Photo 4028 Sunset over Loch Ewe and Isle of Ewe, Wester Ross

View of NW Scottish Highlands mainland from Isle Martin

Several years ago, just after my wife left me, I was not in the happiest frame of mind, and probably a huge bore to my friends! However, a couple who are very good friends to me, offered to take me out on a boat trip to Isle Martin. My friends ran a pleasure boat business (on a 12 seater RIB) operating out of Ullapool. One of their trips involved dropping off their passengers on Isle Martin for a couple of hours while they went off and did another trip taking people out to the Summer Isles. Following the Summer Isles trip they would go back to collect the people they had dropped off on Isle Martin and bring them back to Ullapool.

Isle Martin is situated off Scotland's north-west coast just north of Ullapool. The day was one of the best we'd had all summer and so the opportunity to take a trip out to the island was not to be missed. I was told that another party of two people were also to be dropped off on the island and that the RIB would return to the island about two hours later. The other couple were two ladies of a similar age to me. We all enjoyed the cruise out to the island in flat calm conditions on a warm sunny day.

After landing on the island the two ladies went in one direction and I in another. The island is not permanently occupied but there are some long ago built houses on it that as far as I know are let out to people who want an 'escape from it all' holiday. As I wandered around the houses I discovered one of them was open, thinking someone might be there I called out a couple of 'hellos' hoping to have an interesting chat with someone living, at least temporarily, the nearest thing to a desert island like life in the Scottish Highlands!  There was no reply so I tentatively went through the open door, called out again, but still no reply.

As I went into the house it seemed clear no one was living there now but it had probably been used, judging by the debris, by workmen, perhaps doing maintenance work. How exciting I thought, an abandoned house on an uninhabited island free to explore at will, and I did.

I explored the whole house but the most interesting part was the living room. This was because it had an original antique upright piano in it, so old that it still bore fixed candlestick holders either side of the sheet music holder. I tried the piano. It worked! There was a maker's name on it which I made a note of intending to research later, which I did. Unfortunately I have since lost the maker's name, lost in the debris of my recent life. However, I did do the research at the time and discovered the piano maker had been around since Victorian times and went out of business around the time of the second world war.

Following this unexpected delight of exploring an old uninhabited house I decided it was time to go out and enjoy the island and the sunny weather again. So off exploring I went and came across a stone with a triple latin cross, reputably from AD 400-700. St. Martin, after whom the island is named, is reputed to have established a monastery there around AD 300-400. Then, near another house, I found a wall, ideal for sitting on to enjoy the expansive views of the Scottish West Highlands on a glorious day.

While sitting there, one of the women who had landed on the island, came up to the wall and we started chatting. The first topic was how lucky we were to have such a beautiful day to explore the island! Then I mentioned the house I found that still had a working Victorian piano. To my astonishment she told me her friend who came on to the island with her was a concert pianist from Switzerland! So it was decided that when her friend, who was somewhere nearby, turned up, we should all go to the house with the piano. Which we did!

So began a recital of Beethoven sonatas in an abandoned house on an uninhabited island in Scotland's remote and utterly beautiful North West Highlands. One of the most extraordinary things that has ever happened to me while out for a walk - it certainly lifted my mood!

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