'We've just moved to a remote island we'd never visited'

Media caption,
The couple spoke to BBC Scotland's The Nine about moving to the island

It is a bold move to set up home in a new place but it takes real bravery to throw your belongings in a van and set out for life on a remote island you have never even visited.

Bristol couple Alex Mumford and Buffy Cracknell have dropped everything to start a new adventure living and working in a tiny community on the Isle of Rum, 30 miles off the Scottish mainland.

Back in August the Isle of Rum Community Trust made a call for new residents and the pair were among hundreds who applied.

This week they finally made it to the place they had only ever googled.

Image caption,
Four days after arriving on the island and mastering the log burner, the couple were still smiling

"Both of us have always enjoyed being in the middle of nowhere, and when we went away to New Zealand last year we knew it was something we wanted to do long-term and when this came up, we knew this would be something we could enjoy," Alex told BBC Scotland's The Nine.

"Life on Rum will be wet, but there will also be a lot of community life which is something we are really looking forward to," said Buffy.

"Nature, being able to go on long walks, see lots of wildlife and being able to go out the door and walk without having to get into the car.

"Because its a small community there will be a nice aspect of knowing everyone. In Bristol we didn't get to know people."

Image source, House By The Stream blog
Image caption,
Alex and Buffy's eco house is in a development of four properties which have all been filled with young families

Rum, one of the Small Isles in the Inner Hebrides, has a population of between 30 and 40, depending on the time of year and seasonal workers.

Just two children attend its primary school.

Life on the island is literally "off-grid" and small hydro-electric schemes provide power.

For many years it has been difficult for potential settlers to consider moving there without a job offer and a home to move into.

'Island way of life'

The community trust decided to change that by sourcing funding to build four new eco homes with high quality fibre broadband in the village of Kinloch, and then invited people to come and rent them.

The appeal asked for "individuals or families keen to fit in to the island way of life" and people with a trade, a skill or other business which would help diversify and grow the local economy.

Families with children were particularly welcome, with the two school pupils keen to make new friends.

More than 4,000 inquiries came, and 440 serious applications were made.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Rum has a population of between 30 and 40 with more people in the summer months, but that has now been boosted with 14 new arrivals

From the massive response, four couples were selected, three from England and one from Scotland, with six children between them.

The project, five years in the making, saw three of the new families move in this week and one more to arrive over the weekend.

Steve Robertson, the island's development officer, said: "We have six new kids, all under eight which is wonderful. They are all starting to find their feet and things are starting to slot into place.

"We desperately needed new people to help Rum become a outward-looking, dynamic island and it is great to have these little bright sparks running around.

"The new young families will play a crucial role in sharing the load in the future of the island.

"There are challenges - the ferry and the remoteness, but there are lots of positives to living on an island."

Hard work

Alex and Buffy tried to visit but, as they started their journey north, the second English lockdown was called. Their final decision to move was based on a lot of internet research.

Alex said: "During lockdown we were stuck in the Bristol flat thinking we should be doing more than that. And the opportunity to live somewhere like this, we found it and we just went for it.

"Life's too short to hold back. Take that step and go for it. If it doesn't work we'll do something else, we have each other. We have put the hard work in and we are coming to it wholeheartedly."

Image source, Alex Mumford
Image caption,
Just the general view on way to the local store

The couple have been on the island for less than a week and tried to be as prepared as they could.

They arrived with 27 tins of beans and 12 tins of chopped tomatoes.

Alex, a qualified childcare worker, is hoping to work in the school and get involved in a new nursery next year. Buffy will continue her work in content, websites and marketing.

Both are preparing to turn their hobbies - cooking, baking and knitting - into ways to generate income.

And the long-term plan is to boost the school roll.

Image source, Buffy Cracknell
Image caption,
Alex and Buffy have enjoyed exploring their new home

Alex said: "I think children - if we are going to have them - it's going to be in a place like this. We are looking at that long term. We hope this is a long-term move, I have flitted about places for too long."

Buffy agrees: "Now we are here the reality has set in - what we need to do. But we know we can do it. We are not prepared for the midges yet but we still have time."

And she is still in awe at her new surroundings

"Literally right now there are two stags about 100m away from the window," she said.

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