Although the present population of the island of Lismore, separated from the west coast of Scotland by the Lynn of Lorn, is less than 150, the island has a long history of habitation going back to the Iron Age, with the Iron Age broch of Tirefour Castle serving as a reminder of that time. St Moluag, a contemporary of St Columba, arrived in Lismore around 560, in fact legend has it that the two saints raced each other to the island in coracles, with St Moluag winning the race by chopping off his own finger and throwing it ahead of him. He went on to build a monastery on the island. The parish church of Kilmoluag once formed part of a 13th century cathedral dedicated to St Moluag which was the seat of the bishops of Argyll. The spiky ruins of Castle Coeffin on the west coast also date from the 13th century. The castle was probably built by the MacDougalls of Lorn, although the name is thought to come from a Viking prince called Caifen. Following a familiar pattern around these parts, the population of Lismore was once much higher than it is now, reaching a peak in the 19th century, but severe depopulation thereafter led to a dramatic reduction in the number of inhabitants, with a large proportion of those remaining aged over 60.
The island's name comes from the gaelic for "great garden" or "great enclosure", possibly a reference to the fertile grazing land that makes up much of its acreage. Its position in the middle of Loch Linnhe means that as well as wonderful views of Mull and Morvern, a view reaching right to Ben Nevis can be enjoyed. Anyone who wants to get a feel for what life is like in a place such as this should check out the fascinating Lismore community website, which has photographs and stories such as one recalling childhood memories of the island in the 1950s, or an account of a country dance night. Visitors to the island can find out more about the island's life and history at the Heritage Centre in Port a' Charrain. There are two ways to get to the island by sea, either by means of a ferry link from Port Appin connecting with the northern tip of the island, or via a car ferry from Oban which lands at Achnacroish on the east coast.
Webcam view of Achnacroish.
Map of the island.
Castle Coeffin © 1995 Colin Smith, via Wikimedia Commons