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.
Meet the crew ›

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Video highlights

Watch video highlights from the expedition ›

Ian Stephen

Joins the expedition for week 3

Ian Stephen was born in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis and lives there now. He studied education, drama and literature then returned to live on Lewis. For many years he worked for the Coastguard Service, latterly managing a watch. He was the inaugural winner of the Robert Louis Stevenson Award in 1995. From then he has worked full time in the arts.

His poetry, short fiction and non-fiction have been published in many countries including Australia, Canada and the Czech Republic. He has published many collections of poetry and one of short stories. He travels widely to perform his poems and stories and to tell traditional stories. In recent years he has been a guest at Words Without Borders, Olomouc, Czech Republic; Cape Clear Island Storytelling Festival, Ireland and the Edinburgh International Storytelling Festival. This year he will be performing and sharing at the Eden Project, Cornwall and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

His new and selected poems, Adrift, with Czech translations by Bob Hysek and drawings by David Connearn, is published by Periplum, Olomouc, Czech republic. He has also made many artists’ books, often in collaboration with individual publishers like Alec Finlay‘s Morning Star Publications or with organisations such as Taigh Chearsabhagh and The Pier Arts Centre. A selection was included in Window to the West, City Arts Centre, Edinburgh 2010.

Two of his video-poems were shown in Running Time, a selection of Scottish artists’ films from the 60s to the present day, at the Dean Gallery, 2009. His play Seven Hunters, on the Flannan Isles Lighthouse story, was directed by Gerry Mulgrew and toured through Scotland. His short play, The Sked Crew was directed by Alison Peebles and Brazil 12, Scotland nil, a comedy on land ownership issues, was made for Birds of Paradise and directed by Morven Gregor.

Ian’s work often involves navigation. He was given a Creative Scotland Award (2002-3) to sail through the geography of Scottish maritime stories. The sea-route, suggested by a traditional story, connecting Sweden and the north of Scotland was navigated and the story sent as instalments by satellite-phone to a computer at the 50th Venice Biennale. Ian is now working on a book which will alternate retelling tradi- tional stories on a route from Brittany to Iceland with factual accounts of navigating their settings. The same subject has driven a multi-partner exhibition project, which has been installed, at The Pier Arts Centre and an Lanntiar. The show will also be rebuilt for Taigh Chearsabhagh, an Tobar and Tent Gallery, ECA.

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 ›