Muck, Scotland

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Gaelic name About this sound Eilean nam Muc 
Meaning of name "sea pig", from Gaelic muc, "pig", a short form of muc-mhara, "whale".[1]
Port Mòr, from the harbour
Port Mòr, from the harbour
Muck is located in Lochaber
Muck shown within Lochaber
OS grid reference NM408794
Physical geography
Island group Small Isles
Area 559 ha (2.2 sq mi)
Area rank 70 [2]
Highest elevation Beinn Airein 137 m (449 ft)
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country Scotland
Council area Highland
Population 27[3]
Population rank 61 [2]
Pop. density 4.8people/km2[3][4]
Largest settlement Port Mòr
References [4][5]

Muck (Scottish Gaelic: Eilean nam Muc, pronounced [ˈelan nə ˈmuʰk]) is the smallest of four main islands in the Small Isles, part of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It measures roughly 2.5 miles (4.0 km) east to west and has a population of around 27, mostly living near the harbour at Port Mòr. The other settlement on the island is the farm at Gallanach. The island's only road, about 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) long, connects the two.


A causeway and slipway were built at Port Mòr in 2005. This allows vehicles to be driven on and off the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, MV Lochnevis, which links Muck and the neighbouring Small Isles of Canna, Rùm and Eigg, with the mainland port of Mallaig (2½ hours away). However, visitors are not normally permitted to bring vehicles to the Small Isles. During the summer months the islands are also served by Arisaig Marine's ferry MV Sheerwater from Arisaig, 10 miles (16 km) south of Mallaig.

The island's main hill is Beinn Airein (137 metres (449 ft)). Muck is also known for its seal population, and for the porpoises in the surrounding waters. The name may derive from the Gaelic word for porpoise. An earlier owner, who disliked the name, attempted to persuade Samuel Johnson and James Boswell that the authentic name was "Isle of Monk".[6]

The island's population was 27 as recorded by the 2011 census[3] four fewer that the 31 usual residents in 2001.[7] During the same period Scottish island populations as a whole grew by 4% to 103,702.[8] The island has no church, shop or post office, and, uniquely among Scottish islands with a population of this size, it has no post box.[9] There is a hotel, Gallanach Lodge, and a range of other holiday accommodation.[10] It is featured in the on-line newspaper West Word.[11]


The name of the island, according to James Boswell in 1785, derives from Mouach, signifying the Sows' Island. He relates that the island was formerly "churchland belonging to Icolmkill" and was inhabited by a hermit.[12]

In 1549, Dean Monro wrote:

Be ane haffe myle of sea to this ile, lyes ane ile of twa myle lang, callit in Erische Ellannaneche, that is the Swynes ile, and very fertill and fruitful of cornes and grassing for all store, and verey guid for fishing, inhabit and manurit, a good falcon nest in it. It perteynis to the Bishope of the iles, with ane guid heighland haven in it, the entrey quherof is at the west cheik.[13]

He also stated of the offshore islet of Eilean nan Each that it was "in Englishe the Horse ile, guid for horse and uther store, perteining to the Bishope of the iles."[13]

In 1773 Samuel Johnson and James Boswell undertook a journey in Scotland which Johnson narrated in his book A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. He gives an insight into the prosperity on Muck and the philanthropy of its Laird at the time:

This little Island, however it be named, is of considerable value. It is two English miles long, and three quarters of a mile broad, and consequently contains only nine hundred and sixty English acres. It is chiefly arable. Half of this little dominion the Laird retains in his own hand, and on the other half, live one hundred and sixty persons, who pay their rent by exported corn. What rent they pay, we were not told, and could not decently inquire. The proportion of the people to the land is such, as the most fertile countries do not commonly maintain.

The Laird having all his people under his immediate view, seems to be very attentive to their happiness. The devastation of the small-pox, when it visits places where it comes seldom, is well known. He has disarmed it of its terrour at Muack, by inoculating eighty of his people. The expence was two shillings and sixpence a head. Many trades they cannot have among them, but upon occasion, he fetches a smith from the Isle of Egg, and has a tailor from the main land, six times a year. This island well deserved to be seen, but the Laird's absence left us no opportunity.[14]

Muck's main landowners are Lawrence and Ewen MacEwen, whose family have owned the island since 1896.[4]


  1. ^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 89
  2. ^ a b 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ a b c Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 132-34
  5. ^ Ordnance Survey. Get-a-map (Map). 1:25,000. Leisure. Ordinance Survey. Retrieved 21 August 2013. [dead link]
  6. ^ Johnson (1792) p. 96
  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.
  8. ^ "Scotland's 2011 census: Island living on the rise". BBC News. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Isle of Muck". Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  11. ^ "August 2000 Issue". West Word. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  12. ^ Boswell (1852) p. 111
  13. ^ a b Monro (1549) pp. 23-24
  14. ^ Johnson (1792) p. 97


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 56°50′3″N 6°14′56″W / 56.83417°N 6.24889°W / 56.83417; -6.24889