“Cha chuirear briathran air boidhche, Cha deanar dealbh no ceol no dan dhi.”
EXTRACT FROM THE POEM ‘SCREAPADAL’ BY SORLEY MACLEAN, WHO WAS BORN ON RAASAY
Raasay is one of the most beautiful islands in the Inner Hebrides. Tucked between the Isle of Skye to the West and the Scottish mainland to the East, it is just 14 miles long and 4 miles wide. The Norse name “Raasay” means Isle of the Roe, or Red, Deer.
The 60 square miles of land that make up the island are now home to a population of around 200 people. Most of them live in the South of the island close to the village of Inverarish. There are few roads on the island, one shop and a primary school. Raasay House is very much at the heart of the island.
Raasay is the perfect destination for a day trip or a longer visit. While many visitors choose to scale Dun Caan, the distinctive flat-topped mountain visible from miles around, there are inland and coastal walks to suit all tastes; forests and beautiful beaches to explore, historic sites to discover and a richness of geology, landscape, flora and fauna rarely found in the British Isles. It’s unspoilt, peaceful, and inspirational.
Coming to Raasay and meeting the people who live here also gives you a real insight into a small island community and a simpler, more authentic way of living, far from the fast-moving, electronic-fuelled 21st century.
Raasay Wildlife and plants.
Raasay has a diverse geology, climate and history which combine to create a variety of habitats for plants and animals. There are acid moors, limestone cliffs, coastal areas, freshwater lochs and bogs. This and the warming effect of the Gulf Stream is reflected in the diversity of life to be found in a small area so far north. Raasay’s heather-clad moorland, forests and sea cliffs are home to some 60 species of birds including golden eagle, sea eagle, sparrow hawk, tawny owl, spotted and pied flycatcher and redstart.
The seas around the island are also teeming with life. In summer, the sheltered bays, sandy inlets and foreshore are alive to the call of nesting waders, oystercatchers, sandpipers and curlews. Golden eagles nest on the island and white-tailed eagles are frequent visitors. Red-throated divers nest by several lochs and great northern divers visit during the winter – though in recent years they have stayed into spring and early summer.
On the moors, you will very likely see (and especially hear) golden plovers. Ring ouzels are also regular visitors. The inshore waters with their abundance of shellfish and the freshwater streams and lochs provide an island ‘playground’ for otters. Red deer are also plentiful on Raasay. Basking sharks are often seen in the waters around the island, as are Minke whales and Orca. There are regular sightings of schools of dolphins and porpoises just offshore, and grey seals breed and raise their pups in the inner and outer sounds, the stretches of water between the islands and the Scottish mainland.
The island is extremely rich in flora too with over 800 species of flowering plants and ferns recorded in recent years. There are plants of highly contrasting geographical distribution within Europe, and several nationally rare, scarce, or threatened species. There are about 40 different native ferns and fern allies found on Raasay, from the aptly named small adder’s-tongue to bracken, great horsetail and royal fern. Many different orchids grow and, in some cases hybridise. Bird ‘s nest orchid has not been seen for many years, but the rare Lapland marsh orchid has a strong presence in one area. The limestone cliffs on the east side of the island are home to many ferns and flowering plants such as holly fern, dark-red helleborine and mountain avens as well
as many more common plants such as wild thyme, wall-rue and fairy flax.