Isle Martin

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Isle Martin
Gaelic: Eilean Mhàrtainn

Summer Isles

The northern coast of Isle Martin
Location: 57°56’42"N, 5°13’30"W
Grid reference: NH091995
Area: 388 acres
Highest point: 394 feet
Population: 0

Isle Martin is an uninhabited island of the Summer Isles in Cromartyshire, which lie in Loch Broom on the west coast. Isle Martin is the closest of the Summer Isles to Ullapool.

It has been the site of a monastery, a herring curing station and a flour mill. Now recognised as a bird sanctuary, the island is owned and managed by a community trust, The Isle Martin Trust. The ranger's house is the only occupied house on the island.

The northern coast of Isle Martin is made up entirely of sea cliffs.


Ceatha Chaluim Ruaidh, the northwest tip of the isle

St Martin, after whom the island is named, is reputed to have established a monastery on the island around AD 300-400. There is a stone with a Latin triple cross, possibly from AD 400-700, which probably related to the Celtic church.

There is a post-Reformation chapel/meeting house and the ruins of an old street of houses with the old school. There are other houses and the "new" school near the current jetty.[1]

Agriculture and fishing have been the mainstays of the island economy for most of the its history. It was a centre for the fishing trade, with a curing station, before Ullapool was founded. The island was lotted into crofts in 1831 and crofting continued until the 1960s. Predominantly used for cattle and sheep grazing, there was limited arable at the southern end near the main settlement.[2]

A flour mill operated on the site of the old herring station site between 1939 and 1948. Most of the mill workers were ferried daily to the island, but some housing was constructed at this time. Wheat was carried to an island wharf by sailing ship and flour transported back to Ullapool, from where it was distributed to bakeries across the north of Scotland. Sacks were labelled "Isle Martin Flour Mills". The mill closed, and buildings and wharves were dismantled in 1948.[3]

In the 1960s Monica Goldsmith purchased Isle Martin and took it out of crofting tenure. She mainly ran it for nature conservancy purposes, introducing a number of improvements, including installing water and power supplies, and clearing sheep from the island in 1969. In 1980 she gifted the island to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on the understanding that it would be managed for conservation.

Under RSPB management there was an ambitious programme of broad-leaved woodland regeneration, behind the protection of extensive rabbit fencing. A reserve warden carried out experimental work on plant populations, plantations and fertilisation of trees. RSPB recorded visiting and breeding birds and surveyed their populations. However the location of the island and its particular attributes made it difficult for the RSPB to fulfil its aims and remit, and by the middle of 1996 they were looking to dispose of Isle Martin. In May 1999, with the active encouragement of Mrs Goldsmith's daughter, Miss Oriole Goldsmith, the RSPB gifted the island to a trust proposed and established by the communities of Loch Broom and Coigach - The Isle Martin Trust.[3]

The island today

The pier on Isle Martin

The Trust has improved the jetty on the mainland at Ardmair Bay and now operates a seasonal ferry service to the island. In 2007 a new pontoon was installed. They have refurbished some of the houses and one is available to rent. Guided walks and other events have been arranged.[2]

Outside links


The Summer Isles, Cromartyshire

Bottle Island  • Eilean Dubh  • Horse Island  • Isle Martin  • Priest Island  • Isle Ristol  • Tanera Beag  • Tanera Mòr