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The Slate Islands

On the western coast of Scotland, situated south of the region's major city, Oban, and east of the large isle of Mull are the three small islands of Seil, Luing, & Easdale. Part of the Inner Hebrides, they're certainly far from Scotland's typical tourist routes. And are relatively unknown, even to the people of Great Britain.

But this wasn't always the case. Beginning with the 17th century and continuing into the 20th, they were the world's major source of slate. By the first decade of the 20th century the slate islands were producing eight million slates a year. Enough every day to send ten steamer ships away from the pier at the town of Ellenabeich out to "roof the world".

The three photos in yesterday's blog post were taken from the edge of one of the abandoned quarries on Easdale. These quarries are hundreds of feet deep and filled with mirror smooth water. Picture one is looking inland. Picture two is looking straight down into the seaweed just under the surface. Picture three is looking out, past the low wall of slate that divides the quarry pool from the sea with a view of another island beyond.

We wanted our first week in Scotland to be about relaxation and decompression. We wanted to avoid tourism. We didn't need to be entertained. We just wanted fresh sea air, misty mornings and unfamiliar places to explore. Here are a few more pictures.

The hillsides behind the quarries show the raw slate in its natural formations.


The "sand" on the beach is tide-smoothed slate rubble.


The slate islands no longer quarry. They've lost all but a few hardy souls in population. With no sandy beaches, holiday makers are few and far between. The most frequent visitors are the many, many species of birds that now call them home.


We rented a wonderful cottage in the town of Balvicar on Seil. A rehabbed quarryman's cottage from the heydays of slate. A fitting place to base ourselves while we learned about the slate tradition.


Comments (7)

Shelagh (SJ):

Deborah: my great great grandfather was a slate quarry labourer at Easdale in the mid-1800's.
His last name was Mclean, I'm sure you met some people with that name there, as it's very common.
I'm glad you enjoyed your trip to the West of Scotland!!

Deborah responds: VERY cool. Thanks for finding my blog and posting a comment.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Deborah, wonderful photos and interesting post. Complete relaxation is a great way to start off a vacation.

Thank you for continuing to share some of your experiences.


I love reading about the regional history. It's fun learning something I never would have the traditional way. Thanks! Please continue Professor.

Deborah, excellent post! What a great spot to start a spend a vacation! It looks absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for the regional information too.


Love reading about places I've never even heard of. Looking forward to more, as you're able.


What a sweet-looking cottage. Just the place to completely relax.

It looks like the perfect place to decompress and start a vacation. I'm looking forward to reading and seeing more about Scotland.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 22, 2009 7:50 PM.

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