Zen and now: Life under lockdown on Scotland's Holy Isle

A tiny island home to a Tibetan Buddhist community is among the luckiest in the UK - as life has barely changed under lockdown.

Holy Isle, just off the coast of the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde, is currently home to 14 people, aged between 19 and 80 years old.

The tiny island, which measures just 3km long and 1km wide, is linked with the first Tibetan Buddhist centre in the west, Kagyu Samye Ling, in Dumfries and Galloway.

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The last person to arrive was on March 17, and no-one has shown symptoms of coronavirus - but strict hygiene protocols are being followed around receiving deliveries from another island, although most food is grown on Holy Isle.

Holy Isle, near Arran in the Firth of Clyde, is home to community of Tibetan Buddhists
Holy Isle, near Arran in the Firth of Clyde, is home to community of Tibetan Buddhists

Life has continued as normal - with an early morning meditation session around 6am, followed breakfast, eaten communally, and then a six or seven hour working day with lunch.

Meditations resume each evening for an hour, at 5pm and 7pm, followed by dinner.

Most people stay in private rooms or dorms, although long-term residents have their own cabins.

Manager of the Centre for World Peace and Health, Adam Rose, 58, believes life has continued virtually as normal, except for courses on yoga and meditation being cancelled.

The tiny island is is currently home to 14 people aged between 19 and 80 years old, with most food grown on site

Mr Rose said: “I wouldn’t say life hasn’t changed, but maybe we’re among the luckiest people in the UK.

“We’re just getting on with our usual jobs.

“We're doing what we normally would do but we just don’t have any guests.

“It’s a six or seven hour working day, with lunch in between.

This youngster is among a herd of Soay sheep sharing Holy Isle with the Buddhists

“If there’s been no rain the gardeners start early.

“As a spiritual centre we have Tibetan prayers and meditation practices, it gives structure to the day.

“We’re happy here day to day and the morale’s great.

“It’s not at all clear how we’ll emerge from this but we’re hopeful for the future - we just take things a day at a time.”

Life on Holy Isle has barely changed under lockdown

Former civil servant Mr Rose moved to the island in 2006 when he got fed up working in London.

He was the last person to arrive, on March 17 - but others, visiting from the Czech Republic and Italy, found themselves stranded when flights were cancelled.

Mr Rose said: “We’ve all been here since, including a couple, and there was one from the Czech Republic and another from Italy.

“Flights were cancelled, there was no movement and they got cut off.

“There’s people who haven’t been off the island in seven or eight months.”

As well as growing potatoes, kale, salad leaves and strawberries, deliveries of tinned goods are sent over from neighbouring Arran - with surplus vegetables also sent there.

The Buddhist community has carried on with most of their usual activities, but strict hygiene protocols are being followed around receiving deliveries from off the island

But extra care has to be taken around deliveries.

Mr Rose said: “The hygiene precautions have been around the deliveries.

“The little ferry comes once a week and they drop it on the jetty and we pick it up with gloves and spray some items - but that’s the limit.”

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Former civil servant Adam Rose, 58, is manager of the Centre for World Peace and Health - he moved to the island in 2006 when he got fed up working in London
The remainder of the island is treated as a nature reserve, with wild Eriskay ponies, Saanen goats and Soay sheep roaming free
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