Islands have always been special to many people for hundreds of reasons. In prehistoric and medieval times people built artificial islands in Lochs, Crannógs, to separate them from others and to give themselves some sort of protection against their enemies. Nowadays people live on an island either by choice or birth. Besides places to live and work Islands are also a popular tourist destination all over the world and often recall a special feeling. It’s good in this respect to have a look at the definition of an island:
‘An island or isle is any piece of land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls are called islets. There are two main types of islands: continental islands and oceanic islands. A grouping of geographically and/or geologically related islands is called an archipelago. The word island comes from Old English ‘watery land’. However, the spelling of the word was modified in the 15th century by association with the etymologically unrelated Old French loanword isle.’
When I think of an island in relation to that special island feeling certain words emerge such as remote, lonely, magic, solitude, scenery, harsh, community, wild and wildlife, secluded beaches, wind swept and inaccessible just to name a few. Have you noticed that words like tropical and palm trees are not included in my list? For me islands have more appeal in a non tropical climate but that’s just a personal preferance. I find that an oceanic climate adds something extra to the island feelings of isolation and loneliness. In connection with dreams and islands I found the following: ‘To dream of being on an island can express the dreamer’s feelings of isolation and loneliness. At times, it can represent the desire to escape the hassle of everyday life.’
Others have tried to capture the magic of islands, and particularly the Scottish islands, in beautifully phrased descriptions such as Hamish Haswell Smith, the author of the book Scottish Islands: “There are few parts of the world which possess such magic and mystery as the seas around Scotland. This is an area of breathtaking beauty with a character formed not only by the proximity of mountains and sea but also by the complexity of the geography and the geology, of the climate and the social history. It is a serene yet chaotic landscape in which every isle has a distinct personality Each is an individual entity with differences so remarkable that the mere crossing of a short stretch of water can be like visting another continent.”
On a Dutch website by Ruud Bijlsma I found another fitting description of islands and its people: “As a result of their prolonged isolation their atmosphere is different from the mainland. On an island you feel somewhat detached from the rest of the world. You can’t get off any moment you like, unless adverse weather prevents it. Other people cannot easily reach you there. That’s why people living on an island are different from ‘mainlanders’. They are more thrown together, more concerned with their own small community than with the wide ‘outside world’.” I think it’s true that island communities are often close knit, specially the smaller islands, which is probably something that remained from the old days when people had no other choice than to rely on each other.
I would like to end this story with a nice description of the Scottish islands, my favourites and probably yours too: “The islands of Scotland are some of the most enchanting places on earth. Even the tiniest of them has its own individual character and charm. Dramatic sunsets, spectacular scenery and a traditional Scottish island welcome are just a few of the things that await you.” Aye to that!