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Holy Island, Firth of Clyde facts for kids

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Holy Island
Gaelic name An t-Eilean Àrd or Eilean MoLaise
Meaning of name "the high island" or "Laisren's island" in Gaelic.
Holy Island from Lamlash
Holy Island from Lamlash
OS grid reference NS063297
Coordinates 55°32′N 5°04′W / 55.53°N 5.07°W / 55.53; -5.07
Physical geography
Island group Firth of Clyde
Area 253 ha (1 sq mi)
Area rank 95 
Highest elevation Mullach Mòr, 1,030 ft (314 m) – a Marilyn
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country Scotland
Council area North Ayrshire
Population 31
Population density 12/km2 (31/sq mi)
Mullach Mòr
Highest point
Elevation 1,030 ft (310 m)
Prominence 1,030 ft (310 m)
Listing Marilyn
English translation Big hill
Language of name Gaelic
Location Firth of Clyde, Scotland
OS grid NS063297
Topo map OS Landranger 69

The Holy Island or Holy Isle (Scottish Gaelic: Eilean MoLaise) is an island in the Firth of Clyde, off the west coast of central Scotland, inside Lamlash Bay on the larger Isle of Arran. The island is around 3 kilometres (1 78 mi) long and around 1 kilometre (58 mi) wide. Its highest point is the hill Mullach Mòr.


The island has a long history as a sacred site, with a spring or holy well held to have healing properties, the hermit cave of 6th century monk St Molaise, and evidence of a 13th-century monastery. An old Gaelic name for the island was Eilean MoLaise, Molaise's Island; this is the origin (via Elmolaise and Limolas) of "Lamlash", the name of the village on Arran that faces Holy Island.

Some runic writing is to be found on the roof of St Molaise's cave and a Viking fleet sheltered between Arran and Holy Isle before the Battle of Largs.

In 1549, Dean Monro wrote of the "little ile callit the yle of Molass, quherin there was foundit by Johne, Lord of the iles, ane monastry of friars, which is decayit."

Present day

In 1992, the island was in the possession of Kay Morris, a devout Catholic who reportedly had a dream in which the Virgin Mary instructed her to give ownership of the island to the Samyé Ling Buddhist Community, who belong to the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. The settlements on the island include the Centre for World Peace and Health, founded by Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, on the north of the island. This is an environmentally designed residential centre for courses and retreats which extends the former farm house. It has solar water heating and a reed-bed sewage treatment system. The approach from the ferry jetty is decorated with Tibetan flags and stupas. On the southern end of the island lives a community of nuns who are undertaking three year retreats.

The remainder of the island is treated as a nature reserve with wild Eriskay ponies, Saanen goats, Soay sheep and the replanting of native trees. The rare Rock Whitebeam tree is found on the island, an essential link in the evolution of the Arran Whitebeam species, Sorbus arranensis, Sorbus pseudofennica and Sorbus pseudomeinichii. These are indigenous and unique to Arran.

There is a regular ferry service from Lamlash, and the island is popular with holiday makers staying on Arran. The usually resident population was recorded as 31 in 2011, an increase from 13 in 2001.


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