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Tuesday, 2 May, 2000, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Trust lands treasure islands
Iona Abbey
Monks from Iona Abbey, pictured, took their library to the isles
The Hebridean Trust has bought a group of islands where priceless treasure is believed to buried for 250,000.

The Threshnish Isles, off the west coast of Scotland near Mull, are where monks of Iona are thought to have buried their library for safety in the wake of the Reformation of 1560.

The treasure has never been recovered and now, with the help of money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Hebridean Trust has acquired them.

The chain has five main islands - Lunga, Cairn na Burgh More, Cairn na Burgh Beg, Dutchman's Cap and Fladda - and covers about 320 acres.

The Book of Kells
Books illustrated by the monks could be worth millions
It is believed the monks' trove could have been hidden somewhere on Cairn na Burgh More.

If discovered, the collection of beautifully-illustrated monastic books would be worth millions of pounds.

The islands are famous for their puffin colonies and are recognised as one of the most important breeding sites in Europe for the stormy petrel.

They have been designated as a special protection area for birds by Scottish Natural Heritage under European law.

Conservation effort

Barnacle geese, black guillemot, puffin, kittiwakes and fulmar plus one of the world's rarest birds, the corncrake, also inhabit the chain.

Hebridean Trust chairman Mike Stanfield said they intended to manage the islands in cooperation with the National Trust for Scotland and other conservation bodies.

Puffin with fish
Puffins are among the inhabitants
Meanwhile, a plan to buy the Cuillin mountains on the Isle of Skye has been put forward by the John Muir Trust.

The mountains have been put up for sale by MacLeod clan chief John MacLeod for 10m.

The trust's plan involves the clan MacLeod being given a grant to restore Dunvegan Castle, allowing Mr MacLeod to reduce the sale price of the Cuillins from the present 10m.

Trust director Nigel Hawkins said most people felt a realistic way forward would be for John MacLeod to apply for a grant from Historic Scotland or the Lottery Fund for the 6m he needs to repair Dunvegan Castle.

The trust believes that a price of between 2m and 2.5m would be a more realistic price tag, although selling agents are reported to have had interest from two unnamed foreign buyers.

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