A man who lives on a tranquil Scottish island with 60 people and no cars says there are 3

In World

  • Donald Melville has lived on Easdale Island in Scotland for the past 30 years.
  • Easdale has 60 residents, no vehicle access, and is best known for its stone skimming championships.
  • Melville shared three mistakes tourists often make when they visit.

Easdale Island is the smallest permanently inhabited island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, according to its website.

The island on Scotland’s west coast has 60 residents, no roads — and therefore no cars — and is home to the World Stone Skimming Championships, according to Donald Melville, who has lived on the island for 30 years.

Speaking to Insider, Melville said he and his family moved to Easdale because they had relatives who were living there at the time and they were attracted to the sense of community that comes with island life.

“You just get involved in things. The smaller the community, the more people get involved,” he said. “The community is very open to anyone coming in and joining and helping out.”

After three decades on the island, Melville said he and his wife are preparing to relocate to the nearby town of Oban to be closer to family. He’s selling his two-bedroom home that was converted from two slate miners’ cottages. 

Reflecting on his time on the island, Melville said he’ll miss the “peace and quiet” that comes with living so close to the water as well as the surrounding natural scenery.

Easdale is a tourist attraction for history buffs and stone-skimming fans

Easdale dominated Scotland’s slate industry for more than three centuries and at one time had a population of 500 people, according to the Slate Islands Heritage Trust. But in 1861, a massive storm caused flooding in the area that damaged the quarries, according to Canmore, the National Record of the Historic Environment. 

easdale island

The view of Easdale Island from Ellenabeich.

Donald Melville

The damage had a devastating impact on Easdale’s slate industry and over the years the population dwindled, according to Canmore. 

Just under 70 people lived there in 2018, The Guardian reported at the time, and today the island is occupied by around 60 residents, according to Easdale’s website.

Even so, the island is frequently visited by tourists from around the world, with the majority of international visitors coming from the US, Germany, and Sweden, Melville said.

Visitors are enticed by the island’s natural wildlife, the quarries, and the World Stone Skimming Championships, which is due to be held on September 24. The championships usually bring in between 600 and 900 visitors from across the world, Melville said.

He shared the three main mistakes visitors make when they travel to Easdale.

Lack of research can mess up travel plans

Unlike some other islands in Scotland, there are no bridges connecting Easdale to the mainland.

The island is accessible via a small ferry from Seil, another island that’s connected to the mainland by a bridge. A round-trip on the ferry costs £2.50, or around $3,10, according to Argyll and Bute Council’s website.

Easdale Island

Easdale Island.

Donald Melville.

According to Melville, some visitors don’t take the time to research the ferry timetable as they assume that the island is connected to a bridge and that they can drive there. He said he has previously been asked where the best place on the island is to park, even though there are no cars or roads on the island.

Similarly, he said the ferry is much smaller than what travelers typically imagine, which can cause confusion.

“They walk down to the ferry, and when it arrives they say, ‘When does the ferry get here?'” Melville said of tourists trying to get to the island. 

“And they’ll look at this 21-foot open boat with seats on it, and the ferryman says, ‘This is the ferry,'” Melville said. The ferry can take up to 10 passengers, according to Easdale’s website.

Footage of the boat is shown in a video by the YouTuber Steve Marsh during his visit to Easdale in June 2021.

Island residents who have cars can park them on the Ellenabeich pier in Seil, Melville said.

Some tourists wear the wrong clothes

Melville said he has witnessed some people wear heels while visiting the island, which he wouldn’t advise because some of the walking paths are made of slate, he said. 

He added that visitors should also bring some waterproof clothing because the Scottish weather is famously unpredictable.

Some visitors don’t make the effort to speak to the islanders

Melville said the community on Easdale is close-knit and they have no problem making small talk with strangers. But not all visitors return the favor, he said.

“I also find the fact that people don’t speak to you quite funny,” Melville said.

“You wander around cities and you would be looked on as a wee bit mad, I suppose, if you’re in London or Manchester and you say hello,” he said, adding that it’s more likely for people on Easdale to speak to strangers.

“People aren’t as sociable as we are because we speak to everybody and we’re happy to have visitors come over and speak to them,” he said.

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