Paul’s Island Hopping Easter

Young islander Paul from Lewis joined in to visit some youth clubs in Tiree, Cumbrae and Arran over the Easter holidays.

Paul accompanied his mum, Naomi, the Senior Development Worker for the Young Islanders Network who was undertaking the tour as part of planned work to engage with Young Islanders across Scotland, and we thought it would be interesting to also get his perspective, to get a peek into life on other islands for other young people from a young person’s lens.

The trip started with a ferry crossing across the Minch from Stornoway to Ullapool on the MV Loch Seaforth. This is not Paul’s favourite crossing as it is quite bumpy and long, at almost 3 hours, mostly in open waters.

A smiling child sitting in car with a ferry in background.
Paul waiting to board the Loch Seaforth in Stornoway

From Ullapool, there was an hour-long drive to Inverness before heading down past Loch Ness (doing some Nessie spotting) and the gigantic heights of Ben Nevis to Oban the following day. Not used to such long drives in Lewis, Paul needed a break and we stopped off in Fort William where he got to visit the Nevis Centre.

This was the location where the Scottish Rural and Islands Youth Parliament took place last November. Paul spotted the bowling and took the chance to have a game, thrashing his opponent at first but a last shot strike left him defeated by 3 points. Chin up and on the road again, Paul was amazed by Oban. He enjoyed sitting in the upstairs restaurant at dinner and watching the ferries passing through the port, wondering which of the many nearby islands they might be bound for or coming from.

An early wake up at 4.30am the following morning, not to Paul’s agreement, was quickly forgotten as he boarded the MV Clansman to get to Tiree. Paul enjoyed exploring this boat which he had never been on and carefully watched as we passed Kerrera and Mull. He wondered “How many people live on these islands?” and “What kinds of things do young people like to do there?” as well as “What is it like to have to get a ferry to school?”

A boy looking out of the window over the front of a ship with islands in the distance and a lighthouse in daylight.
Paul looking out over the Ross of Mull from the MV Clansman

When we reached Tiree, young islander Sapphire was waiting to meet us as we came off the ferry. It was so lovely to see a welcoming and familiar face, especially as this was Paul’s first time in Tiree. Sapphire gave us a tour of the island, and Paul enjoyed the beaches the most (with the cows a close second).

Paul asked Sapphire lots of questions about life on the island and it was great to be able to see some of the answers. Sapphire showed us round to the school and Paul was surprised at the size of it, with it being both Primary and Secondary school for the whole island. Paul thought Tiree was beautiful, and quite flat.

Three smiling people on a beach path with the sea in the background.
Paul, Naomi and Sapphire on one of the beautiful beaches in Tiree

In the evening, we were able to join in at the Sci-fi club at Tiree Youth Club. It was fantastic to meet up with young islanders Matthew, Mack, Kenzie and Sapphire as well as some of their other young islanders from youth club and of course their wonderful youth worker, Willie. Paul enjoyed watching a movie with the group and having a chance after the movie to catch up on some Young Islanders discussions. Paul hadn’t reached back to the inn yet when he asked,


“When can I go back to youth club? That was great and everyone was so nice.”

Paul, asking about Tiree Youth Club

The following morning, Paul insisted on a stroll on the beach and a short drive past youth club. We were waved off by Mack and Sapphire and met Willie with his second hat on as he works at the ferry pier too.

Next stop was Millport, Isle of Cumbrae and after a soggy start in Largs where there was a very long traffic queue for the ferry, we made the decision to hop on the boat as foot passengers. There was an issue with the regular boat MV Loch Shira due to heavy lorries damaging the ramps, so a smaller vessel, Loch Riddon was doing the short run but had limited space for cars due to its size.

A long line of cars on road along shore front.
The traffic backlog at Largs for the ferry to Cumbrae
A boy standing hands in pocket, hood up on pier with two Calmac ferries in background.
Paul with the Loch Shira (out of service) parked up and the Loch Riddon ferry coming in to the slipway

While waiting in the terminal we bumped into Josephine Pemberton who was recently in Lewis giving a talk on the (St Kilda) Soay Sheep studies. Paul was interested in finding out more about what Josephine did so while we waited for the ferry we looked on the phone for more information.

Paul was surprised when the ferry came that we had to board from the slip and up on the ramp just like the cars, and then were seated in a small, long and narrow space. It felt like the windows were very low to the sea. After a very quick ten-minute crossing, we jumped on the bus to Millport and made our way to the Garrison to the Youth Club hut.

At the newly formed youth club in Millport, we used a map to talk about the islands and Paul told the group about our journey so far and where we were going next. The young people, volunteers and Paul shared some information about school, sports, facilities and what the islands look like as well as ferries. We played some games, getting to know each other more and chatting a bit before the older group came in and we had a little time to make some more introductions.

We hope to see some of the lovely Cumbrae young people come along to the online meetings and events soon! While we were in Millport, we also met with the lovely Jackie from The Boys Brigade. It was great to catch up and she kindly took us back to the ferry port for the last ferry back to the mainland.

Blue skies, ferry with red funnel and two people with their backs to the camera wearing blue jackets.
Heading aboard the Isle of Arran ferry

Last stop on the Easter adventure was the Isle of Arran. Paul was excited to visit Arran as it is the furthest island away from Lewis he had been to in Scotland. The weather had caused ferry cancellations the previous day and there was a backlog of people eager to get across from Ardrossan. Paul commented on how busy the small Isle of Arran ferry was, it was so busy that we had to sit outside for the entire crossing. This did mean that we got an excellent view of Arran as we approached and Paul was very surprised at how green it was.


“The Arran ferry is my favourite one out of them all because we can stand at the very front and watch what the crew are doing when we come into port, and it has a good coffee cabin.”

Paul on deciding which is his favourite ferry so far

We were met by youth worker Sam as we arrived in Brodick, and she kindly drove us to the youth club in Lamlash.

A graffiti wall in background and a line of smiling young people facing the camera with a pool table in foreground.
Some of the Arran Youth Foundations young people who took part in the session

Paul was impressed by the location of the youth club with a pitch and a play park right next door and then was even more impressed when he got inside and saw all the cool technology and musical instuments on offer. Paul made friends and enjoyed making a ‘potion’ out of food bits and doing artwork as well as getting a tour of the youth club facilities. We chatted to young people about the Young Islanders Network and some of the group did a “map your island” activity to show us what was there and what they like and dislike about Arran, as well as what they wish was there.

Paul asked questions about how many people lived in Arran, how many primary schools there are and how big the high school is. He also asked the group what it is like to live on an island near to Glasgow, but also not and some of the young people said it is great to be able to get to the mainland and go to Glasgow but they don’t do it as much as they would like because of how unreliable the ferries are.

Departures written on the wall over a door. A boy standing by a model of a ship in a case.
Paul showing us the Loch Seaforth ferry model in Ullapool ferry terminal

Over the 8 days, Paul had many new experiences and learned lots of new things about the other islands. He also used the opportunity to share his own experiences. Paul was inspired by the youth clubs and he said,


“They (the youth clubs) are all so different, and I would love to go back to them all. They are really good fun and I liked getting to try new things. I have lots of ideas to take back to our youth club, it would be good to try some of these things there.”

Paul, reflecting on all the island youth clubs visited.

After 8 ferry crossings, a week away from home and seeing sights from the highest of mountains to the flat island of Tiree, Paul was very glad to see the port of Stornoway as we arrived back home. His Monday news at school this week was so jam-packed it will require at least a part two next week to get through it all after this island adventure!

We would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to the young people who were so willing and welcoming during our visits, and who shared their experiences and hopes with us through workshops and discussions. We want to give a big THANK YOU to the youth workers who supported our visits and who made sure we were well looked after and who continue to help us do the work of the Young Islanders Network in their islands throughout the year. We also want to give a special THANK YOU to Sapphire for her wonderful tour of Tiree and a big THANK YOU to Youth Scotland for allowing Paul to join in with in this great experience.

A boy in colourful jacket holding a Mermaid's Purse up close with beach in background.
Paul with the Mermaid’s Purse he found on the beach in Tiree