Isle Develop CIC

Isle of Canna

An island paradise bursting with human history

Autumn leaves - Fiona Hutton

With a population of less than 20, the Isle of Canna is the smallest and westernmost of the four Small Isles lying just south of Skye. Though small it’s undoubtedly mighty.

Fiery sunsets - Fiona Hutton

Binoculars are a must. It’s no surprise the island has become an area of special scientific interest. 

What it may lack in size, it certainly makes up for with incredible and diverse wildlife, rugged landscapes, and fascinating history. 

Thought to have been inhabited since 5000BC Canna oozes heritage and ancient history. In 1981 the island was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) by its then owner Gaelic scholar John Lorne Campbell and his wife, Margaret Fay Shaw. Together John and Margaret amassed and researched a huge collection of Gaelic and Celtic songs, stories and poetry.

The bird sanctuary and the islands’ coastline are home to over 20,000 breeding seabirds as well as scores of porpoises, whales and eagles. The puffin colony on Sanday is of particular interest to visitors. Known as the ‘parrots of the sea’ these tiny characterful seabirds nest every year on the cliffs and sea stacks at Sanday. Binoculars are a must. It’s no surprise the island has become an area of special scientific interest. 

We recommend a visit to:    

  • Compass Rock: An iconic rocky hill on the eastern end of Canna. The rocks at the top are magnetic, apparently so much so that they can shift the needle of a ship’s compass. Hence the name

  • The Punishment Stone: Where unruly islanders had their thumbs wedged into the hole

  • The 'King of Norway's Grave': A large rectangular stone enclosure on the peninsular of Rubha Langanais

  • Canna House: Step through a beautiful tunnel of escallonia in the walled garden into a bee-friendly sanctuary of lush lawns, flower-filled borders, and fruit trees

  • A' Chill: An early Christian stone cross with fascinating carvings, thought to date back between the 7th and 9th century.

Spirituality forms a large part of Canna’s history like many of the Scottish islands. Explore more within its three churches and prehistoric sites. 

Visitors can be sure of a warm welcome from the Canna community, it’s the perfect place to strike up a conversation and connect with new people. 

And if that's not enough, we've got a few more suggestions!

  • Prison Rock and Black Beach: Just east of the café, you will come across the 'strange fort,' rumoured to have once held Marion Macleod, who was imprisoned in the 17th century for being unfaithful to her husband.

  • Sanday Beach: Covered in pristine white sand, Traigh Bhàn offers a picturesque spot for a picnic.

  • The West End: Follow Tarbert Road and continue past the old barn to reach the Southern cliffs. As you gaze down from these cliffs, you'll discover numerous historic landmarks, all while enjoying a breathtaking view.


Travel tip – there is no mobile phone reception in Canna. 

For more information, visit the Isle of Canna website.

For more information on the Heritage of Canna, visit this page

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