Isles at the Edge of the Sea


There are people who find islands somehow irresistible. The mere knowledge that they are in a little world surrounded by sea fills them with an indescribable intoxication.  Gerald Durrell


Isles at the Edge of the Sea: the blurb –

Rising off the western seaboard of mainland Scotland are hundreds of islands, hidden worlds. Beginning on Arran, Jonny Muir sets out to explore these places with a single ambition: to reach the faraway St Kilda archipelago, the islands at the edge of the world.

On the way he attempts to finds his inner peace on Holy Island, takes part in a punishing foot race across the misty mountains of Jura, confronts the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye and walks along the white-sand beach on Berneray that became the face of a Thailand tourism campaign.

Island life is not without its challenges. ‘Man-eating’ midges live up to their reputation on Rum and a furious Atlantic storm threatens to rip his tent to shreds on Barra – with him inside.

An intensely personal account of a journey through some of Britain’s most extraordinary landscapes, Isles at the Edge of the Sea is a celebration of Scotland’s west coast islands, from the people who inhabit these fragile places to the ever-changing vistas created by the collision of land, sea and sky.

Isles at the Edge of the Sea was published by Sandstone Press on May 31, 2011.

Isles at the Edge of the Sea: reviews –

Snippets of island history, geography and nature are sprinkled between self-deprecating accounts of struggling to acquire a taste for whisky on Islay, being the world’s worst wildlife-watcher on Mull and the unspeakable hell of waking up hung-over under canvas the morning after Eigg’s independence day. Now working as a teacher in London, he tells it as it – the cancelled ferries, the drizzle and the midges as much as a factor in the spirit of the isles as the unforgettable sunsets and that first “incredible” view of St Kilda – but he writes with such enthusiasm and fondness for these extraordinary places that readers may well find themselves reaching for their waterproofs and following in his wake. Morag Lindsay, Press and Journal

This is no “rose coloured spectacles” travelogue: the author does not shy away from telling us about the negatives of his trip as well as the positives. So we meet the smelly residents of a hostel in the Western Isles and the appalling weather that almost blows him off Barra (and, later, nearly washes him away at Sligachan on Skye.) We also enjoy the celebrations of the anniversary of the community ownership of Eigg, the spontaneous party in a hostel on Berneray, and a series of sublime beaches, mountains and islands. Undiscovered Scotland

The experiences he felt on St Kilda and the ways in which he wove a story of the astonishing endurance of islanders into a compelling lesson bring a good book to a fitting climax. His pupils in a south London secondary school became ‘pin-drop’ silent’. They had every reason to be, for their teacher is a master of narrative. Scottish Islands Explorer

It’s not all plain sailing. Drizzle, mist, whisky hangovers, thunderstorms, gales, a flooded tent and naturally, the enemy of all summer Scotland tourists, the midge, make Muir’s tour eventful, but there’s a sense from the book that the Hebrides reward leisurely exploration. The author’s easy, journalistic style has a good balance of anecdotes, information, history and, importantly, humour that makes the reading of his tome a pleasure and left me hankering after a trip round the isles myself. Bob Smith, Grough.

He tells his stories in a wonderfully chatty, been-there-done-that kind of way – because he literally has been there and done it, and, quite clearly, he loved it. You are taken along with him on his travels, and are left with half your mind feeling as though it were actually there, and the other half yearning to get out and follow Jonny Muir’s footsteps.

  Boreray, Stac an Armin, Stac Lee (left to right)



  Holy Island

  St Kilda



  Conachair, Hirta


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Shelagh Watt says:

    Just finished reading Isles at the Edge of the Sea. A real page-turner. Well written book. Brought the isles alive.
    Will never be able to equal your amazing journey (too old and decrepit!) but my fascination for islands will never leave me.
    well done. Shelagh Watt

    1. heightsofmadness says:

      Shelagh, thanks so much and sorry for not replying sooner. The islands certainly inspire fascination. This was in the news only yesterday:

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