Isle Ornsay

Isle Ornsay, Camus Cross & Duisdale

The communities of Camus Cross and Duisdale are separated from those to the south by a stretch good road crossing poor land. The Moine thrust, a geological structure that effects the whole of the Western Highlands, is seen here as the cliffs on the East of the road. The turn off for Isle Ornsay and Camus Cross is well signposted but lookout for the hump backed bridge and be prepared to reverse.

The name ‘Eilean Iarmain’ is Gaelic for ‘Isle Ornsay’ and means ‘Ebb Island or tidal Island’. The lighthouse, the island and the hotel all share the name. Designed by David Stevenson and the lighthouse was built in 1857 and is actually on a separate island. It was owned for a time by Gavin Maxwell.

More accessible, the pretty and utterly genuine Eilean Iarmain hotel was built in the early 1800s. With delightful views over the tidal island ‘Isle Ornsay’ to Knoydart, it is surrounded by converted stables buildings, steadings and stone built piers. This was a herring port in 1820 so the buildings were most likely put to good industrial use, more recently they have been repurposed to house cutting edge tweed and knitwear, designer whiskey and an ephemeral art gallery. The stables have been turned into deluxe holiday accommodation. The Hotel is still a hotel and it is worth mentioning it’s excellent and reasonable bar meals and the fabulous ceilidh music they often have.

This hotel is the centre of estate of the late Sir Iain Noble. In his lifetime he was passionate about the Gaelic language and its potential to turn the local economy around. His extreme views were not always popular but in his vision of Gaelic opening the door to economic recovery vision he was unequivocally successful. The presence of Iain Noble’s creation, Sabhal Mor Ostaig Gaelic College in Sleat has been the source of an economic bubble that has protected house-prices and ensured relative affluence. The new village of Kilbeg is further testimony to this success.

The village of Camus Cross is full of rural charm as its single track road curls prettily round the coastline and over the hill. B&Bs and holiday cottages are plentiful. There a number of small boats along the shore and artists’ studios dip their toes in the water at high tide.