Coordinates: 56°17′32″N 5°39′29″W / 56.29222°N 5.65806°W / 56.29222; -5.65806
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Scottish Gaelic nameEilean Èisdeal
Meaning of nameUncertain
Easdale is located in Argyll and Bute
Easdale shown within Argyll and Bute
OS grid referenceNM735172
Coordinates56°17′32″N 5°39′29″W / 56.29222°N 5.65806°W / 56.29222; -5.65806
Physical geography
Island groupSlate Islands
Area62 acres (25 ha)[1]
Highest elevation125 ft (38 m)
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Council areaArgyll and Bute
Population59 [2]
Population rank53 [3]
Population density295/km2 (760/sq mi)[2][4]

Easdale (Scottish Gaelic: Eilean Èisdeal) is one of the Slate Islands, in the Firth of Lorn, Scotland. Once the centre of the Scottish slate industry, there has been some recent island regeneration by the owners.[6] This is the smallest of the Inner Hebrides' inhabited islands and is "home to traditional white-washed cottages, a small pub and disused slate quarries". One of the latter, filled with water, is used for swimming.[7][8]

A ferry sails from Easdale to Ellenabeich (Gaelic: Eilean nam Beathach) on the nearby island of Seil (Gaelic: Saoil), which is separated from Easdale by only a narrow channel.[9] Confusingly, Ellenabeich is sometimes known as Easdale as a result of its traditional connections with the island.


In 1549, Donald Monro, "Dean of the Isles" wrote, in brief reference to Easdale, of an island "namit in the Erische Leid Ellan Eisdcalfe"[10][11] However the derivation of "Eisdcalfe" and this word's etymological relationship to "Easdale" is not clear. Haswell Smith (2004) notes that eas is Gaelic for "waterfall" and dal is Norse for "valley".[4] Nonetheless, it is not clear why either description should apply to the island which is low lying and has no waterfalls.

The Gaelic name, Èisdeal ([ˈeːʃtʲəl̪ˠ]) or Eilean Èisdeal has a long vowel and local folk legend attributes this to a derivation from èist thall "listen to that yonder".[12] Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland states that the first element is obscure, the second Norse dalr.[13] It is not clear if this Èisdeal shares its derivation with Gleann Èisdeal (Glen Ashdale) (Glen of Ash trees)[14] on the Isle of Arran.

Ellenbeich is usually analysed as Eilean nam Beathach ([ˈelan əm ˈpɛhəx]) "island of the animals" but this may be a reflex of an earlier and homophonous form Eilean nam Beitheach "island of the birch trees".[14]


Once a centre of the British slate industry, Easdale had a community of more than 500 working as many as seven quarries, some of which extended to 300 ft (90 m) below sea level. Easdale slate helped to build major cities of the British Empire and can still be seen on rooftops as far afield as Melbourne, Nova Scotia, Dunedin and Dublin. The great storm of 1850 flooded the majority of the quarries and, as the islanders were unable to extract the floodwater, most were abandoned.[15] The last slate was cut in the 1950s and the once active quarries are little more than still pools which provide a safe haven for a wide variety of flora and bird life.[16]

Nearby the former island Eilean-a-beithich once stood in the Easdale Sound between Easdale and Seil; however, it was quarried to a depth of 75 m (250 ft) below sea level leaving only the outer rim of the island. This was eventually swept away by the sea and little visible sign of the island now remains.[15]

By the early 1960s, the population had dwindled to only four people and the island appeared doomed. The island now has a population of around sixty people and is the smallest permanently inhabited island of the Inner Hebrides.[17][18] The Scottish plant collector Clara Winsome Muirhead surveyed the plant life of the island and published The Flora of Easdale and the Garvellachs in 1962.

British indie rock band Florence and the Machine filmed their double-feature music video for their singles "Queen of Peace" and "Long & Lost" on the island, with the videos using the villagers as the cast.[19]

Current ownership[edit]

The island is owned by Jonathan Feigenbaum, who operates the Easdale Island Company;[20] he succeeded his late father Clive Feigenbaum (the former chairman of Stanley Gibbons). Clive created local issues of stamps, and Jonathan has continued doing this.[4][21]

Facilities and activities[edit]

The island is home to a folk museum owned and operated by the Eilean Eisdeal, a development trust, as well as a bar/restaurant called "The Puffer".[22][23][24] Eilean Eisdeal spearheaded the renovation of the Easdale Island Community Hall, which provides a venue for a wide variety of events.[25] According to Mike Scott of the Waterboys: "The Hall itself is magical. From the first sighting of its pyramid roof and arced frontispiece across the water to stepping off its stage at the end of the concert, it cast a spell on us."[26]

Easdale harbour with Ellenabeich and Seil beyond

In 2005 the local authority, Argyll and Bute Council, discussed plans to build a bridge between the island and Seil, linking the island to the mainland by road,[27] despite there being no roads on Easdale. A company who operate high speed boat trips to view wild life and other local places of interest in the area have their base on Easdale.[28]

The World Stone Skimming Championship[29] has taken place annually in September on Easdale since 1997. In 2012 the event came under threat after Jonathan Feigenbaum requested £1,000 for using the slate quarry the championship uses. The competition only went ahead after the Press and Journal newspaper offered to pay the fee.[30] A community buyout of the island by residents is now under consideration. Mike Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, said: "Not every community will achieve it and not every community should achieve it. But it is a live issue and becomes even more live in circumstances such as these."[31]

The island gets some tourists and has some facilities, activities for visitors, B&Bs and two restaurants.[8]

Images of the island[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rick Livingstone’s Tables of the Islands of Scotland (pdf) Argyll Yacht Charters. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
  2. ^ a b National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013). "Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland's Inhabited Islands" (PDF). Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland Release 1C (Part Two) (PDF) (Report). SG/2013/126. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  3. ^ Area and population ranks: there are c. 300 islands over 20 ha in extent and 93 permanently inhabited islands were listed in the 2011 census.
  4. ^ a b c Haswell Smith (2004) p. 78
  5. ^ Ordnance Survey: Landranger map sheet 55 Lochgilphead & Loch Awe (Map). Ordnance Survey. 2011. ISBN 9780319231227.
  6. ^ Eilean Eisdeal Trust - Argyll & Islands
  8. ^ a b Things to do
  10. ^ Monro (1549) "Eisdcalfe" No. 36. Translation from Scots: "named in the Gaelic language Eilean Eisdcalfe".
  11. ^ Gillies (1909) p. 154
  12. ^ "How Easdale got its name". Tobar an Dualchais. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
  13. ^ "Easdale". Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland. Retrieved 26 May 2011.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ a b Mac an Tàilleir, Iain (2003) Ainmean-àite/Placenames. (pdf) Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  15. ^ a b "Slate Islands - The Islands that Roofed the World" southernhebrides.com. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  16. ^ "Community website". The Easdale Island Trust. Retrieved 28 July 2007.
  17. ^ This is true only if bridged and tidal islands are excluded. Eilean Bàn, which is part of the Skye Bridge and Eilean Donan, which is tidal, were both inhabited at the time of the 2001 Census and smaller.
  18. ^ General Register Office for Scotland (28 November 2003) Occasional Paper No 10: Statistics for Inhabited Islands Archived 2 April 2010 at archive.today
  19. ^ Munro, Alistair (28 June 2015)"Florence and the Machine film music video on Easdale" The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  20. ^ EASDALE ISLAND COMPANY LIMITED Company number SC106767
  21. ^ "Modern British Local Posts CD Catalogue, 2009 Edition". Phillips. 2003. Archived from the original on 5 September 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  22. ^ "Eilean Eisdeal" easdale.org. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  23. ^ "The Puffer Bar and Tearoom" pufferbar.com. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  24. ^ "Eilean Eisdeal" Archived 29 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Development Trusts Association Scotland. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  25. ^ "About Easdale: Easdale Island Community Hall" Archived 16 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine. easdale.org. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  26. ^ "Home page: Stay Informed!..." easdaleislandhall.org. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  27. ^ Paul Kelbie (23 May 2005). "Storm brews over island idyll as council plans to build bridge". The Independent. Archived from the original on 1 October 2007. Retrieved 28 July 2007.
  28. ^ "Welcome to Seafari" Seafari. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
  29. ^ "World Stone Skimming Championship". Archived from the original on 22 October 2019. Retrieved 28 July 2007.
  30. ^ "Easdale World Stone Skimming Championships saved by £1,000 donation". (20 September 2012). BBC News. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  31. ^ McKenzie, Steven "What motivates communities to buy land they live on?". (20 September 2012). BBC News. Retrieved 25 September 2012.


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