Mingulay - Island of Ghosts and Songs

Date published: 01 August 2014

Guest Blog by Richard Leigh, New Horizon Sailing

“Heel y'ho boys, let her go, boys
Bring her head round now all together
Heel y'ho boys, let her go boys

Sailing homeward to Mingulay!”

Stormdancer is the only yacht in the bay...

Singing the Mingulay Boat Song at the tops of our voices, we land on a picture-perfect beach facing the village abandoned a century ago and now given over to sea birds and wind-blown sand. The weather is perfect with a NW4, bright sunshine and little swell. Mingulay, almost the most southerly island of the Outer Hebrides, is profiled like a wedge of cheese with huge Atlantic-facing cliffs to the west but sloping down gently eastwards towards our beach.


That morning we had enjoyed relaxed sailing south from Vatersay and cautiously manoeuvred close-to under the 200m western cliffs almost touching the thousands of Kittiwakes, Razor-Bills and Guillemots nesting there. Continuing south, we rounded the imposing lighthouse on Barra Head and tacked northwards to anchor on the east coast. The puffin colony entertains, but we are drawn to explore the village.

Finally abandoned in 1912, the settlement is now in ruins - simple houses clustered around the heaped-up wreck of the burial ground. Only the restored school house and prominence of the old chapel remind us of how it was.

What a day - great sailing, scenery, birdlife and even a hint of whispering spirits!

- The Mingulay Boat Song was written by Sir Hugh Robertson in the 1930’s.
- Body image by: Masa Sakano