Handa, Scotland

Infobox Scottish island |
celtic name=Eilean Shannda
norse name=Sandey
meaning of name=sandy island
area=309 ha
area rank=88=
highest elevation=Sithean Mòr 123 m
population rank=
main settlement=
island group=Inner Hebrides/Islands of Sutherland
local authority=
references= [2001 UK Census per List of islands of Scotland] Haswell-Smith, Hamish. (2004) The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh. Canongate.] [ [http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/ Ordnance Survey] ]

Handa (Scottish Gaelic: Eilean Shannda) is an island off the west coast of Sutherland, Highland, Scotland. It is 309 ha and 123 m at its highest point.

A small Ferry sails to Handa from Tarbet on the mainland and boat trips operate to it from Fanagmore.

Geography and geology

The island is composed of Torridonian red sandstone and surrounded by cliffs covered with birds.

In the north is a hill with two peaks, with the south and east being lower lying. The north and west have 100m high cliffs, and there are beaches in the south and east.

Smaller islands around Handa include Glas-Leac to the south, Eilean an Aigeach to the north east and Stac an t-Sealbhaig to the north.

The Sound of Handa separates it from the mainland.


The island's name is Norse in origin.

Anciently the island was used as a burial place, and there are still the remains of a chapel in the south east, commemorated in the name Tràigh an Teampaill (Beach of the Temple).

It had a population of 65 in 1841, but in 1848 potato famine forced the inhabitants to emigrate. In some ways this is surprising, since it is recorded that the islanders had a fairly varied diet including oats, fish and seabirds, rather than depending heavily on a potato crop. The islanders had a parliament, similar to that of St Kilda, which met daily, and the oldest widow on the island was considered its "Queen".

It is now part of the Scourie Estate, owned by Dr Jean Balfour and J.C. Balfour [cite web| url=http://www.whoownsscotland.org.uk/page_cache/su/scourie_small.htm| title=Scourie Estate| publisher=Who Owns Scotland| accessdate=2007-11-11] and managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust with a population of just one warden during the summer months.


Handa is noted for its birdlife, which includes puffins, razorbills and guillemots.

The island is an SSSI, and was leased to the RSPB originally for 25 years. However the Balfours did not renew the lease, because they wished a Scottish based body to run the island; as a result the Scottish Wildlife Trust took it over. Despite being a reserve, the island receives some 5000 visitors per annum.


External links

* [http://www.swt.org.uk/wildlife/popup_reserves/north/handa.htm Scottish Wildlife Trust - Handa Island]

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