Adam Nicolson's father had answered a newspaper advertisement in the 1930s: "Uninhabited islands for sale. Outer Hebrides. 600 acres. 500 ft basaltic cliffs. Puffins and seals. Cabin. Apply Col. Kenneth Macdonald, Portree, Skye." These were the Shiants, three of the loneliest of the British Isles, set in a dangerous sea, with no more than a stone-built, rat-ridden bothy as accommodation, five miles or so off the coast of Lewis. They cost #1400 and for that he bought one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Adam Nicolson inherited the islands when he was 21 - an astonishing gift - and they became in many ways the core of his life. In this book, he tells the full story of his own experiences there, amid the dazzling concentration of birds, with flocks of guillemots, razorbills, great skuas and 240,000 puffins coming in every spring out of the North Atlantic to breed; the violence and danger of the surrounding seas; the songs and poems which cluster around the islands; the accounts of attempted murder, witchcraft and catastrophe; the treasured place which the Shiants still hold in the Hebridean mind.
"Sea Room" describes the Shiants as a microcosm of richness, their long and at times painful history combined with a natural world at its most potent: Bronze Age gold and the memory of sea eagles, an 8th-century hermit and his carved pillow stone, 18th-century memories soaked into the landscape and stories passed down from generation to generation. This is not the account of a castaway on a deserted rock but its opposite: a celebration of the life which an extraordinary island enshrines.
Adam Nicolson is the author of many books on history, travel and the environment. He is winner of the Somerset Maugham Award and the British Topography Prize and lives on a farm in Sussex.