Scotland's hermit hideaways: the caves, castles and hideaways once home to those seeking a solitary life

For centuries, the hermit has found a natural home in Scotland.

Main pic
Main pic

Caves, old bothies and even islands have been used by those needing space, sanctuary and shelter over the years. From the former bank worker from Dundee who lived in a cave for more that 20 years to the little castle on a Highland beach by an architect needing some time out, here we look at the stories of nine hermits and the places that they called home.

Caiplie Coves have a history of occupation, since the 9th century when St Adrian and his followers carved crosses on the wall of Chapel Cave. In 1938, suspected spy, Jimmy Gilligan lived with his dogs in the most easterly caves.

Sign up to our History and Heritage newsletter

Sign up to our History and Heritage newsletter

In 1955 David Scott, a young architect from Norwich, travelled to Scotland and ended up at Achmelvich near Lochinver where he spent six months building a concrete hideout on the rocky outcrop.
A former miner from Ayrshire, hermit Johnny Logie lived in this cave for more than 20 years. He was injured in a pit accident and decided to retreat to this isolated spot beside the shore of Luce Bay.
This cave was inhabited by Henry Ewing Torbet, also known as Snib, for 20 years until his death in 1983 at the age of 71. Once a former bank clerk from Dundee, he went on the move and ended up living living the life of a hermit.
This bothy was the home of hermit James McRory Smith for 32 years. The former soldier used to walk for miles to collect his pension and shopping from the post office at Balchrick. He died in 1999 aged 73 and is buried nearby.
Many stories surround Maiden's Bower but the hideaway was most likely built by a shepherd who worked the surrounding hills. One fable says how it was once the home to a woman whose lover was killed by her father.
St Fillan lived a hermits life in the cave after spending time wandering around Scotland, spreading his gospel. Long after his death his staff and bell were taken to the Battle of Bannockburn as talismans.
According to reports, this tiny one-bedroom house was home to Domhnall Sgodaidh who lived in isolated bliss next to Tob Cheurabhagh on Great Bernera in the Outer Hebrides.
The Bass Rock reached notoriety during the 17th Century as a remote, unforgiving jail for Scotlands political and religious prisoners. But it once enjoyed a more peaceful era - as home to a 6th Century Christian monk, St Baldred.