November 1, 2023 | Sammy Tran

The Remote Island of Foula

The Remote Island of Foula

Island split image

Nestled amidst the vast North Atlantic, Foula stands as one of Britain's most remote inhabited islands.

With its rugged beauty, rare wildlife, and unique culture, this island offers a glimpse into a life less ordinary. But what really defines this place?

Let's dive into the details of Foula, this little-known gem of Scotland.


Island of FoulaMike Pennington, Wikimedia Commons

Found off the west coast of mainland Shetland, Scotland, Foula is the seventh largest and one of the most westerly of the Shetland Islands.

It's a remote paradise, lying about 20 miles from the mainland.


Island of FoulaRichard Webb, Wikimedia Commons

Home to only 30 residents, Foula’s population has seen a decline, like many other remote communities. This dwindling number is primarily due to the challenges of maintaining a modern livelihood on such an isolated island.

The local school, for instance, has a mere handful of students. Residents are largely descendants of the island's ancient families and have held onto their roots for generations.


Foula Lighthouse Julian Paren, Wikimedia Commons

Given its remoteness, Foula doesn’t boast of the amenities of a bustling town. It's equipped with the basics: a post office, a small primary school, and a church.

There isn’t a pub or a shop on the island, so residents rely on deliveries from the mainland for many of their needs.

Electricity is supplied by wind turbines and solar panels.


Culture and Way of Life

Island of Foula Julian Paren, Wikimedia Commons

Life on Foula is a blend of tradition and modernity. While residents have modern amenities, they also hold dear their age-old customs.

The island is known for observing the Julian calendar, celebrating Christmas on January 6th and New Year's on January 13th.

Sheep farming and crafting play an integral role in the island's culture. The local dialect, a variant of the Shetland dialect, can still be heard among the island's inhabitants.

What is the island known for?

Island of FoulaJohn Lucas, Wikimedia Commons

Apart from its stunning natural beauty, Foula was the filming location for Michael Powell's 1937 movie "The Edge of the World."

It showcased the challenges of life on such a remote island, drawing inspiration from the real story of St Kilda, another Scottish island.

Highlights and Significance

Island of FoulaJulian Paren, Wikimedia Commons

Foula's cliffs are among the highest in the UK, with the Kame being the most notable at 376 meters high.

The island is also significant for its biodiversity, designated as a Special Protection Area for its bird colonies.


Island of FoulaOwain Sutton, Wikimedia Commons

Foula’s isolation doesn’t deter the intrepid traveler.

Those who make the journey are rewarded with breathtaking cliffs, abundant birdlife, including the Arctic tern and great skua, and panoramic views of the vast ocean.

The island also has historical significance, with ancient ruins and artifacts scattered around, which suggest that it has been inhabited since the Bronze Age.

Final Thoughts

Island of FoulaJulian Paren, Wikimedia Commons

A visit to Foula is like stepping back in time. Away from the din of modern life, it offers serenity, beauty, and a unique cultural experience. 

While it may not be the usual tourist hotspot, Foula remains a testament to the resilience of its inhabitants and the allure of life on the edge.