The island of Rùm, with a diameter of around 8 miles, is the largest of the Small Isles. Unique among the Inner Hebrides, it appears as a cluster of mountains rising directly out of the sea. The highest point is Askival (2,664ft); the mountains are in fact the eroded roots of an ancient volcano that would have once stood around 6,560ft high.
The island’s entire small population lives in its sole settlement, the village of Kinloch on the east coast, while the rest of the island is a nature reserve, making it a particularly special place for hikers and birdwatchers.
Along with the Manx shearwaters, of which 200,000 arrive each spring, the island also provides the perfect habitat for red-throated divers, golden plovers, white-tailed sea eagles (there are two breeding pairs) and its three pairs of golden eagles. Look out for white-tailed eagles gliding over the bay, whereas golden eagles are often up above ridges. In late summer, you might be lucky enough to see basking sharks.
Approaching Kinloch on the ferry, you’d be forgiven for wondering where the village is; a couple of houses peer out from behind tall trees, but they’re strung out around the bay. Though there are a few more buildings hidden from view, the settlement is little more than that. Th at said, Rùm is surprisingly well set up to receive visitors.
The 10-minute walk along the coast from the ferry to Kinloch is well signposted and passes various buildings along the way. The small, free Visitor Centre is a good introduction to Rùm’s natural heritage and walks. It is usually unstaffed and you are welcome to visit at any time; there’s good information, games and a couple of useful amenities inside as well as a children’s playground behind. After this, you will quickly reach the Harbour BBQ Bothy and campsite, before eventually coming to the unmistakable Kinloch Castle on your left.
Apart from Kinloch, the rest of the island is wilderness. With only two proper tracks, one to Kilmory and one to Harris, and a few unmarked walking trails, further exploration requires outdoor gear, energy and supplies. The mountainous interior and rugged coastline make for endless hiking possibilities for those who are prepared.