Taransay: Wikis


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OS grid reference NB025013
Gaelic name About this sound Tarasaigh
Norse name Tarans-øy ?
Meaning of name Old Norse for 'Taran's island'
Area and summit
Area 1,475 hectares (5.7 sq mi)
Area rank 38
Highest elevation Ben Raah 267 metres (876 ft)
Population (2001) Uninhabited since 1974
Island group Lewis and Harris
Local Authority Na h-Eileanan Siar
Flag of Scotland.svg Lymphad3.svg
References [1][2][3]
If shown, area and population ranks are for all Scottish islands and all inhabited Scottish islands respectively.

Taransay (Scottish Gaelic: Tarasaigh, pronounced [ˈt̪aɾas̪aj]) is an island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. It is famous for being the host of the British television series Castaway 2000. Uninhabited since 1974 except for holidaymakers, Taransay is the largest island in Scotland which lacks a permanent population.[2] It is one hectare larger than Scarba, which is also uninhabited.



Taransay is in the traditional county of Inverness-shire and lies 2 miles (3.2 km) from the Isle of Harris, separated by a stretch of sea called the Sound of Taransay. It is part of the Harris parish and governed by the Western Isles council. Crossings between the two islands are dependent on calm weather and there are no harbours for large boats on either island. Taransay is 4 miles (6.4 km) long, and, at its widest point, 3 miles (4.8 km) across, covering over 3500 acres - about 5.7 square miles (15 km2).

Taransay is made up of two 750 ft (230 m) heather-covered hills connected by a white sandy isthmus in the south of the island. It overlooks the bays of Luskyntyre and Seilibost bay to the east, with the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The bays are bordered with sandy beaches and machair dunes.

The area is mostly gneiss, with granite veins. The highest point of the island is Ben Raah (Beinn Ra) at 267 metres (876 ft).


The island hosts a variety of birds, but other wildlife is limited to Red deer and mice. In 2003/4, the population of American mink on the island were the subject of an eradication programme in order to protect the rare groundnesting birds.[4] Taransay is however, noted for its flora, with an abundance of wild flowers growing on the island's machair grasslands.


The beach at Paible, Taransay.

The Isle of Taransay has been inhabited since 300 AD, and probably considerably earlier. Originally home to Celtic pagans, Christianity was established on Taransay around 650 AD. In 900 AD, Taransay was taken over by Vikings when they invaded Scotland. 1544 saw the Massacre of Taransay by the Morrisons of Lewis. Inhabitants from the island of Berneray retaliated against this, forcing the Morrisons to retreat to a rock where they were executed. The rock was later called Sgeir Bhuailte, meaning "smitten rock".

Taransay was once made up of three villages; Raa, Uidh and Paible (Paibeil). Rent increases in 1835 caused a large decrease in the population of Taransay, made worse in 1883 by new orders that cotter households were no longer allowed to keep livestock or grow neither oats nor barley. The island was abandoned in 1942, and then re-inhabited. In 1961 there was only one family of five, the MacRaes living in the village of Paible, who departed in 1974.[2] Taransay remained uninhabited until 2000 when the island was revived in order to host the television programme Castaway 2000. During the uninhabited years, the island had been used as a sheep-farm, run from the Harris mainland.

From 2001, when the Castaway show ended, Taransay has been a tourist resort, with the buildings being let as holiday accommodation, and boat trips to the island.

Evidence that Vikings settled on the island can be derived from its name, as the word is an Old Norse translation of "the Isle of Taran". The island was most probably named after the Irish Saint Ternan (also known as Taran or Torannan, see also Taranis), although another theory, reported by Saint Adomnan of Iona, suggests that Taran may have been the son of a Noble Pictish family.

The village of Paible had two ancient chapels; the chapel of Saint Taran and the chapel of Saint Keith. The former was used for the burial of women, and the latter for men. A traditional myth on the island suggests that if this was reversed, the dead would rise and the bodies would be disinterred. The remains of Saint Keith's chapel can still be identified on the ground, but the site of Saint Taran's was destroyed by coastal erosion some time in the late 1970s.


Taransay became well known following the BBC show Castaway. The show, organised by Lion Television, featured a group of 36 people marooned on the island for a year starting January 1, 2000. Castaway was broadcast internationally, including to audiences in Germany, America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The show reached nine million viewers at its peak. The cast was made up of volunteers hand-picked from 4000 applicants. They lived in temporary accommodation built especially for the show, known as 'pods', which were based in the former village of Paible. Existing buildings on the island included a Farmhouse, also called the Mackay house and a School Chalet, which were renovated for the show. Since 2004 these have been available as self-catering holiday cottages for tourist use.[5] According to the BBC website, the aim of the project was to "create a new society for the new millennium".

Unlike the original inhabitants of the island, the "castaways" had access to electricity and a water supply, as well as limited modern conveniences. Of the 36 who joined the show, 29 remained on the island for the whole year, including Ben Fogle who went on to be a presenter for a number of BBC shows, including Countryfile. The show was reported to be a social experiment, focusing on how this group would form a community.

Castaway 2007 was a semi-related follow-up to Castaway 2000. However it was based on the considerably warmer Great Barrier Island, located 90 km north-east of central Auckland in New Zealand rather than Taransay.

The Rocket Post

A fictionalised account of a 1934 experiment by German inventor Gerhard Zucker to provide a postal service to the island of Scarp by rocket mail formed the basis of a 2001 film, called The Rocket Post, which was filmed on Taransay.[6]


  1. ^ 2001 UK Census per List of islands of Scotland
  2. ^ a b c Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. pp. 278-80. ISBN 1841954543.  
  3. ^ Ordnance Survey
  4. ^ John Ross (26 November 2004). "Isles see rise in bird numbers as trappers kill hundreds of mink". The Scotsman. http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=1357042004. Retrieved 2007-12-14.  
  5. ^ "Home page" Taransay.com. Retrieved 27 June 2009.
  6. ^ "The Rocket Post (2001)" Film Hebrides. Retrieved 21 December 2008.

External links

Coordinates: 57°54′N 7°1′W / 57.9°N 7.017°W / 57.9; -7.017

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