Dissertation Mapping Camp: Isle of Rum – Part 1

Over the Summer of 2016, between my second and third years of my degree, I had to undertake a minimum of 28 day of fieldwork for my dissertation.

After carefully choosing the location of our dissertation fieldwork based on our geological interests, the terrain and personal goals, we planned our journey to the Isle of Rum. After several months of planning, we left Plymouth only days after completing our second year and embarked on the toughest 5 weeks of our university lives (to date)!

My journey from Plymouth to the island took several days. I left Plymouth on Tuesday and travelled up to Portsmouth to stay will my parents for a few days. On Friday evening I boarded a coach from Portsmouth to London, changing onto the London-Glasgow night bus at Victoria Station. The night bus was like nothing I’ve ever seen (except maybe in the Harry Potter films!). Bunks lined the bus and blankets and pillows were handed out. I managed to get a good 6 hours of comfortable sleep. At Glasgow I met all but 2 members of our team and we made the train journey to our overnight stop in Mallaig. We boarded the ferry to Rum on the Sunday Morning and waved goodbye to the mainland. Little did we know that this would be our last sight of civilization for 5 weeks…

Arriving onto the Isle of Rum on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon, we were greeted by some of the islanders and shown to the bunkhouse. We settled in and decided to explore our new home. It took us less than half an hour to discover the remoteness of Rum. A single shop/post office/bar served the village of ~25 people and a village hall provided the centre for entertainment. No phone signal except in the phone box and limited internet connection. Even the sat-phone struggled to find a signal! The rest of the island was a wide expanse of mountain wilderness.

The first week on the island was exciting and challenging. With higher than average summer temperatures and steep slopes to climb, we quickly discovered we were going to have to improve out stamina…and fast! My team decided to test ourselves on day 4, with a hike to our highest point, Barkeval (591m). We surprised ourselves with our physical capabilities! With expert guidance from our dissertation supervisor, Paul, we found ourselves rapidly developing our knowledge of the geology of Rum. Sadly, one of our team decided to leave Rum at the end of our first week.


With week one completed, it was time to say goodbye to Paul and venture out into the wild unsupervised. Before leaving Paul gave us a final pep talk, reminding us to support each other and to watch out for ‘island fever’, which he had encountered during his time on the island Montserrat. In hindsight, we took his warning a little too lightly…

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