Virginia Woolf – To the Lighthouse

To the lighthouse

Virginia Woolf – To the Lighthouse

The Hogath Press, 1927

What does one send to the Lighthouse? It opened doors in one’s mind […]

Woolf set her story about the holidaying Ramsay family on the isle of Skye. The Scottish island setting is distinctive – the weather, the sense of isolation, the sea, the vast and often inhospitable landscape – but there are no clearly recognisable landmarks. And the lighthouse is not a distinct Skye lighthouse, but was inspired by her own childhood memories of Godvery beach n Cornwall. Fans have no locations to trace.

So much has already been written about this gem of a novel; people have obtained their doctorate with a dissertation on its structure, symbols, hidden meanings. And when you take the time, To the Lighthouse will capture you and transport you the island of all childhood summers.

I first read it when I was still in high school, where the modernist classic was considered essential reading (meaning obligatory). As a teenager I was taken by the allure of the lightly connected sentences that seemed to mean much more than I could understand. Nothing was too obvious, it was all so inconclusive. The characters seemed very old-fashioned and vague. All that ado about not going to the lighthouse, and then going after all.

Thirty years later, for my visit to Skye this year, I read the book for a second time and it was like reaching a new destination. I now understood the lighthouse to be a symbol of unfulfilled desire, an unreachable destination. The quiet, profound love of Mr and Mrs Ramsay’s marriage says it all.

This novel about a family holiday to a far away island, in a time when not many people had the privilege to go on vacation, is essentially a group psychoanalysis of familie ties, braching off at friends, memories, time and death.

Read more about about  Skye on 2Islomaniacs.



Mountains for sale – Isle of Skye

View on the Cuillin

Mountains are wild places; indisputable elements of nature, for all to enjoy and for no one to own. Right? The 29th McLeod chief thought otherwise. When he found himself strapped for cash and with the clan’s seat, Dunvegan Castle*, eternally in disrepair, he decided to sell the mountains of Skye. Sell the soul of the island to the highest bidder! People laughed at his foolishness, because they knew the Cuillin weren’t his to sell. But John McLeod produced some deed documents from 1611 and decided he wanted to pocket £10 million pounds for them. Decried by islanders, environmentalists and MSPs, McLeod said he didn’t understand the fuss; it wasn’t as if he was going off to a tropical island, sipping cocktails. He would use the money wisely to conserve Dunvegan. He told the newspapers the castle was as leaky as a sieve and that guests needed umbrellas at the dining table.

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Local heroes – Isle of Skye

A small monument beside the road reminds of a group of local heroes and their leader John MacPherson. In 1882 they stood up against their big landowner due to grazing disputes on Waterstein Farm. Their persistent resistance and occupation of the land landed them in prison. But their case was investigated and reached parliament all the way in London, a world apart, resulting in land reform. Glendale became a community owned estate and still is. The crofters are the freeholders of the land on which they live and work. The actions of these 19th century crofters caused a domino effect throughout the Scottish Highlands and Islands, eventually resulting in the historical Crofters Act.

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