GeologyNatural HistoryHistorical ArchiveSea Room by Adam NicolsonWestminster Shiant Isles Expedition 1958 & 2002 width=Sign the Guest Book
Sea Room

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Published by
Harper Collins

Sea Room describes - and relives - a love affair with three tiny islands in the Hebrides which the author has owned for the last twenty years. The Shiants (the name means the holy or enchanted islands) are a wild and dramatic place, with 500 foot high cliffs of black columnar basalt, surrounded by tide rips, filled in the summer with hundreds of thousands of seabirds and with a long and haunting history of hermits, shipwreckers, famine and eviction. Adam Nicolson's father, Nigel, bought them as an Oxford undergraduate in 1937 for 1,400 and gave them to his son on his 21st birthday. They became the most important thing in his life, not only an escape but as the source of a deep engagement with the natural world in some of its most beautiful, alarming and all-encompassing forms.

Sea Room - a sailing term which Nicolson uses to mean 'the sense of enlargement which island life can give you' - is a long investigation of man's relationship to these islands in particular and to islands in general. Why should a dark age hermit (whose cross-inscribed stone pillow the author discovered during an excavation of one of the Shiants' ruins) have chosen this place to come nearer to his God? What was it that allowed four or five families to live here since the stone age? And what drove them out towards the end of 18th century? What is it about islands now that continues to have such a hold on the literary and the travelling imagination? This book is a response to all those questions, but also more than that: a hymn of praise by the author to the islands he owns and loves.

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© 2001 Adam Nicolson