The perfect place to stay if you REALLY want to get away from it all: in a cozy dormitory on the remote Scottish island of Canna (population 20)

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The only time crowds gather on Canna Island is when the ferry arrives five times a week in summer.

Visitors mill around the pier looking for their guests like wartime evacuees.

But once everyone is grouped together and gone, peace descends quickly – although it never really leaves this Hebridean hideaway.

Nearly five square miles long, Canna is one of the small islands, accessible by ferry from Mallaig, an hour’s drive from Fort William.

The population of Canna peaked at 436 in 1821 but, following the Highland Clearances of 1860, this fell to 127. Today it has around 20 inhabitants.

Paul Kirkwood visits the Isle of Canna in Scotland and stays in the secluded bunkhouse pictured here

Paul Kirkwood visits the Isle of Canna in Scotland and stays in the secluded bunkhouse pictured here

The only time a crowd gathers on Canna Island is when the ferry arrives five times a week in summer, Paul writes.

The only time a crowd gathers on Canna Island is when the ferry arrives five times a week in summer, Paul writes.

Paul reveals: “We quickly got to know the island's visitors: a New Zealand cyclist, a man we had previously seen camping alone on the white sands of Sanday, three students staying with a friend and a Intrepid young family of four who arrived.  on bikes, children in child seats and their luggage on their backs'

Paul reveals: “We quickly got to know the island’s visitors: a New Zealand cyclist, a man we had previously seen camping alone on the white sands of Sanday, three students staying with a friend and a Intrepid young family of four who arrived. on bikes, children in child seats and their luggage on their backs’

Gareth Cole, chef at Café Canna, came here with his wife in 2018 after working in IT in London.

“We had only visited Canna before on the stopover ferry.

“We basically had two hours on the island to decide if this was what we wanted to do and where we wanted to live.

“Luckily we went and it was absolutely amazing.”

Isebail MacKinnon works on the only farm on the island and manages the campsite and bunkhouse.

As a member of the Isle of Canna Community Development Trust, she also manages the community store and is involved in the renewable energy project.

The population of Canna peaked at 436 in 1821 but, following the Highland Clearances of 1860, this number fell to 127. It now stands at around 20 inhabitants.  Pictured: the island's Sanday Bridge.

The population of Canna peaked at 436 in 1821 but, following the Highland Clearances of 1860, this number fell to 127. It now stands at around 20 inhabitants. Pictured: the island’s Sanday Bridge.

The island (pictured) is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, to which it was donated in 1981 by the then laird, John Lorne Campbell, a Gaelic scholar and nature lover determined to preserve the ecology and traditions of the island, explains Paul.

The island (pictured) is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, to which it was donated in 1981 by the then laird, John Lorne Campbell, a Gaelic scholar and nature lover determined to preserve the ecology and traditions of the island, explains Paul.

At almost five square miles in length, Canna is one of the small islands.  It is reached by ferry from Mallaig, an hour's drive from Fort William.

At almost five square miles in length, Canna is one of the small islands. It is reached by ferry from Mallaig, an hour’s drive from Fort William.

Isebail MacKinnon works on the island's only farm and runs the campsite (pictured) and bunkhouse where Paul stayed

Isebail MacKinnon works on the island’s only farm and runs the campsite (pictured) and bunkhouse where Paul stayed

Her family is originally from Canna and she returned there in 2016 after working in London and Africa.

“I see a lot of similarities between living off the west coast of Scotland and living in Ghana and Uganda, as the logistics in both places are a bit difficult,” she says.

My wife and I stayed at the bunkhouse, a former mid-18th century bunkhouse, perched alone at the base of a basalt cliff with just a windswept sycamore for company.

Accommodation is simple, with two bunk beds and a separate shower and toilet block, but the views over Canna and the islands of Sanday and Rum more than make up for it.

Accompanied by her dog, Isebail brought a breakfast basket every morning. In the evening we had dinner at the cafe, a 15 minute walk across fields.

The menu includes local lobster and steak from the farm’s Belted Galloway cattle.

Accommodation in the dormitory is simple, explains Paul,

Accommodation in the dormitory is simple, says Paul, “with two bunk beds and a separate shower and toilet block, but the views over Canna and the islands of Sanday and Rum more than make up for it.”

In the evening, Paul had dinner at the café, a 15-minute walk across the fields.  Above - the dorm picnic table

In the evening, Paul had dinner at the café, a 15-minute walk across the fields. Above – the dorm picnic table

Birds are the only commotion you're likely to encounter on this island, whose emptiness is the very essence of its appeal, says Paul.

Birds are the only commotion you’re likely to encounter on this island, whose emptiness is the very essence of its appeal, says Paul.

Tourists admire views of Canna's spectacular coastline

Tourists admire views of Canna’s spectacular coastline

Canna Dormitory Twin Bed Costs From £40

Canna Dormitory Twin Bed Costs From £40

One night we were joined by a group arriving in RIBs from yachts anchored in the harbor.

We quickly became acquainted with the island’s visitors: a New Zealand cyclist, a man we had previously seen camping alone on the white sands of Sanday, three students staying with a friend, and an intrepid young family from four people arriving on bikes, children in child seats and luggage on their backs.

The island is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, to which it was donated in 1981 by the then laird, John Lorne Campbell, a Gaelic scholar and nature lover determined to preserve the island’s ecology and traditions .

Its former home, Canna House, is being restored and a visitor facility is being built.

The ruined Coroghan Castle sits at one end of the beach, near the pier, on a rocky outcrop that resembles a sandcastle.

You can hike up to Compass Hill with its island views, or up to the lighthouse and back, passing sea stacks that teem with puffins in the spring.

Birds are the only commotion you’re likely to encounter on this island, whose emptiness is the very essence of its appeal.

TRAVEL FACTS

The two-bed dorm at Canna Dormitory costs from £40. Minimum stay two nights (cannacampsite.com). Ferries run to Canna from Mallaig five times a week in summer and three times in winter (calmac.co.uk).

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