Landlord of the Moon

David Craig

  • Sea Room: An Island Life by Adam Nicolson
    HarperCollins, 391 pp, £14.99, October 2001, ISBN 0 00 257164 1

I never thought I would find myself writing warmly about a book by a Scottish laird. Adam Nicolson owns the Shiant Islands, east of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The Shiants are a compact cluster and, like all small islands, offer the marvellous sense that you can encompass them, you can easily walk or sail round them and get to know each rock-face or sand-bar, each vein of water or peat-hagg lip. Islands make you attend to them with the most intimate focus, until you know them entirely and understand the reason each feature, natural or civilised, is as it is. That stone-heap on a west-facing slope, is it scree, or a cairn, or the remains of a house? Who made those cup-holes in a reef by the shore, and why? When did somebody last dig those lazy-beds, the ridges for potatoes or barley that corduroy the rough pasture? Nicolson has spent so many days and nights on the Shiants that he has had time to pose every conceivable question about them and to delve for the answers.

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