Isle Martin Near Ullapool
Isle of Martin is situated at the mouth of Loch Broom, some three miles northwest of Ullapool in Wester Ross. The nearest mainland is less than a mile away at Ardmair. This strategic location has been important in both the commercial and cultural history of the island.
There is little in the way of documented history of Isle Martin prior to the late 18th century, although the island must have been an important place for many years prior to that. It is probable that the island has been inhabited off and on for several thousand years. The only specific, but anecdotal, references are to a St. Martin who is reputed to have established a monastery on the Island, probably around 300-400 AD and after whom the island is named.
The British Fisheries Society
By the 18th century there was an important and active trade in fish from the island, and a John Woodhouse, from Liverpool, established a herring station and associated customs house. This closed in 1813 after successive years of failing catches. During this period there were probably around a hundred people living on the island.
Crofting and Agriculture
The island has probably been farmed since people first lived there, and agriculture and fishing must have been the mainstays of the island economy for most of its history. During the 1820’s the island was divided into crofts, and crofting tenure. It would have been predominantly used for cattle and sheep grazing, with some limited arable land at the southern end near the main settlement.
A flourmill was operated between 1939 and 1948 on the old herring station site. Wheat was imported by ship, and flour supplied to bakeries across the north. Most of the mill workforce was brought by ferry from Ardmair on a daily basis.
The last private owner of the island ceased further sheep grazing in 1969. A small herd of Highland cattle was then maintained until 1979, when Mrs. Monica Goldsmith gifted the island to the R.S.P.B and since then no domestic stock have grazed the island.
Isle Martin Now
The R.S.P.B gifted the island on May 3 1999 to a charitable trust formed by the communities of Lochbroom and Coigeach. Residents, together with people having close local connections, are eligible to join the Trust. Plans for the early island years have been published but decisions on these and all future developments entirely lie with Trustees elected from and by, members and the expressed wishes of Members and Friends of Isle Martin, (those who live out with the parish but have joined the trust).
Presently uninhabited and having no facilities, the island provides the opportunity to wander and to view the developing woodland, the ruinous fishing villages, both ancient and “modern”, and see St. Martin’s Cross and what is thought to be either a post Reformation chapel or session house. There appears to be evidence of an earlier building running east west, south of the existing roofless building. In the nesting season visitors to the island are required to avoid the areas shown on the Isle Martin leaflet. An endearing feature and lasting memory of the island, in its setting of hill and loch, lies in the sense of tranquillity that now pervades the ancient site.
Use the menu below for a walk through the past history of Ullapool. If there is anything you would like to add or if indeed you have some old photos of Ullapool and its people we would love to hear from you.
| Before 1788