Canna is the westernmost of the Small Isles archipelago, in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. It is linked to the neighbouring island of Sanday by a road and sandbanks at low tide. The island is 4.3 miles (6.9 km) long and 1 mile (1.6 km) wide.
The isolated skerries of Hyskeir and Humla lie 6.2 miles south west of the island.
Canna is in the care of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS). It was gifted to the Trust in 1981, by its then owner John Lorne Campbell and his wife, Margaret Fay Shaw, and is still run as a farm with a traditional Hebridean community, as John Campbell requested.
The entire island is held inalienably, with all except the in-bye land (farmland) being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its geographical and biological importance. The island has also been designated a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive, for its large population of breeding sea birds, and is covered by the Small Isles National Scenic Area designation.
The island also boasts a number of scheduled ancient monuments, listed buildings and sites of historical and archaeological importance.
Well known folklorist John Lorne Campbell and his Pittsburgh born wife Margaret Fay Shaw were both fascinated by folklore and ancient culture and language, especially Gaelic. During their lifetime they collected an enormous amount of information of historical importance, particularly in regards to the Scottish Gaelic Culture.
Canna’s retired archivist Magda Sagarzazu was a personal friend of the Campbells’ and knows the Canna Archives better than anyone else today. She describes it here :
"The Literary Archive consists of many 1000's of individual item including personal diaries, 9000 photographs, transcribed music, original letters and manuscripts. JLC's sound archive alone, comprises over 1500 field recordings of Gaelic song and story from the 1930's and 40's. This is also a home where people lived, loved and laughed, and it is still just as the Campbells left it, with their personal effects, cat pictures, furnishings and possessions. Everything in the house has a story to tell – some sad, some hilarious, all memorable. The piano that Margaret Fay Shaw played stands in the living room; the collections of periodicals they read are in the magazine racks; jigsaws to be done are on the desk; gifts from visitors dot the shelves and bottles of whisky from the SS Politician are on the table. The Campbells’ predecessors as owners of the island, the Thom family, have also left photos, furniture and artefacts that also make an important contribution to Canna House including a stuffed spoonbill in a case in the hallway.
Canna House and its contents, the garden, its flower borders, orchards and paths, are testimony not just to the lives of two people who are now gone, but also to the promise of a future. I think of Canna House as an intimate museum – not a shrine, but a place to come and celebrate a special sensitivity to beauty, music and a wonderful sense of fun.
Canna House is currently closed to visitors, with extensive renovation works planned for the summer of 2018, but visitors are welcome to explore the gardens at their leisure and also learn some of the Canna story in the "Fuaim na Mara" exhibition at the Pier.
Canna Farm, which comprises 1126 Ha (Hectares), is made up mostly of hill ground with some good fertile land on the inbye (that’s the inner land away from the sea). The farm runs 600 North Country Cheviot ewes, which produce store lambs and breeding stock.
The lambs are sold in September and the best females are retained for replacement breeding stock. The farm has a suckler herd of approximately 50 cows, mostly Shorthorn cross and Aberdeen Angus cross, plus a small herd of pedigree Highland cattle.
There is a zero cropping policy in place, meaning no fodder is made. This does away with the need for lots of expensive machinery, and saves on maintaince and labour costs. All feedstuff is bought in, which means the animals are guaranteed high quality food.
The farm is run with conservation and wildlife in mind, and several areas are shut off from March to September to provide early cover and breeding areas for the rare Corncrake, which is an important annual visitor to Canna.
Isle of Canna Development Trust
The IoCCDT was set up to stimulate sustainable demographic growth supported by good employment opportunities, good services, facilities and affordable housing. It provides a focus for the administration of community projects and a vehicle to manage assets on behalf of the community. All Canna residents are encouraged to get involved and to share in the work of being a director.
Click below to view our latest projects and directors minutes.
The AGM is usually held in July.