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Issue 6 - Sir Iain Noble's Hebrides

Scotland Magazine Issue 6
February 2003


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Sir Iain Noble's Hebrides


In 1969, established entrepreneur Sir Iain Noble decided to buy the Eilean Iarmain estate on Skye. There he founded the Gaelic whisky company Pràban na Linne, and made the ultimate commitment to the islands: becoming a fluent Gaelic speaker.

Q: What first brought you to the Hebrides?

A: I became interested in the Hebrides during the 1960s, and especially after visiting the Faroe Islands, and seeing their high level of prosperity, remoteness and the retention of their own language. I saw no reason why the Hebrides should not be the same. I have always been interested in what used to be called “The Highland Problem”, created by immigration and brain drain, and wanted to help find a solution.

Q: What, in your opinion, are the area’s main attractions?

A: There are a few interesting archaeological sites, a handful of historic buildings, mostly ruins, beaches, unpredictable weather.

Q: What would be your ideal day in the islands?

A: Spending time with Gaelic-speaking friends who know the history and traditional Gaelic music of the area.

Q: Has devolution changed the Hebrides in your eyes?

A: Yes, it has been a painful experience but a necessary one. The Scottish Parliament needs to learn about flair, excitement and stimulation in order to play a proper leadership role in Scotland. It has to untie the apron strings from Westminster to a much greater extent. Home rule in Scotland has not yet impacted very much except that administration is in the hands of people who are more local, but who, frankly, have a dull approach to government.

Q: How do you think the Hebrides could be improved?

A: Areturn to cultural identity and Gaelic immersion would be my top priority. I believe this would provide a huge restoration of confidence and self-respect, which would lead to economic revival throughout the area.

Q: Who are your Scottish heroes – historical and contemporary?

A: I support all those who have demonstrated leadership, courage or intellectual gifts throughout the ages, starting from Calgacus, King Arthur (assuming he lived in the Scottish Borders), Somerled, Wallace, Bruce, James IV, Andrew Fletcher, David Hume and Adam Smith, Walter Scott and many others.

Q: Did you find Gaelic hard to learn?

A: No, I didn’t find Gaelic hard to learn, but the first bit is hardest.

Q: Is there anywhere you regularly go to eat in the islands?

A: I often eat in our wee hotel at Eilean Iarmain. Good eating places are not plentiful, but there are a few worth nosing out like The Three Chimneys and Kinloch Lodge on Skye, The Old Manse at Sgarista, Harris, and The Rendezvous in Breacais, also on Skye.

Q: What is your favourite local dish?

A: I find myself going increasingly organic. Prawns, lobsters and shellfish are probably my favourites.

Q: Are there any tourist attractions in the Hebrides that really stand out?

A: Probably Iona, but any tourist attraction which attracts a lot of visitors immediately becomes less attractive in the process.
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  • In : Interview
  • Issue : 6
  • Page : 56
  • Words : 499

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