Rum, Eigg, Canna & Skye

In contrast to the relatively tranquil environment of Iona, Rum some 40 miles to the north and one of the “Small Isles” of the Inner Hebrides possesses a rugged character, with dramatic mountains forming a central feature. On a stormy day these exude a mist shrouded brooding and forbidding presence to visitors arriving from the sea. Rum has a long history of human habitation, going back at least 8000 years and recent excavations of sites at Kinloch, the main settlement, revealed artifacts including flaked stone arrowheads, scrapers and other tools. Many of these were made of bloodstone of which there are deposits on the west coast of the island at Sgurr Mhor, otherwise known as Bloodstone Hill where agates also occur. The island is owned by Scottish Natural Heritage however, which does not allow collecting of agate (or any other natural materials) except for scientific purposes, under strictly controlled conditions.

Approaching Rum on a good day One of the many Sundew plants on Rum

Rum is a nature haven with abundant wildlife ranging from herds of red deer through extensive birdlife to unspoiled natural vegetation and flowers. Frequent peat bogs are studded with cotton grass, insectivorous plants and orchids. Away from Kinloch, with its interesting Victorian castle, travel is along rough tracks and pathless moors interspersed with steeply climbing hillsides and over abundant outcrops of frost-shattered and weathered rock. Access is also made more difficult by the frequently inclement weather and the presence of the Scottish midge….which thrives mightily on the island…so beware!

Agates are found mainly along the beaches of western, and more sparingly the north coast of Rum. They are mainly uncoloured or bluish in colour and are very similar to specimens from Mull and Skye. Sites here, now off limits to collectors, are far from human habitation as a result of 19th century clearances and difficulty of access requiring a round trip, along unmarked paths and rough ground, of more than 16 miles from Kinloch to the nearest point on the west coast.

David Anderson on the lower slopes of Bloodstone Hill Nick Crawford with Bloodstone Hill and Guirdil bothy behind


Guirdil Bothy and Bloodstone Hill.....a "moody" photograph of a beautiful and remote place




Adjacent to Rum across the sound of Canna lies the island of the same name. Canna is less rugged and more fertile than its larger neighbour and supports 10 crofts with a population of about 15 people. Uncoloured fortification agates very similar to examples from Rum can be found sparsely along the shoreline in the western part of the island.


Eigg further to the south-east of Rum is also rarely a source of similar mainly uncoloured fortification agates.


The Isle of Skye is not well known for its agates, but they do occur occasionally in the same Tertiary Lavas as in the other western islands. On Skye these lavas are better known for the quality and variety of zeolite minerals particularly the area in Minginish around Loch Eynort and further north in Duirinish towards Moonen Bay and Oisgill Bay.
This association occasionally with agate and zeolites certainly present a conundrum for anybody trying to work out the agate formation process.
On Skye agates are not very common and getting to some of the very remote, inhospitable and dangerous places to find them is very challenging.


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