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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 17:08 GMT
God's mild Scottish island
The climate is drier and warmer than other Hebridean islands
The Island of Gigha, which has just been bought by its residents, is often called God's Isle, a rough translation of the name "Gudey" given to it by the vikings.

Many would argue that the island, which requires a 20-minute ferry journey from the Mull of Kintyre on the west coast of Scotland, is well named.

Gigha is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides, and because it is low lying and influenced by the North Atlantic Drift the climate is drier and warmer than that normally associated with the west coast of Scotland.

For many centuries Gigha was an important stopping-off place in the middle of the main sea-route between Ireland and the rest of the Hebrides.

Gigha coastline
Its sheltered harbours were once of strategic importance
It has several sheltered harbours which were of strategic importance in the days when all travel and commerce relied on small sailing boats.

In the 16th century King James V of Scotland made Gigha into a barony such was the importance of the island.

Ancient relics such as forts, standing stones and chapels can be found all over the island.

The Ogam Stone on the west side of Gigha is an example of Celtic writing so old and rare that it has not yet been fully deciphered.

Gently sloping hillsides

The island is about 10km long and is a combination of wild, rocky coastline, fertile fields and woodlands.

The economy is centred round half-a-dozen farms and a fish farm, supplemented by the summer tourist trade.

The island's bays with seals and otters along the shores, lochs and gently sloping hillsides are home to a variety of wildlife.

The mild climate directly influences the famous Achamore Gardens - more than 50 acres of rare and unusual plants surrounded by picturesque woodland.

The 3,400-acre island boasts 37 cottages, a hotel, shop, nine-hole golf course, a private airstrip and has a population of 110.

Gigha church
The island has 37 cottages
Disputes over ownership of the land have been a feature of the island far back in its history.

Rival clans often spilled blood in various attempts to gain control.

Earlier this month, the community voted to launch a bid to buy the island after it was put on the market by businessman Derek Holt for 3.85m.

The Holt family moved from Skibo Castle, Sutherland to Gigha in 1992.

As one of the UK's largest privately owned islands, Gigha has changed hands three times since 1944.

Heritage trust

The residents' efforts to raise the required amount to buy the island were boosted by a "substantial level" of lottery backing through the Scottish Land Fund, as well as contributions from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Community Land Unit and public donations.

After confirmation of the lottery grant, the islanders formed the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust.

Gigha residents consulted closely with people on the Scottish island of Eigg, where 63 islanders famously took possession of their 7,400-acre outcrop in 1997.

That buy-out was achieved after a 900,000 donation from an undisclosed millionaire from north-east England.

See also:

30 Oct 01 | Scotland
Islanders win battle for Gigha
29 Oct 01 | Scotland
Islanders 'optimistic' as bids close
12 Oct 01 | Scotland
Islanders back buy-out bid
24 Aug 01 | Scotland
Land reform splits Lib Dems
18 Aug 01 | Scotland
Islanders consider community buy-out
13 Aug 01 | Scotland
Call to help residents buy island
10 Aug 01 | Scotland
Isle be yours - for 3.85m
16 Jul 01 | Scotland
Land reform warning to ministers
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