Originally called Inis Shroin (House of the Water Spirit), the Holy Island seems to have been a place of great spiritual importance from the time it was founded. Around 700 CE the island later became the home of Saint Molaise. He lived in a cave, which has since been named after him.
Today, Holy Island is home to a community of Buddhist monks in the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Apparently a vision of the Virgin Mary persuaded the previous owner to sell it to Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, who is one of the monks. There is a retreat center, a monastery and an interfaith 'Peace Hall.' The monks regard the island as their own and attempt to enforce their rules on visitors. If you get caught smoking, or if you get found with any amount of alcohol, drugs or tobacco the monks will tell you to leave the island. Pets are also discouraged on the island because of its unique wildlife. This has been more emphatically enforced since 2009, when a dog was bought onto the island on a private boat and it killed a rare Soay sheep -- a unique breed.
The highest point on the island is at 314m, and it is around 3km long and 1km wide.
The only way to get in is to take a boat from Lamlash (see Isle of Arran for details). If you arrive on Arran in Brodick take a ten minute ride on bus number 323 to Lamlash Pier.
At the Lamlash Pier, board the small Holy Isle Ferry (rather a boat) for a ten minute ride to Holy Island. It is advised to contact the boatman, Jim Blakey, after 6 pm on the evening before your departure to check the times of tides suitable for sailing (phone +44 1770 700463 or +44 7970 771960). Leaflets for the ferry are available all over Arran. Prices are £6 single and £10 return as of 2010.
Between April and the end of October, the Holy Isle Ferry normally runs at times to connect with the 09:45, 12:30 and 15:15 CalMac ferries from the 1 Ardrossan Harbour on the mainland.
Whether the ferry runs is influenced by the tides. At strong winds a crossing is not possible.
- View of Lamlash and the mainland - especially beautiful at sunrise.
- Buddhist Monastery - not accessible to the public as it is used as a place of retreat.
- Sacred caves
- Buddhist art
- Wild ponies, Soay sheep and goats
- The Holy Spring (and the infamous sign)
- The fairies in the garden on Holy Isle.
- Go for a walk around the island.
- Volunteer to work on monastery gardens and building projects.
- Meditate, relax, get enlightened.
- Have tea with a Buddhist monk.
There is a gift shop called The Boathouse near the Peace Hall, selling gifts, recipes and other things.
Meals are only available if you stay at the monastery. For all other things, you can go to the Co-op in Lamlash.
Be aware that meat is forbidden to the Buddhists, so only eat your meat in secret!
Alcohol will be frowned upon by the Buddhists. If you get found with any amount of alcohol, drugs or tobacco you can expect to be instructed to leave the island by the monks although you have no obligation to comply. On the other hand, you can get free tea and coffee at the gift shop.
- At the monastery, ☏ . Check-in: After 2:00pm, check-out: Before noon. There is accommodation at the monastery. A bed in the 8-bed dormitory costs £29 per night, a single room £49 and a double room £72. Two sea view rooms are also available, costing £85 per night or £60 for single occupancy. Prices include 3 vegetarian meals per day. A non-refundable £20 reservation deposit is required when booking. If you volunteer on the island for 5 days, you get 25% off.
- Wild camping. Although a legal right, it is strongly discouraged by the Buddhists. You can camp at a few places on the island, but if you are seen camping and/or lighting a fire, you can expect a hostile reception from the monks.
There are no other destinations than going back to Isle of Arran.