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Living in the Isle of Canna: The local area guide

An area of remote natural beauty and a haven for rare wildlife, the Isle of Canna is situated in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. This secluded island is just 1 mile long and 4.3 miles wide, divided by a narrow stretch of water from neighbouring Sanday. Canna was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1981, formerly owned by renowned folklorist and scholar John Lorne Campbell. The stately Canna House retains archives of his work, along with other artefacts pertaining to the island’s rich history over the millennia.

One factor that really makes the Isle of Canna stand out is its strong community spirit. The National Trust for Scotland has put initiatives in motion to draw new residents to the island, and visitors arrive on a regular basis to explore its natural attractions and archaeological sites. With unspoilt landscapes, residents can often see dolphins frolicking in the water as well as distinct birdlife including puffins, peregrine falcons, and golden eagles.


Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a far more sizeable community ranging between 250-300 residents, but this has dwindled over the years and today the island is fairly isolated.

The total population of Canna is often combined with neighbouring Sanday, and the two communities share resources. As of 2015, there were 12 residents on Canna and 7 on Sanday for a combined total of 19. This has gone up from the 2001 census, when there were only 12 residents combined.

Over the past decade, the NTS has put forth a number of initiatives to attract new families to Canna in order to ensure that residents have the skill set they need. As a result, in 2006, the NTS encouraged new residents skilled in trades such as plumbing, gardening, and construction to take up residence in Canna.


A single primary school exists to serve the students in both Canna and Sanday. There are only 3 students enrolled at the moment, but the school is capable of offering education for P1-P7 students. The Canna Primary School is located on neighbouring Sanday, and it offers two spacious classrooms as well as a well-maintained, grassy play area for students to pursue sports and recreation.

There’s no secondary school on Canna, so students must take the ferry over to Mallaig High School on the mainland. The journey can take five hours when you factor getting there and back, and so children from Canna and Sanday are able to board in the school’s hostel during weekdays. Mallaig High School boasts pupil attainment well above national averages, and the school excels in subjects including French, Music, English, and Art.


The Isle of Canna is small enough that you can walk from one end of the island to the other in a little over an hour, but there are also single-track roads to link the various buildings. There’s a brand new bridge linking Canna and Sanday, which means that residents don’t have to wait until low tide to make the crossing as they did in the past.

Ferry services are operated by the Caledonian MacBrayne company. It takes approximately 2.5 hours to make the journey between Canna and Mallaig on the mainland, and this ferry line also stops at neighbouring islands throughout the Small Isles, including Rùm, Eigg, and Muck. Vehicles can be taken on the ferry.

Amenities and shopping

As you might expect from a community so small, there is a limited number of shopping opportunities in the Isle of Canna. However, residents can visit the Canna Community Shop to stock up on basic groceries, milk, bread, and various sundries. Souvenirs are also available here for visitors to the island.

There are three churches on Canna and Sanday, and one of them now houses a community art centre. Residents can also find a post office branch, red telephone box, and the friendly Café Canna which serves coffee, tea, sandwiches, and soups.

There is no GP surgery on the island, but a doctor makes the journey from Skye once a month for scheduled house calls. Broadband internet is also available, although there is no mobile phone reception.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the above information is up to date, some inaccuracies may occur. If you notice any inaccuracies please contact

All information was correct at time of publication and is provided in good faith.

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