There aren’t too many travelers who can claim to have visited Rona, mostly because few people have actually heard of this tiny island in Scotland. It’s just about far enough off the beaten track to avoid featuring in standard guide books of Scotland, and those who have discovered its charms are happy to keep it that way – a little bit secretive and wonderfully undiscovered.
Rona is romantic and exciting, somewhere to find serenity, and the perfect haven for the adventurous of mind.
Sure, this miniscule landmass doesn’t have the heady draw of vibrant Hollywood Boulevard or the dramatic panorama of the inimitable Grand Canyon, and there are no packed freeways or towering malls. Instead, it offers a reminder of what life is truly all about, the chance to escape the rat race for a day or a week, and find yourself on one of the last isolated, uninhabited islands of the British Isles.
The Isle of Rona was once farming land, inhabited by crofters until the 1920’s when the British Military forced residents to abandon their homes to make way for a military outpost.
The stronghold is still there, a modernized military lighthouse facility standing proud in its own 142 acres of island land, warning off anyone who might threaten the sometimes savage coastline of the Scottish Hebrides.
But the rest of the island has found its way into the hands of a private investor, a European conservationist, who has given the Rona a new lease of life and shaken the ghostly cobwebs from the abandoned homes that dot across its face.
On a clear day you can see back to the Isle of Skye from the rocky cliff tops in the south west. From the north, the Outer Hebrides in the distance are a smudge on the horizon, and the nearest visible landmass, the neighboring island of Raasay, is yet another uninhabited atoll.
Stags wander freely through the untouched landscape, standing proud against the backdrop of the sharp rocks and harsh vegetation, and seals visit its shores by the hundreds, taking refuge from the strongest currents of the Hebridean Sea.
At the northern end of this craggy Eden lies Leap Njghinn Righ Lochlainn, a stone slab that marks the last resting place of ardent Royal lovers. The tale goes that a Greek King once made his way to Denmark to woo the native Princess, whose affections were also sought by the Prince of Sweden and other royal suitors. He was successful in winning her love but was so consumed by jealously of his rivals that he and the willing Princess made to elope.
They were pursued from Denmark as far as the northern shores of Rona, where the Swedish Prince caught them and challenged the fleeing lover to a duel – and won. So distraught was the Danish Princess that she asked for the grave of her dead lover to be widened enough that she could lie in beside him, and there they remain, two lovers entwined in an anonymous grave atop on this lonesome Scottish island.
Visitors stay at Dry Harbour, a tranquil little bay on the western side, where two of the ruined crofter’s homes and the long-abandoned manse have been rebuilt, stone by stone, into wonderfully romantic, luxury retreats. Electricity is supplied by wind and logs provide the heat, while jigsaws and puzzle books take the place of a television set.
By day, follow the trails, for there are no roads here, from one ruined village to another, clambering through the knee high ruins of homes over a century old. Discover eddying rock pools to the north of the island, where fish are easy to catch from the shore, and at low tide, brave the silt and ankle deep mud of the sea bed to harvest the wild mussels that cling to the normally inaccessible rocks. The Isle of Rona, with its turbulent past, draws people to its windswept shores as they look for solace within its weathered landscape.