Lost and Found on Rona

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A solitary cottage on the isle of Rona, Scotland.

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.

Reflection of the Hebridian Sea on the window of a cottage on Rona, Scotland.

Rona is romantic and exciting, somewhere to find serenity, and the perfect haven for the adventurous of mind.

A somantic sunset by the pier on the isle of Rona.

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 mist rolls down from the high hills over the greenery towards the sea on Rona, Scotland.

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.

The Isle of Rona's old strongold, sitting solitary staring out at the sea.

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.

Two beautiful baby lambs. Their coat is white, but faces black.
An old abandoned home in ruins on Rona, Scotland. The structure is made of bricks, there is no roof at all.

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.

A view of the Isle of Rona's distant neighboring Isles. They are but silhouettes in the sunset.

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.

Stags and deer grazing on Rona's mountains.

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.

A beautiful sunset on Rona as seen by laying down on the road and photographing it winding to the distant sea and setting sun.

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.

Little town of Rona, Scotland. Very few white houses that are white. Simplistic, just like the life there must be.

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.

An early morning view of the Fjord and mountains of Rona.

Have you visited the Isle of Rona? What would you give for a taste of this reverent solitude sheltered from wild Scottish days?


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2 comments on “Lost and Found on Rona

  1. I was part of a team of Junior Seaman, just having completed our Gunnery course, and returning from a well earned short weekend pass. It was at HMS Cambridge, now disappeared from land, that we left for Scotland. My ” One Off” happening was that I was late . I had got on the wrong end of the train at Plymouth. My coach did not disengage and I went on to Cornwall.
    My first R.N, offence and I was in front of the Commander and got sentenced, 7 days 9’s.
    Rather harsh I thought and so did my D.O when he found out I was not packed for the trip.
    Twenty minutes later, I was on my way. The DO had told the commander the trip would be a punishment in itself. I didnt know that until one of the PO’s told me later.
    It was a secret mission, they told us anything in those days, 1961..
    We were to build a workmens hut, to acccomodate a dozen brickies and navvies.
    It normally took a week to construct, I guess the PO’s had had enough of Ronas bad weather. We had it up and running in two days. Not quite getting enough felting on the roof we were flooded out for a time. Luckily the sun came out to play the next day and dried it out completely. We had time to walk around the Island and I met a Golden Eagle, well it hovered over me while I was smoking and admiring the view.
    No other creatures were on the Island at that time, except for the two lighthouse keepers. Those workmen were about to build Quinetic, all very hush hush then.
    So Junior we were but Pioneers for the R.N secret projects.
    We had a marvellous weekend on Rona before it was invaded.

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