Eigg, about 7 by 5km (4 1/3 by 3 miles), is some 19km (12 miles) out in the Atlantic. The island is owned by the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, which consists of about 70 island residents and the Highland Council and Scottish Wildlife Trust. The farmers, shepherds, fishermen, and innkeepers who live here raised the $2.4 million to buy their island through a worldwide public appeal over the Internet.
The Sgurr of Eigg, a tall column of lava, is thought to be the biggest such pitchstone (volcanic rock) mass in the United Kingdom. Climbers on its north side try to reach the 394m (1,300-ft.) summit. It's said that the last of the pterodactyls roosted here.
After your arrival at Galmisdale, the principal hamlet and pier, you can take an antique bus to Cleadale. Once there, walk across moors to Camas Sgiotaig, with its well-known beach of the Singing Sands. Because the island is crisscrossed with paths and tracks, and access isn't restricted, you can walk in any direction that captures your fancy.
Visitors come to Eigg for the remoteness and the sense of living in the 19th century. The island is known for its plant, animal, and bird life, including golden eagles and seals. In summer, you can sometimes see minke whales and porpoises in the offshore waters. The island's resident warden leads guided walks of Eigg once a week in summer; call tel. 01687/482-477 for details.
Lying 11km (6 3/4 miles) southwest of Eigg, Muck has such an unappetizing name that visitors may turn away. However, the name of this 6.5-sq.-km (2 1/2-sq.-mile) island was originally a Gaelic word, muic, meaning "island of the sow." Naturalists come here to see everything from rare butterflies to otters. Large colonies of nesting seabirds can be viewed in May and June.
Muck is actually a farm, and the entire island is owned by two brothers: the Laird of Muck, Lawrence MacEwan, and his younger brother, Ewen MacEwan. There are hardly more than 30 residents, and all are concerned with the running of the farm. There are no vehicles on the island except for bicycles and tractors.
What's the real reason to come? To see and explore a tiny, fragile Hebridean community that has survived, sometimes against great odds. The scenery and the solitude are wonderful, as are the cattle, sheep, hens, house cats, and ducks roaming with relative freedom. If you walk to the top of the highest hill, Ben Airean, at 137m (450 ft.), you'll have a panoramic view of Muck and its neighbor islands of Rhum and Eigg.