This magical island, with crystal clear lochs and ancient forests is a rare habitat. Unlike many windswept Scottish islands, Eilean Shona, being nestled close to the mainland, is rich with several different ecosystems. Eilean Shona’s native woodlands are classified as part of the Scottish Rainforest belt (an ancient swathe of forest on the Atlantic coast, dating back to the last ice age) containing trees dripping with lichens and rocks clad with abundant mosses. Isolated patches exist all around the west coast of Scotland including the Ardnamurchan Peninsula but it is thought that as much as 50% of all temperate rainforest has been destroyed in Europe and occurs on less than 1% of the globe’s surface. Our mission, as custodians of the island, is to protect this vital environment for future generations by providing space for native flora and fauna to thrive and benefit the world’s biodiversity.
Our forests are home to some of the world’s rarest lichens, bryophytes, liverworts and fungi. The lichen in particular are rare outside of Scotland and their presence is an indicator of a healthy environment. They are sensitive to pollution and acid rain and can only survive in pristine wild spaces.
In addition to our ancient woodland, in Victorian times, a former owner of Eilean Shona, Captain Swinburne, planted a magnificent pinetum around the house. The List of Conifers of 1933 gives details of 40 genera of trees and hundreds of native species on the island. There is an ongoing planting programme in place. Some of the native species found on Eilean Shona include Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), downy birch (Betula pubescens), juniper (Juniperus communis), hazel (Corylus avellana), holly (Ilex aquifolium), European crab apple (Malus sylvestris), common hawthorn (Cratageus monogyna), alder (Alnus glutinosa), bird cherry (Prunus padus), elder (Sambucus nigra) and Wych elm (Ulmus glabra).
The native woodland expansion has created a haven for wildlife. Eilean Shona is home to some of the most stunning wildlife on the Western Isles with a variety of birds, mammals, butterflies and insects. Birds of prey are commonly seen circling over wooded areas and include White-tailed (Sea) Eagles, Golden Eagles and Buzzards. One of the largest UK heronries can be found in Loch Moidart with many grey herons nesting along our shore. Other birds commonly seen on the island are Hooded Crows, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Red breasted Mergansers, Herring Gulls and Tawny Owls. The smaller species of birds include Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Cuckoo, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Siskin, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Wheater, Tree Pipit and Meadow Pipit. Our butterfly species include Peacock, Green-veined White, Speckled Wood, Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Scotch Argus.
Eilean Shona’s woodlands are home to the native red squirrels and the elusive pine martens, the largest member of the weasel family. Red deer roam freely and are most easily seen in the colder months when they descend from higher slopes to more sheltered ground. Large colonies of common and grey seals and otters are found along our coastline. For the lucky few, dolphin, minke whales and basking sharks can be spotted swimming in the surrounding waters.
Respect for the environment is our core principle in how we manage and run the island. We make every effort to be plastic-free and carbon neutral on the island with no cars, plentiful wood supply. All our electricity comes from the hydro-electric power station. Our water supply comes from the hills. We are meticulous with our recycling and use only bio-cleaning products.
In 2011, we fenced in a 600-acre deer-free zone to allow for maximum regeneration while also planting 120,000 new native trees. The ongoing challenge is to keep the invasive rhododendrons at bay thus allowing native trees, moss, lichen and wildflowers to thrive and creating a rich biodiverse environment. Our conservation plans also include an academic survey of our rare lichen, mosses and fungi. In addition, we enlist the help of guests to protect our fragile ecosystem by keeping to the paths.
All profits raised from cottage and house rentals are reinvested into Shona's continuing conservation projects.
Projects & Collaborations
The Everland Summit
We hosted our inaugural environmental summit in conjunction with COP26. We gathered together a select group of people from different fields to share their wisdom and exchange their ideas on best practice moving forward, with the purpose of forging connections through conversation, collaboration and challenge.
Sapling Spirits Planting Collaboration
We are proud to be a selected partner with Sapling Spirits, the world’s first climate positive vodka. For every bottle they sell, they plant a tree with selected partners in protected environments. In March 2021, a team of 8 people planted over 5,000 trees on Eilean Shona in just 4 days. Trees planted were a mix of native species: Silver Birch, Hazel, Rowan, Wild Cherry and Field Maple.
Sea Eagle Management Scheme
We have a specialist team who is helping with the management, relocation and breeding of Sea Eagles in the wild. They provide data to the The British Trust for Ornithology and the Highland Raptor Study Group who collate all the raptor breeding data for Scotland. Six breeding pairs were brought to the area and one pair choose to nest on Eilean Shona. Our first sea eagle chicks, Glenda (pictured) and Jackson, were born in 2019. We continue to track and monitor Glenda and her siblings on and around the island.