Scotland and its wild Hebridean islands

Among Scotland's great gifts to the world are peated single malts and finely woven tweed. Over a few drams, we meet the visionaries who draw their inspiration from the wild Hebridean islands.

By Helen Anderson
It started with the promise of hand-dived scallops and an honesty box for payment, and a beach scoured by Atlantic gales. During a summer holiday I spent drinking peaty whisky and ferrying between Scotland's Hebridean islands, someone mentioned an untended shack on the far-north island of Lewis and Harris in which plump scallops appeared like magic. People have travelled further for less, I'm sure.
A year later, we're listening to the BBC news in Gaelic on a hire-car radio, following a ribbon of road that winds through lumpy peatland, past the Callanish Stones arranged thousands of years ago in some still-mysterious pattern, past the Otter Bunkhouse (for humans or otters, or both?) to a vowel-burdened place called Uig. We stop high above a beach – pale, empty and scoured by Atlantic gales – and turn back. Hidden around a hairpin turn is a pier on a loch, and beside it is The Scallop Shack, a wee beaten-up shed clad in strings of scallop shells that shiver and rasp in the wind. The door is open. Inside is a wooden box for payments, a ceramic chook full of loose change, scribbled notes of thanks from today's customers, and a bar fridge. Empty. Och.