Monday, June 13, 2016

Eilean Righ - Royal Island

Little Eilean Righ, in Loch Craignish, is one of the most unusual islands I've visited. It was once part of an amazing ritual landscape; just five miles away stands the hill of Dunadd, where the early kings of Dalriada were inaugurated; and two miles to the east is Kilmartin Glen, with its vast number of neolithic and bronze age sites; and then there's Ormaig, a half mile from Eilean Righ. Ormaig has some of the best examples of rock-art in the country. Cups, rings, and rosettes carved in stone for still unknown reasons.

Rock art at Ormaig - Loch Craignish in the distance
There were two duns (forts) on Eilean Righ, so it was well defended. Add to that its easy access to the sea and sheltered anchorage, it is possible Eilean Righ was used by the early kings as an island residence. There was also a royal connection in the 1930s, when the island was owned by Sir Reginald Fleming Johnston, who was tutor to the young Dragon Emperor Puyi from 1919 to 1924.

On landing we were greeted by the above 'not welcome' sign. There is no such thing as a private island in Scotland, although I've come across a few over the years where the owners don't want any uninvited visitors. But as long as you are respectful to the owners privacy, property, and activities, you can explore an island.

Luckily the tall, spiky steel gates with the 'Private Island' sign were open. And so we were able to gain access to a track that led up to the two houses. Trying to be respectful, we initially stayed away from the houses, and followed a road that led south past the helicopter hanger and what I thought was a helipad (five months after my visit I was informed  it's the base of an observatory).

As we approached the hanger we followed a sidewalk that had lights embedded in it. At the time I thought the lights were there for late night strolls. But I later learned they mark a nighttime flight path approach to the hanger.

Approach lights in the walkway (marked with arrows)
Manicured would be a good term to describe Eilean Righ. The interior consisted of swaths of mowed grass and bracken that made for easy walking as we made our way to the site of the south dun. We also searched for a cup-marked stone, which marked the site of ritual activity on the island. (We were not able to find it.)

The south end of Eilean Righ - Eilean Macaskin in the distance
After exploring the south half of the island we set out to find the north dun. But the only way to access that part of the island meant walking through the grounds of the two houses. As quietly as possible I made my way down a pebble-covered walkway between the houses to reach the north side of the island. I was expecting alarms to go off at any minute, but, as it turned out, no one was home.  

On the north side of the island lay more lawns, including a rifle range with distance markers.

Rifle range
Eilean Righ is now off the market, but if you are interested in seeing how it was marketed you can still find the sales brochure here.

Note: Post updated on Oct 23, 2016, after a reader commented that the island has been sold.


  1. Eilean Righ was removed from sale almost two years ago. The owner is now in full time residence. The 'helipad' you label in the article is in fact the base for an observatory.

  2. How did you get there? We have a friend from China who would like to visit....

    1. I got there via a week-long cruise out of Oban where the passengers were able to decide which islands we'd see. I was very lucky to find a group that had chartered the full boat for that purpose. Your best bet would be a private day-trip charter with Farsain Cruises which operates out of Craobh Haven, which is a 20KM boat ride from Eilean Righ. For contact info see their facebook page.