Europe > Britain and Ireland > United Kingdom > Scotland > South West (Scotland) > Ayrshire > Holy Island (near Arran)
- Not to be confused with Holy Island or Lindisfarne in Northumberland.
Holy Island (Scottish Gaelic: Eilean MoLaise) is a small island just east of the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland. It's a rocky stump 2 miles long by half-a-mile mile wide rising to 1030 ft (314 m) and sheltering the bay at Lamlash, which therefore became the historic port and main settlement of Arran. It's mostly a nature reserve but hosts a community of Buddhist monks.
Originally called Inis Shroin (House of the Water Spirit), the Holy Island has long been a place of great spiritual importance. Around 700 AD it was the home of Saint Molaise. He lived in a cave, now named after him.
Today, Holy Island is home to a community of Buddhist monks in the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Apparently a vision of the Virgin Mary persuaded the previous owner to sell it to Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, who is one of the monks. There is a retreat centre, a monastery and an interfaith 'Peace Hall.' The monks regard the island as their own and attempt to enforce their rules on visitors. If you get caught smoking, or if you get found with any amount of alcohol, drugs or tobacco the monks will tell you to leave the island. Pets are also discouraged on the island because of its unique wildlife. This has been more emphatically enforced since 2009, when a dog was bought onto the island on a private boat and it killed a rare Soay sheep - a unique breed.
Lamlash Bay in its lee is also a protected marine environment, with various delicate creatures growing in its depths.
The only way in is by boat from Lamlash. Calmac ferries from Ardrossan on the Scottish mainland sail to Brodick, from where you take Bus 323 to Lamlash pier - see Isle of Arran for practicalities.
The "Holy Island Ferry" is the grand name for the little boat from 1 Lamlash Pier to the 2 north landing on Holy Island. It's easily blown out by winds, and sailing times vary with the tides and with demand - pick up a leaflet on the Calmac ferry or in Brodick TIC. It sails April-Oct at least three times a day, with hourly sailings mid-summer, and takes 10 min. An open return costs £12 in 2020.
With your own boat you could also tie up at the south landing and stroll up the lane.
This is a small island with no roads, so walking is the only way to get from place to place.
- View of Lamlash and the mainland - especially beautiful at sunrise.
- Buddhist Monastery - not accessible to the public as it is used as a place of retreat.
- Sacred caves
- Buddhist art
- Wild ponies, Soay sheep and goats
- The Holy Spring (and the infamous sign)
- The fairies in the garden on Holy Isle.
- Go for a walk around the island.
- Volunteer to work on monastery gardens and building projects.
- Meditate, relax, get enlightened.
- Have tea with a Buddhist monk.
There is a gift shop called The Boathouse near the Peace Hall, selling gifts, recipes and other things.
Meals are only available if you stay at the monastery. For all other things, you can go to the Co-op in Lamlash.
Note that meat is forbidden to the Buddhists.
Alcohol will be frowned upon by the Buddhists. If you get found with any amount of alcohol, drugs or tobacco you can expect to be instructed to leave the island by the monks although you have no obligation to comply. Free tea and coffee at the gift shop.
- At the monastery, ☏ . Check-in: After 14:00, check-out: Before noon. There is accommodation at the monastery. A bed in the 8-bed dormitory costs £29 per night, a single room £49 and a double room £72. Two sea view rooms are also available, costing £85 per night or £60 for single occupancy. Prices include 3 vegetarian meals per day. A non-refundable £20 reservation deposit is required when booking. If you volunteer on the island for 5 days, you get 25% off.
- Wild camping. Although a legal right, it is strongly discouraged by the Buddhists. You can camp at a few places on the island, but if you are seen camping and/or lighting a fire, you can expect a hostile reception from the monks.
There are no other destinations than going back to Isle of Arran.