There is something interesting about the scenery of an island in the distance. Surrounded by miles of open ocean on all sides, these little pieces of land are steeped in a sense of mystery, and it's a new land to explore.
No less interesting is the history of the inhabitants of these islands who have formed a deep bond with their environment over the centuries. Their cultures and histories are shaped by the rugged environment and their isolation from the outside world.
Much like the first settlers who were inspired to establish life on the fringes of the civilized world, these Atlantic islands continue to inspire explorers, adventurers, and anyone fascinated by remote and mysterious places.
10 ROCKALL ISLAND
Although not an island as much as the 18 m (60 ft) bird-covered granite rock in the middle of the ocean, Rockall is technically the westernmost point in the UK. It is located 465 kilometers (290 mi) off the coast of Britain and 710 kilometers (440 mi) south of Iceland, which is roughly the literal definition of "middle of nowhere".
Despite its remote location, Scandinavian sailors knew the island and named it "Rocal," which likely translates to "bald, windy head." The name seems fitting for a desolate island like Rockall. British politician Lord Kennett said, "There could be no place more solitary, desperate and terrible."
Rockall is sometimes referred to as "Rocabarraigh" in Scottish Gaelic. Scottish legend describes Rokkabarai as an island or rock that will appear three times, the last appearing at the end of the world.
In 1955 when a nuclear apocalypse was looming, the British Admiralty finally claimed Rocal on behalf of the crown. This prevented the island from being used as a control point by the Soviet Union when the United Kingdom tested its first nuclear missile in the North Atlantic.
9: FOULA ISLAND
Voula is part of the Shetland Islands and one of the most remote and permanently inhabited places in Europe. Although Voula is inhabited by only 38 people, the history of Voula stretches back to 3000 BC.
A semi-circular stone circle on the north side of the island has been examined by archaeologists who have confirmed that it was built before 1000 BC. The stone circle is somewhat oval in shape. Its axis points to the winter solstice, a possible indication of its use for religious purposes.
Fula has retained an isolated culture filled with Scandinavian elements. In fact, the name of the island, like many other Scottish islands, comes from the Norsemen who occupied and settled there in the Viking Age.
Residents still celebrate the Julian calendar, celebrating Christmas on January 6. A local resident described Christmas in Voula as follows: “Families open their presents in their homes, and then in the evening we all end up in one house.”
Fula was one of the last places where the now-extinct Nurem language was spoken in everyday use. Norn, a language descended from Old Norse, was spoken throughout the northern islands until the end of the 18th century. It began to decline after the northern islands of Scotland were granted by the Norwegian crown in the late 15th century.
8: ST. KILDA ISLAND
St Kilda is a small archipelago located in the far west of the coast of Scotland. Herta is the largest and only inhabited island of the group. The St Kilda Islands are perhaps the most famous of the Scottish outlying islands due to their remoteness, history and scenic views.
The islands make for an impressive spectacle, with clear cliffs rising from the sea hundreds of feet into the air. Hirta is inaccessible except for some entry points, and even those that are hard to reach in anything other than ideal weather conditions.
The islands have been inhabited for 2,000 years, and there is evidence of earlier settlement in the Stone Age. Icelandic records indicate that Norsemen conquered the island and assimilated into the island's culture in the Viking Age. This claim is supported by many Norse place names on the islands.
The dominant theme in St Kildan's history is the complete isolation experienced by its inhabitants. The islands were so isolated that the inhabitants maintained a religion that was a mixture of priests and Christianity. Kurdish pogroms were still present in the eighteenth century despite numerous attempts to convert the population to a purer form of Christianity.
The real evidence of the islanders' lack of interest in the outside world came when the islanders visited the islands in search of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, pretender to the throne. It was discovered that the islanders had never heard of him before. And they had not heard of their King George II.
7: FLANNAN ISLES
The Flannan Islands, which mainly consist of seven small islands off the coast of Scotland, are only 145.5 acres in size. It has been uninhabited since the lighthouse on the largest island, Eilean Mor, was automated.
The Flannan Islands are far away. Yet it is closer to the coast of the Outer Hebrides than Herta, which has been inhabited for thousands of years.
It is possible that the small size and remoteness of the Flanan Islands is the reason for remaining uninhabited for long periods of time. However, the ruins of a chapel and several huts (huts) and other evidence indicate that the islands were once home to a secluded monastic community.
In the late 19th century, a lighthouse was built at Eilean Mor. The islands became home to a famous mystery in the 1900's when the three lighthouse keepers disappeared simultaneously without a trace.
The men all disappeared on the day of a terrible storm that destroyed one of two landings on the island, causing massive damage to equipment and infrastructure. At one location, grass was uprooted away from a 61-meter (200-foot) cliff, indicating that huge waves had crashed onto the island.
The disappearance garnered a great deal of media attention and captured the imagination of the British public. Soon, many wild theories emerged. The conditions seemed very strange, especially with everything neatly arranged inside the lighthouse except for an overturned chair on the kitchen table.
Northern Lighthouse Council rules dictated that the lighthouse should never be left unattended, yet the men all disappeared at once. Another strange detail was a batch of oily skins left behind. This indicated that one of the lighthouse keepers had rushed outside so quickly that he didn't even bother to put on the proper gear.
This puzzle has not been fully resolved. Although plausible theories have been proposed, the disappearance continues to impress mystery lovers to this day.
6: DRANGEY ISLAND
Drangey is an island located in the center of Skagafjorour, a large fjord in northern Iceland. The island is the remains of a 700,000-year-old volcano that eroded, leaving behind a natural island fortress protected on all sides by clear cliffs. It can only be accessed by one road.
In the 11th century, the mighty Icelandic hero Gretter escaped to Drangey with his brother and slave and lived there for a few years. Gretter was banished from Iceland, the most severe form of punishment in Viking Age Iceland.
As the story goes, the last fire in Drangey was extinguished and the men had no way of starting the fire. Since there was no boat on the island, Greater swam across more than 6 kilometers (4 mi) of open ocean to the mainland to set fire to Rieker. Greater was eventually killed by his enemies while he was dying of an infection.
Drangy is home to millions of seabirds. It is hunted by up to 200 farmers from nearby areas every summer, with 200,000 birds being a good hunting season.
The birds are usually hunted using three rafts tied together with rope and covered with nooses made of horsehair. Although this method was once popular in Iceland, it is now considered inhumane because the rafts sometimes drift, leaving birds trapped in the nooses to die of starvation after several days.
5: SURTSEY ISLAND
Surtsey is an island located off the southern coast of Iceland. The newest addition to the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago, Surtsey rose from the sea on November 14, 1963, as a result of a volcanic eruption below sea level.
The eruption lasted for four years and produced the island, which is 2.6 square kilometers (1 mile 2). Since then, erosion has reduced the island to nearly half its original size. The island is of great interest from scientists from many disciplines, especially geologists and biologists, and access to the island is limited to scientific workers.
Other such islands rose briefly from the sea around Iceland. But they eroded quickly because they were sandbanks made up of coarse volcanic pebbles formed when molten lava meets cold sea water and explodes. The volcanic eruption at Surtsey was special because it reached a critical point where seawater could no longer flow into volcanic vents, allowing magma to flow freely.
Plant life had already settled on Surtsey before the eruption stopped. Now, the island is covered with algae. Soon the island was colonized by birds, and in 1998 the first bush began to grow in Surtsey.
In 1977, scientists baffled by a potato plant growing in Surtsey. But soon it was discovered that it was planted as a joke by teenagers who came from a nearby island.
After a while, a scientist rested himself outside, leaving behind a piece of human excrement from which a tomato plant had grown. Potatoes and tomatoes were discarded, and the responsible authorities were reprimanded for introducing foreign species to the island.
4: JAN MAYEN ISLAND
Jan Mayen is a large island located approximately halfway between Norway and Greenland, about 595 kilometers (370 mi) north of Iceland. The island consists of two parts, a southern part, and a much larger northern part, connected by an isthmus.
Jan Mayen is a volcanic island, and the landscape is dominated by a huge volcanic cone, Beerenberg. In all likelihood, the island was first discovered by Scandinavian sailors, who described the island of two-day sailing north of Iceland.
They called it "Svalbaro" ("Cold Coast"). However, with the end of the Viking Age, the Norwegians and Icelanders halted almost all open cruises and the island was forgotten for centuries.
Jan Mayen has a complex history of discoveries. It was verifiably rediscovered by three separate expeditions in the summer of 1614. It was at this time that the island got its final name - named after Jan, the Dutch captain of a whaling ship that arrived on the island in May.
Thereafter, Jan Mayen became a haven for Dutch whalers who established semi-permanent hunting bases there. Thousands of whales have been hunted in the sea around Jan Mayen, with some species nearing local extinction.
In 1634, seven Dutch whalers tried to stay on the island during the winter for the first time. All of them died of scurvy and diseases caused by eating raw polar bear meat. A few years later, the whales apparently left Jan Mayen in search of safer waters. So the Dutch abandoned the island altogether, and things reigned in Jan Mayen again.
In the twentieth century, the island was incorporated into the Kingdom of Norway. Today, it can only be visited by a select few, mostly Norwegian scientists or military personnel.
3: LITLA DIMUN ISLAND
Litla Dimun is the smallest of the 18 main islands in the Faroe Islands. It has the shape of a cylindrical cone with the entire southern side formed by sheer cliffs, which makes landing on the Little Demon very difficult.
The difficult landing is probably the reason why it is believed that the island was never inhabited by humans, a feature somewhat unique among the islands of the Atlantic Ocean. However, it has been used for sheep grazing since the Neolithic period.
Until the 19th century, the Little Damon was home to the feral sheep, descended from the sheep introduced by early settlers in northern Europe to the Faroe Islands. The breed was similar to that of the other isolated islands of the North Atlantic off the coast of Scotland. Today, feral sheep are extinct and the island is home to only modern Faroe Islands sheep.
In the fall, farmers from the Faroe Islands sail to Little Damon to collect sheep for slaughter and shearing. The sheep are driven into a pen on the north side of the island, where the sheep's feet are tied together.
Then they are lowered into nets at the edge of the cliff in a boat that takes them to the mainland. This is done to keep the sheep safe indoors during the winter.
2: SVALBARD ISLAND
Svalbard, an archipelago located far north of the Arctic Circle, is the northernmost permanent settlement on Earth. Svalbard is an unincorporated region of Norway, although there is a Russian mining settlement on the largest island.
Norway's relationship with Svalbard is a bit complicated. Officially designated as a demilitarized zone, its natural resources can be extracted by foreign governments that have signed the Treaty of Svalbard. As of 2016, there are 45 parties to the treaty.
Glaciers cover 60 percent of Svalbard's total area, and during the winter, it experiences a polar night. In Longyearbyen, the largest settlement, the polar night lasts from October 26 to February 15.
With no road systems on the islands, there are only isolated stretches of road within cities or mining areas. Snowmobile is the main mode of transportation, especially in winter.
Traveling outside settlements can be risky because Svalbard is home to a huge number of polar bears. Anyone traveling outside of settlements is required to carry equipment to hunt polar bears, and the government strongly recommends carrying a firearm.
Svalbard may seem like a paradise for nature and gun lovers. But unfortunately, it is almost impossible to move to Svalbard unless you already have a job there. Most homes on the islands are owned by companies and rented to employees.
1: RONA ISLAND
Runa, often called North Runa to distinguish it from another Scottish island of the same name, is the northernmost island in Scotland. It is so remote that it is often omitted from UK maps. It has been inhabited and deserted several times over the past 1500 years. But the missing population was very small, only about 30 people.
Before the Viking Age, the island was probably inhabited by Christian hermits. Many Scottish islands were subsequently conquered by the Vikings and were under Norwegian rule for several centuries. Although the Norse presence on Runa has never been positively confirmed, the name "Runa" may be of Norse origin.
In the 8th century, the island reportedly became home to Saint Ronan. It is said that he built the small Christian chapel that still exists on the island. This letter may be the oldest Christian building still standing in Scotland.
Visitors can crawl into the small sunken structure made of earth and waterless stone and see a rough stone cross still standing in the corner. Perhaps this gives insight into the lives of hermits who lived in Runa in voluntary seclusion a thousand years ago.