Flannan Islands Discovery on a Scotland Cruise

The Flannan Islands lie about 20 miles west of the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. They consist of seven main islands, 45 rocks and islets split into two groups: the main eastern isles, Eilean Mor and Eilean Tighe; and the main western isles of Eilean a’ Gobha, Roaiream, and Brona Cleit. During your Scotland cruise, spend time visiting the lighthouse and ruined chapel on the eastern isle of Eilean Mor.

The Flannan Islands are known as the Seven Hunters because of the large number of ships wrecked upon their rocky shores during storms. Much of the islands’ early history is unknown. Though never permanently inhabited, it is rumored the islands were once used for the private purposes by a wealthy family from Lewis in the 8th century. Later on, monks moved to the Flannans and built a church and monastery, dated around 990 AD. By the 16th century, the monastery was abandoned and the islands came into the ownership of the McLeod’s Clan. Since 1970, the National Trust of Scotland has owned this land.

In 1899 the Flannan Isles Lighthouse was established – a year later, a tragedy occurred that has only added to the mystery and intrigue of these secluded isles. In December of 1900, a ship came to Eilean Mor, bringing lighthouse keepers to relieve the three working on the island. However, the lighthouse was empty, the beacon unlit. A half-eaten meal lay on the table, and barometric readings dated December 15th had been written on a slate. But no sign of the three lighthouse keepers was to be seen—and never would be again. Those investigating the situation surmised that the men had been swept to sea by a freak wave during a storm, but no proof of this was ever found. The story continues to haunt those who take a trip to the remote Flannan Islands of Scotland.

The Flannans, like many other Scottish Isles, are a haven for breeding seabirds. A Scotland cruise to this region allows plenty of opportunities to see guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, gannets, petrels, and puffins. Some of the larger isles also have lush grass and myriad wildflowers in the summer months, which are a soft and colorful contrast to the stark rock stacks, arches, and cliffs along the coasts. The surrounding seas are the habitat of pilot whales, minke whales, and dolphins, making these isles an exciting destination for any wildlife lover.