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Gaelic name Gòmastra
Norse name Goðrmaðrey
Meaning of name Possibly Good-man's island
Gometra is located in Argyll and Bute
Gometra shown within Argyll and Bute
OS grid reference
Physical geography
Island group Mull
Area 425 hectares (1.6 sq mi)[1]
Area rank 75 [2]
Highest elevation 155 metres (509 ft)[3]
Political geography
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country Scotland
Council area Argyll and Bute
Population 2[4]
Population rank 86= [2]
Population density 0.5 people/km2[1][4]

Gometra (Scottish Gaelic: Gòmastra ) is an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, lying west of Mull. It lies immediately west of Ulva, to which it is linked by a bridge, and at low tide also by a beach. It is approximately 425 hectares (1.64 sq mi) in size. The name is also applied to the island summit, which is a Marilyn.

Elevation 155 m (509 ft)
Prominence 155 m (509 ft)
Listing Marilyn
Location Off the coast of Mull, Scotland
Topo map OS Landrangers 47, 48


  • Etymology 1
  • Geography 2
  • History 3
  • Transport 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


According to Gillies (1906) Gometra is from the Norse gottr + madr + ey and means "The good-man's island" or "God-man's island".[5] Mac an Tàilleir (2003) offers "Godmund's island".[6] The Norse Goðrmaðray may also mean "warrior priest's island". The Gaelic Gu mòr traigh meaning "only at low tide" has been proposed as the meaning of the name, but may be an example of folk etymology. Mediaeval charters render the name "Gomedrach".


Bridge connecting Gometra on left to Ulva on right

The island is agricultural, formerly growing grain for the monastery on Iona.[7] Once home to a population of over a hundred, it is now down to a tight-knit community of a handful of people, up to a thousand black face sheep, highland cattle, pigs, horses, a flock of feral goats, and red deer. Historical sites on the island include an old burial ground, the remains of two duns and old settlements.[7] It has no school, doctor, or ferry. It has a weekly postal service.

It is part of the Loch Na Keal National Scenic Area, one of 40 in Scotland.[8]


The island became part of the Kingdom of the Isles, during the Norse era. Whereas nearby Ulva and Staffa belonged to the MacQuarries from the 10th century, Gometra became a possession of the Iona monastery prior to passing into the hands of the Duke of Argyll. Dean Monro makes no mention of Gometra or Ulva in his 1549 work A Description Of The Western Isles of Scotland but both are referred to briefly by John Monipennie c. 1612, stating of the latter that "about 300 paces from this island, lyeth Gomatra, two miles long and one mile broad".[9]

In 1845 Gometra was sold by the MacDonalds of Staffa to Francis William Clark of Ulva, a lawyer from Stirling, of Morayshire origin[10] who began a brutal clearance of a substantial proportion of the inhabitants of both Gometra and Ulva within a few years.[11]

In 1932, the island was sold to the English mountaineer Hugh Ruttledge (1884–1961), who had taken early retirement from the Indian Civil Service and planned a life as a farmer. While living on the island, Ruttledge led two British expeditions to Mount Everest, in 1933 and 1936, and took up sailing. In 1950, he moved to Dartmoor.[7][12]

Gometra House had fallen into disrepair and parts were near collapse by the 1980s, but was reoccupied and restored as a family home in the 1990s.[7] Principal exports include blackface breeding stock, lamb, mutton, wool, venison, oysters, vegetables, art and jewellery. There are currently four households on the island, and the islanders are dedicated to a low-impact lifestyle, living off-grid, doing without electricity in their homes, washing machines or cars on the island.

In 2012 concerns were expressed by islanders about the siting of a large fish farm by the Scottish Salmon Company in Loch Tuath to the north of the island.[13]


Weather and tides permitting, it takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to travel by track from the houses on the west of Gometra to the ferry landing stage on Ulva for the crossing to Mull, using a 4x4 vehicle. The same trip can be done in 50 minutes on a quad bike. By boat from Acarseid Mhòr the journey only takes 20 minutes.[13]

The north coast of Gometra from Mull


  1. ^ a b Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 79
  2. ^ a b Area and population ranks: there are c. 300 islands >20ha in extent and were listed in the 2011 census.
  3. ^  
  4. ^ a b National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf) Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland - Release 1C (Part Two). "Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland’s inhabited islands". Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  5. ^ Gillies (1906) p. 129.
  6. ^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) pp. 58-59
  7. ^ a b c d Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 105
  8. ^ "National Scenic Areas". SNH. Retrieved 30 Mar 2011.
  9. ^ Monipennie p. 186
  10. ^ Clan MacQuarrie, A history, R.W. Munro & Alan MacQuarrie, 1986 Ch.6 p.86
  11. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 102-03
  12. ^ Salkeld, Audrey, Ruttledge, Hugh (1884–1961), mountaineer in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, online at Ruttledge, Hugh (1884–1961) (subscription required) accessed 1 March 2008
  13. ^ a b Ross, David (27 August 2012) "Residents of tiny island to fight plan for salmon farm". Glasgow. The Herald.


  • Gillies, Hugh Cameron (1906) The Place Names of Argyll. London. David Nutt.
  • Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate.  
  • Mac an Tàilleir, Iain (2003) Ainmean-àite/Placenames. (pdf) Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  • Monipennie, John (1818) An Abridgement, or Summarie of the Chronicles of Scotland with a Briefe description of Scotland, to which is added The description of the Western Isles of Scotland &c. Edinburgh. David Webster. First published c. 1612.

External links

  • Island's Website

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