, the NTS in their recent draft management plan for the islands acknowledge climate change and coastal erosion pose the biggest threats to archaeological sites. The abandoned buildings, including the feather store and numerous cleits, small stone structures used for drying seabirds as well as storing oats and peat, are at risk. Warming sea temperatures also impact marine life, such as plankton, and everything else up the food chain to fish species that the vast seabird colonies of St Kilda depend upon.

For those who missed it, check out the St Kilda Opera, a major international co-production performed in 2007 at five European venues simultaneously, linked by live satellite to St Kilda and webcast live on the BBC. Also on YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hm10Bx-3KfA & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N1EWIGHV9Y

Author: Graeme Robertson


Joins the expedition for week 2 Graeme Robertson is Executive Director of Global Islands Network, a Scottish based charity whose main aim is to conduct and promote culturally appropriate, ecologically sound, economically sustainable and socially equitable development on islands worldwide.
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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 ›