Meet the Owners: Eilean Sionnach, Isle of Skye
Meet Angel Sedgwick, owner of Eilean Sionnach - a pet-friendly former lighthouse keeper's cottage sleeping up to 8 guests, beautifully positioned on a private island off the Isle of Skye, Scotland.
How did you come to own Eilean Sionnach, and what first inspired you to turn it into holiday accommodation?
My mother Paulita Sedgwick bought it in the mid 80s from the Fowlers, a local family who also at the time owned Isle Ornsay. She had always dreamed of owning an island getaway, and mentioned this to a friend who just happened to know of one that was for sale! I went up with her to see it (I was about 10 at the time) and we both fell in love with it.
Over the following years my mum would spend several months of the year there working on film scripts and painting, including several winters. She was a very eccentric and characterful person and she made her mark on the place. She was also well-known and much loved in the local community.
By the time she passed away in 2009 the cottage was in poor repair. I made it my goal to bring it back to life, which was a monumental undertaking. So many people told me of the love that they had for the place that I decided to make it not just a getaway for me and my family, but to make it a truly special destination that others could also enjoy. After six years of hard work and worry, we opened as a holiday cottage late into the 2019 season, so really 2020 was meant to be our first ‘full season' - just in time for the Covid pandemic.
Have you always been in hospitality? If not, what else did / do you do?
I have remodelled a number of properties for sale or long term rental. Eilean Sionnach is my first venture into hospitality, though I have formed a team who are already well-experienced in the field.
I live in California with my young family and my main employment is as a Risk and Security Consultant for governmental and international corporate clients. Life is very busy, but I try to get to the island whenever time and commitments allow. Thankfully, these days other people are able to make the most of it during my absence.
What's the best thing about being the owner of Eilean Sionnach?
It's hard to say as there are so many great things about owning this special little corner of the world and I feel humbled to get to spend my time on this earth being Eilean Sionnach's current custodian.
As for specific highlights...staying on the island is magical of course. In recent times, sharing a real ‘sense of purpose' with the team has been an exciting and rewarding adventure. The feedback we have had since opening our doors so that others can also enjoy this special place has been incredibly rewarding and I look forward, with sense of anticipation, to seeing our plans come to life over the coming years.
What's your favourite feature of the property?
Taking the property in its widest sense (to mean the whole island), it's the hill behind the house, where the view is amazing and constantly changing. It's best enjoyed with a picnic blanket and a hot toddy (whisky).
Inside the house, I'd have to say the atmospheric dining room. It features in a key scene in S.K. Tremayne's bestselling Thriller novel, The Ice Twins but I've also shared many warm, fun, happy times around that table with friends and family.
Emotionally, it's that feeling that envelopes you when the tide is in and you know you're marooned on this tiny little island for at least the next few hours. Suffice to say, it is a very special and unique sense that I've rarely felt anywhere else.
What do you love about the local area?
Isleornsay is a great little community and the Sleat peninsula really is the hidden gem of Skye. Many tourists rush North towards the main town of Portree and dash around Skye's ‘top five highlights.'
In Sleat, life is at a slower place, it's somewhere to enjoy the little pleasures in life or even to simply stop and ‘be.' Sit at the bar sharing a pint with the locals. Take afternoon tea at Kinloch Lodge and if you feel like exploring, perhaps book a foraging session with Mitch. Or wander down the road to the end of the Sleat Peninsula where you arrive to the tiny, but beautiful Sandy Bay, keeping an eye out for dolphins, harbour porpoises and basking sharks along the way.
There are many beautiful and little explored corners of the Sleat Peninsula and it's also home to some of the island's best seafood, restaurants, art and of course the centre of Gaelic culture. Sol Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic college is a venue for many music and cultural events around the year. These things are not well covered in the main national and international tourist brochures so you will find yourself fully immersed in local life if you venture to join in.
What's next for Eilean Sionnach?
We want to continue to build our reputation and our offering. We're aiming to make the walled garden a useable recreational space and perhaps also restore part of it to its former roots as a vegetable garden, with traditional produce that the lighthouse keeper and his wife would have tended. It would be great for guests to be able to help out in the garden if they felt like doing so during their stay and for our private chef to be able to pick fresh veg to use in his dishes.
We attract a lot of honeymoon couples too, so perhaps down the line we might create a small covered area in the walled garden that would be suitable for small scale weddings. We imagine the newly-weds standing on the shore waving farewell to their guests as the sun sets, leaving them with the tranquillity of their very own private island to enjoy.
We also want to complete work on the Artists' Bothy, an external building at the rear of the cottage where artists, writers and musicians alike can retreat for peace and quiet and to inspire creativity.
The workshop inside the house is also part of ‘phase two.' It's currently a very functional workshop for our handyman to work in. We'll make this into a rustic boot room where guests can throw off wet wellies and outdoor gear in comfort, before heading in to toast themselves warm by the log burner.
If you couldn't stay at your place, where would your ideal holiday be?
I have a thing for islands. My other favourite is a small island in Cape Cod that my family have visited for generations.
Sum up Eilean Sionnach in three words
Adventure, Seclusion, Tranquillity
If you were visiting, how would you spend a day at Eilean Sionnach?
If I were visiting for just one day, I wouldn't leave the island at all! Stay in your PJs, grab a coffee, pull your wellies on and explore your own four-acre playground. It's the sort of place that, the longer you stay, the more you discover as you learn to relax into a slower pace of life and appreciate all the small things. At first, clamber on the rocks and admire the lighthouse. During the first few hours, take hundreds of pictures and maybe dash indoors for another coffee as a shower passes through. Take hours to prepare and eat lunch and have music blaring through the house as you relax and unwind.
After lunch, take a short siesta. Why not? You're on holiday and at any rate, the tide may be in by now, so there's literally nowhere you need to be. Enjoy that feeling.
When you awake, venture outside again and notice how everything has changed: the weather; the light, the colours, the state of the tide. Now keep a close eye out for wildlife in the water and if you're lucky, you'll see dolphins, harbour porpoises, minke whales, seals and otters (all of which pass by the island on a regular basis.) Look in the rock pools too. Small fish, star fish, sea urchins, crabs and a myriad of other interesting creatures are waiting to be found. Take a really close look at passing jelly fish too, as they are mesmerising - we defy you not to lose yourself in that moment.
If the weather's fair and the tide is right, try your hand at fishing (a rod and tackle are provided in the workshop.) If you have children with you, they'll love rock pooling or crab lining. Later on, head inside again and perhaps bake something for afternoon tea. Then it's time to sit down and pick up a good book, or begin a lengthy board game (a variety of books and games for all ages are provided.)
At around 7pm, the dinner you ordered in advance from our private chef will be delivered by Skipper Gus. Connor the chef provides everything you need for a pre-prepared, stay-at-home fine dining experience. All you have to do is heat it up and put it on the plate. After a leisurely dinner where you linger over a glass of wine, head out to watch the lighthouse begin its quiet conversation with the neighbouring lighthouse across the bay. Then, if the weather is favourable, enjoy a dram by our fire pit as you gaze at the endless starry sky, or alternatively, retire indoors to the fireside for a quick nightcap. Finally, take time to luxuriate in our free standing roll top bath before tucking up in one of our sumptuous beds for the night.
BUT! Eilean Sionnach is not really the place for a one night stay or a day trip. It's a place to spend time. A place to simply just ‘be.' A place to re-discover your soul. We urge you to come to the island for at least five days and to ‘stay put' for at least three of those, if you really want to discover what this little island has to offer you.
Find out more about Eilean Sionnach via their Host Unusual listing, and plan your private island escape today!