Holy Isle, Firth of Clyde

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Holy Island (disambiguation).
Holy Isle
Holy Isle from Lamlash.jpg
Holy Isle is located in North Ayrshire
Holy Isle
Holy Isle
Holy Isle shown within North Ayrshire
OS grid reference NS063297
Gaelic name An t-Eilean Àrd or Eilean MoLaise
Meaning of name "the high island" or "Laisren's island" in Gaelic.
Physical geography
Island group Firth of Clyde
Area 253 ha (0.98 sq mi)
Area rank 95 [1]
Highest elevation Mullach Mòr 314 m (1,030 ft) (a Marilyn)
Political geography
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country Scotland
Council area North Ayrshire
Population 31[2]
Population rank 58 [1]
Population density 12 people/km2[2][3]
References [3][4][5]

The Holy Isle, Firth of Clyde (Scottish Gaelic: Eilean MoLaise) is one of a number of islands in the United Kingdom which go under the name "Holy Island". It is located in the Firth of Clyde off the west coast of central Scotland, inside Lamlash Bay on the larger island of Arran. The island is around 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) long and around 1 kilometre (0.6 mi) wide. Its highest point is the hill Mullach Mòr.


The island has a long history as a sacred site, with a spring or Holy well held to have healing properties, the hermit cave of 6th Century monk Saint Molaise, and evidence of a 13th Century monastery. An old Gaelic name for the island was Eilean MoLaise, Molaise's Island; this is the origin (via Elmolaise and Limolas) of "Lamlash", the name of the village on Arran that faces Holy Island.

Some runic writing is to be found on the roof of St. Molaise's cave and a Viking fleet sheltered between Arran and Holy Isle before the Battle of Largs.

In 1549, Dean Monro wrote of the "little ile callit the yle of Molass, quherin there was foundit by Johne, Lord of the iles, ane monastry of friars, which is decayit."[6]

Present day[edit]

The island is now owned by the Samyé Ling Buddhist Community, who belong to the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. The settlements on the island include the Centre for World Peace and Health, founded by Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, on the north of the island. This is an environmentally designed residential centre for courses and retreats which extends the former farm house. It has solar water heating and a reed-bed sewage treatment system. The approach from the ferry jetty is decorated with Tibetan flags and stupas. On the southern end of the island lives a community of nuns who are undertaking three year retreats.

The remainder of the island is treated as a nature reserve with wild Eriskay ponies, Saanen goats, Soay sheep and the replanting of native trees. The rare Rock Whitebeam tree is found on the island, an essential link in the evolution of the Arran Whitebeam species, Sorbus arranensis, Sorbus pseudofennica and Sorbus pseudomeinichii. These are indigenous and unique to Arran.

There is a regular ferry service from Lamlash, and the island is popular with holiday makers staying on Arran. The usually resident population was recorded as 31 in 2011,[2] an increase from 13 in 2001.[7]

Mullach Mòr
Elevation 314 m (1,030 ft)
Prominence 314 m (1,030 ft)
Listing Marilyn
Translation Big hill (Gaelic)
Pronunciation Scottish Gaelic: [ˈmul̪ˠəx ˈmoːɾ]
Location Firth of Clyde, Scotland
OS grid NS063297
Coordinates 55°31′30″N 5°04′20″W / 55.52500°N 5.07222°W / 55.52500; -5.07222Coordinates: 55°31′30″N 5°04′20″W / 55.52500°N 5.07222°W / 55.52500; -5.07222
Topo map OS Landranger 69



  1. ^ a b Area and population ranks: there are c. 300 islands >20ha in extent and 93 permanently inhabited islands were listed in the 2011 census.
  2. ^ a b c National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf) Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland - Release 1C (Part Two). "Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland’s inhabited islands". Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  3. ^ a b Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-454-7. 
  4. ^ Ordnance Survey. Get-a-map (Map). 1:25,000. Leisure. Ordinance Survey. Retrieved 21 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Mac an Tàilleir, Iain (2003) Ainmean-àite/Placenames. (pdf) Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  6. ^ Monro (1549) "Molass" no. 5
  7. ^ General Register Office for Scotland (28 November 2003) Scotland's Census 2001 – Occasional Paper No 10: Statistics for Inhabited Islands. Retrieved 26 February 2012.


External links[edit]