Rum (or Rùm) is the largest of the four Small Isles off the west coast of Scotland. (The spelling Rhum was a foible of the former owner, Sir George Bullough.) It has a permanent population of about thirty, centred around the harbour at Kinloch on the east coast.
Rum has been inhabited since the eighth millennium BC, but only just: it's very hilly, wet, difficult to farm, and thinly populated. Centuries of fights and feuds over its possession have been out of proportion to its value. The introduction of potatoes and barley, and a briefly lucrative kelp industry, boosted its population to 400 early in the 19th century. But the islanders were then evicted to create a sheep farm, later turned into a sporting estate, and the grandiose Kinloch Castle was built in 1900. It was hopelessly expensive to maintain - keeping alligators being just one extravagance among many - and fell into disuse. The owner Sir George Bullough (a textile magnate) died in 1939; his trustees struggled on but eventually sold up to the Nature Conservancy Council in 1957. The estate then passed to Scottish Natural Heritage when that was formed in 1992.
The Isle of Rum Community Trust now owns the area around Kinloch Village, to give residents greater control over the development of the island and its resources. Those residents number two dozen, outnumbered 10:1 by the mountain goats, and all of Rum beyond Kinloch is uninhabited. This area is still owned by Scottish Natural Heritage, and managed as a National Nature Reserve. It offers great landscapes and walking, and its wildlife includes red deer and white-tailed sea eagles.
There's nothing so grand as a "Visitor Centre" here, but the Reserve Office and the Isle of Rum Community Trust (+44 1687 462026) can provide information about the island, as well as outdoor activities and facilities.
These ferries sail every day, but to different Small Isles on different days. In summer (April-Oct) they call at Rum and return to Mallaig on M W F Sa & Su. Day trips from Mallaig to Rum are possible on M (2 hours ashore), W & F (4), and Sa (10).
In winter (Nov-March) the ferries call on M Tu Th & Sa. Day trips are possible on Tues and Thurs (2 hours ashore).
Sightseeing trips from Arisaig frequently visit Rum from May to Sept.
All routes are for foot passengers only; dogs and bikes welcome but you can't bring a car. 1 Rum Ferry Pier is on the south shore of Loch Scresort, the sea inlet by the village and castle. With your own boat, this loch is the only sheltered anchorage. There are no moorings available. Dinghies can be landed at the old pier; also at at the ferry terminal, but not when ferries are in or expected.
Walk. It's about 20 min from the ferry to the village: your accommodation can arrange a vehicle to pick up bags and people. Beyond, up the hill, it's quite a rough track, stout footwear essential.
For cycling, it will need to be a mountain bike or sturdy touring bike. Tracks lead across the island to Kilmory (8 km) and Harris (10 km) where the Bullough mausoleum stands.
- 1 Kinloch Castle, PH43 4RR (20 minute walk from the ferry terminal), ☏ . Closed. Ramshackle late Victorian castle, built as the summer home of a Lancashire textile tycoon, Sir George Bullough. The construction required 300 men, at a total cost of £250,000. The building has become dilapidated and unsafe, and is closed. You can admire the exterior.
- 2 Harris Mausoleum (10 km from Kinloch, along hill track). Mausoleum in NatWest-cod-Grecian style, in an impressive setting overlooking the shore. Built by George Bullough circa 1900, it now inters himself, his wife Monica, and his father John.
A wide range of wildlife can be seen on the island, and in the surrounding seas.
- Rum is one of the world's largest breeding colonies for Manx Shearwater. Every summer around 100,000 pairs of these birds nest in burrows, high up on the Rum Cuillin.
- The White-tailed eagle, the largest bird of prey in the UK, was reintroduced on Rum in the 1970s. They can be seen fishing around the coast.
- Golden eagles also nest on the island, they can be spotted soaring over the mountains.
- 3 Otter Hide (south side of Loch Scresort, 10 minutes walk from the ferry terminal). A nice place to sit and look for wildlife, though the otters can be shy.
- Climb the Rum Cuillin, a group of rocky hills in the southern end of the island. This includes Askival, at 812 m the highest point on Rum, and listed as a Corbett. Parts of the walk are steep and rocky, some scrambling involved. Starting and finishing at Kinloch, the full traverse is about 20 km, and can take about 12 hours to walk. There is an option for an overnight stop at Dibidil bothy.
- 1 Rum Crafts, Shore Road (next to the red phone box). Selling a variety of handmade crafts, including knitting, soap and bloodstone.
- 2 Croft 3 In The Shed, Croft 3, Isle of Rum, PH43 4RR (north side nature trail), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. always open. Crafts and produce.
- 3 Tattie House Crafts (through the village, past the hall). Handmade crafts, including paintings, cards, candles and painted fishing buoys.
- You can have provisions sent over from Mallaig, see Small Isles#Buy.
- 1 Tea Shop (Inside the village hall). A cafe open daily (11:00 - 16:00) from April to September, for hot and cold drinks, snacks, light meals and home baked treats. The wild deer of the island can be sampled in the venison stew, which is normally available and highly recommended.
- 2 General Store & Post Office (Next to the village hall), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Post office open 10:00-12:00 on ferry days, shop open most evenings 1700-1930. A small but well stocked shop, selling a range of groceries, including vegetables, snacks and alcohol. For larger groups, groceries can be pre-ordered, at least one week in advance.
There are no pubs or bars on Rum. The General Store sells a range of alcoholic drinks. It is open late some evenings, and has some outside seating, so it acts in place of a bar.
Details of all accommodation on the island can be found on the island's website.
- 1 Rum Bunkhouse (1 mile east of ferry pier), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Hostel in Nordic chalet, opened in 2014, sleeps 20: one twin room, three 4-bedded rooms, and one six-bedded room. Two kitchens, six showers, drying room. Also two "glamping" cabins sleep up to four, £35-45 per cabin. Camping adult £6, child £3, includes use of shower block. Early booking advised. From £23 ppn.
- Two bothies are maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association. Both are a long walk from the village, over rough paths. 2 Dibidil Bothy is on the south coast of the island, and 3 Guirdil Bothy is on the north coast.
- Wild camping is permitted on the island, but you may not light fires, and must follow the Outdoor Access Code. Check with the Reserve Office or community ranger before setting out, they can advise on areas to avoid during sensitive periods for wildlife.
- The Village Hall has Wi-Fi internet access, and charging for laptops, mobile phones, etc., for a donation. There is also a community computer available to use.
- Mobile phone reception is usually okay around the village hall or castle.
- There is a BT payphone in the red phonebox by the shore.
In summer, day trips are possible from Rum to Canna on W (3 hours ashore) and Sa (6 hours). Ferry transfers to Canna, Eigg and Muck are possible on other days without returning to the mainland. But eventually you have to circle back to Mallaig.