Island Of The Week: Taransay, Western Isles

The island of Taransay has been deserted for a number of years
The island of Taransay has been deserted for a number of years
Share this article
Have your say

This week we take a look at the deserted island of Taransay.

Location: Outer Hebrides, west of Harris, seperated by a stretch of sea called the Sound of Taransay

Population: 0

Gaelic name: Tarasaigh

History: Named after the Irish Saint Ternan, the island once featured three villages; Raa, Uidh and Paible. The island’s population steadily decreased from the 1835 due to rent rises in the area.

The population again took a dip in 1883 when a ban on keeping livestock or growing oats and barley on the island, and the number of inhabitants steadily decreases through the years before it was largely abandoned in 1942. The final inhabitants, the MacRaes, a family of five, left in 1974 for life on the mainland.

Since then Taransay has become best known as the setting for the groundbreaking television programme Castaway 2000. The reality TV show gave a selected group of 36 people the task of building a self-sustainable community on the remote island. The programme launched the career of TV presenter Ben Fogle.

In 2011, Taransay was purchased by a family from neighbouring Harris for £2m.

What to do: Taransay features some long silver sandy beaches which can provide a great setting for a gentle stroll. You can also visit the site of the two ancient chapels at Paible, one was dedicated to St Taran where women were buried and the other to St Keith and was for the burial of men.

The island is said to be a birdwatcher’s paradise and also boasts a population of wild deer.

How to get there: If you’re going to travel to Taransay, you’ll need to get yourself a boat, or at least find someone who has one. At the moment there are no regularly scheduled trips to the island. Ferries to nearby Harris and Lewis are available courtesy of Calmac.