It is one thing to complain about the owner of an island and insist you could run it better, but quite another to actually buy that island and run it yourself. That is exactly what the community of Eigg did just over a quarter of a century ago.

Such has been the success of the community buy-out that the population is on the rise and Eigg has emerged as one of the best set-up islands in Scotland on which to enjoy a truly rewarding holiday. You just don’t forget your first sail to Eigg. I’ve been more than a dozen times and the excitement never fades. As you ease towards the wee village of Galmisdale the 393m-high granite hulk of An Sgurr soars improbably above, Scotland’s Sugarloaf Mountain. Cliffs sweep south and a hefty ridge steers off north towards Beinn Bhuidhe and the Isle of Skye just across the water. The chances are a porpoise, dolphin or even a whale will have joined you on the trip, not to mention myriad seabirds.
The first thing that greets me back ashore this time is a sign introducing Eigg’s ‘Big Green Steps’. Eigg is a real pioneer, community ownership allowing innovative work on its own high-voltage electricity grid built by and for the community with a mix of wind, hydro and solar power. 

In 2008, Eigg became the first island in the world to generate all of its own electricity from green sources. Local luminary Lucy Conway greets me and says: “We’re not done there. The community is developing plans to double the electricity generation and make Eigg net zero by 2030.” If any island in Scotland can do it, Eigg can.

I move on towards the impressive new An Laimhrig community hub designed by island specialist architectural firm WT Architecture. The Galmisdale Bay Café tempts with the type of views that grace Attenborough documentaries next to a wee snug bar; there is a grocery store and gift shop, too, all feeding revenue back into the island’s community. Even the new amenity block is powered by a £2 contactless fee that showers you with hot water heated using green energy. Eigg Adventures have expanded into this new hub. Owner Owain Wyn-Jones is delighted with his new premises, as he is with his new fleet of bikes, noting: “We’ve got what I reckon must be the first fleet of e-bikes using electricity generated at source on any island in the world.”

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I promise to try out the e-bikes next time – once you’ve been to Eigg you always promise yourself there will be a next time – and head out of Galmisdale instead with Charlie. I sweep off for a few hours with a man so genial I don’t even feel the need to know his surname; I’m not convinced anyone on Eigg knows it either. 
His relaxed Eigg tours shake off in an old minibus that verges on the unintentionally retro. It does the job, though, getting us to his house in Cleadale in the west, where I pet his collie dog Bob and tuck into scones made by his wife Libby, as she tells me about her felt workshops. Creativity burns all over on Eigg with artists, writers and even its own record label, Lost Map Records.

Charlie steers me towards the ‘Singing Sands’, which squeak more than sing, but the scarcely believable views of the soar of Rum’s Cuillin across the water stave off any disappointment. I drop further south to stroll Laig Bay too. It is just me and a couple of cows sunbathing on the sands. Rum vies for attention with the cobalt Atlantic nothingness that west from here stretches off to the Americas.
On the way back to Galmisdale Charlie lets me off at the Isle of Eigg Brewery. The brewery’s driving force Stuart Paul McCarthy bounces out with typical Eigg friendliness and enthusiasm. “Who wouldn’t want to run their own community?” he beams rhetorically. He shows me a dynamic operation that builds in levels of sustainability that I’ve rarely seen elsewhere. He is currently in the process of setting up a new taproom here at Scotland’s first co-operative brewery, so people can learn and taste more. 
Many supporters have literally bought into the island’s brewery and this continuation of community and communality is key to what he is passionate about. Passion, like creativity, flows through Eigg’s veins.

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I’ve got the next day on Eigg too and make the most of it. A cloudless An Sgurr tempts me around her back, where I know a ridge much easier than her full frontal face eases up. The white sand beaches of Morar blink back in welcome to the east as I summit. The Small Isles unfurl all around and bigger sibling Skye in her brutish beauty refuses to be ignored. 

I catch snatches of the Outer Hebrides too across the Minch. I cannot think of a better view in the Small Isles. Scratch that, anywhere in Scotland.
There are no bad views of Eigg, but it’s not just an island to admire. The hiking is superb, the cycling soul-stirring, but there is sea angling too, the story of the island and the buy-out at the community museum in an atmospheric old shop and kayaking around the shores amongst myriad charms. Eigg may only be five miles by three miles, but it is a Hebridean Tardis that surely crams in more per capita than any of Scotland’s cities.
Trooping reluctantly down to the pier I’m bound for the world of traffic lights and honking cars again. Owain waves, Lucy flashes a smile too and Charlie is bouncing off on another tour with unsuspecting punters soon to be devouring the best scones they’ve ever tasted. 

This is not the twee, saccharine Hebrides you often find in glossy but soulless, TV documentaries; more a real, vibrant community who have shown just what can be achieved when allowed to control their own destiny. And, deliciously, Eigg is now one of the best set-up, most rewarding and endlessly fascinating of all the Scottish isles to visit.


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Eigg Community Camping Pods 
Funnel money straight back into the community by staying at these wooden pods just up the hillside from the Galmisdale ferry. They may be basic but the views are spirit-soaring day and night. Cook Knoydart wild venison from the community shop and shower using your contactless card at the spotless new community shower block. Very Eigg indeed.
Out west in Cleadale overlooking Rum is this excellent, stylish restaurant with rooms. The self-catering cottage sleeps six; or choose the B&B. Think wood, stone and local produce. The beaches of Laig Bay and the Singing Sands ar both within easy strolling distance.
Sweeney’s Bothy 
‘Contemporary. Cosy. Complete.’ says the website and this life-affirming escape is. Enjoy the views, savour an al fresco shower and immerse yourself in the slower pace of the natural world. Owned by Eigg woman-in-the-know Lucy Conway; book ahead.


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Galmisdale Bay Café 
It’s hard to concentrate on ordering with views this remarkable. Peer back towards Ardnamurchan and Coll through the floor-to-ceiling windows, then tuck into fresh Arisaig mussels – I’ve seen them kept fresh by hanging the bivalves from a pot on the pier. Best accompanied by a pint of draught beer from the excellent Isle of Eigg Brewery.
This Visit Scotland four-star restaurant with rooms focuses on as much organic and fair trade produce as possible, with local vegetables, fruit, game, lamb and fish from Eigg, Muck and Rum. Savour a three course dinner finished off with tea or coffee with your newfound friends – when it’s busy you have to share a table.
Isle of Eigg Shop 
Well-stocked family-run wee store in An Laimhrig. Beef reared on Eigg’s farmland backs up wild Knoydart venison from just across the water. Local fruit and vegetables too, plus Isle of Eigg Brewery beer. Put together a fresh produce laden picnic, then savour it on the shore outside.