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Last Updated: Friday, 14 December 2007, 13:44 GMT
No man is one island for explorer
By James Shaw
BBC Scotland News website

Andy Strangeway has just finished a tour of the Scottish islands and is about to bring out the first volume of his adventures.

One of his favourite islands is Naoimh in the Inner Hebrides.

Andy Strangeway on Naiomh
Andy Strangeway's favourite island is Naoimh, south of Mull

Earlier this year he completed a marathon tour of all 162 Scottish islands over 40 hectares, a mission which took him four years to complete.

It required an unbending determination to overcome all the obstacles in his path, such as the notoriously changeable Scottish weather, and the suspicions of some islanders about a self-employed painter and decorator from Yorkshire.

Naoimh, just south of the Isle of Mull, is one of the most inaccessible of all the islands he visited.

Bad weather and the lack of a beach mean trying to land is often all but impossible.

It's only a mile and half long but extraordinarily beautiful, from the ruined religious settlement on one side to the jagged rocks and Atlantic breakers on the other.

Christian era

Celtic monks from Ireland are said to have arrived on Naoimh 21 years before St Columba came in 563AD.

A simple headstone overlooking the rocky ruins on Naoimh is believed to be the grave of St Columba's mother, St Eithne.

Possible site of grave of St Eithne
This site is thought to be the final resting place of St Eithne

And down by the eastern shoreline are the beehive cells which sheltered these early Christians from the worst of the Atlantic storms.

An automated lighthouse on the southern tip is the only substantial piece of modernity for miles around.

On a clear winter night there are no lights to be seen from villages on the mainland.

The constellations shine with a fierceness not seen elsewhere and the Milky Way is a clear pale stripe across the sky.

Andy expects to complete the story of his Scottish travels in four volumes.

Then he'll think about beginning another island odyssey, perhaps in the Pacific this time.

But wherever he goes, he's unlikely to find an island as enchanting as this one.

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