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Cape Wrath Hermit

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Strathchailleach bothy murals, 2009
Strathchailleach bothy murals
© David Greer
Strathchailleach Bothy, 2003
Strathchailleach Bothy
© Ian Bolton

The Cape Wrath Hermit was James McRory Smith, known as Sandy, who lived at Strathchailleach on Cape Wrath for more than 30 years, where he stayed until 1994 and the onset of ill health finally forced him to leave his chosen isolation. He had moved there in the early 1960s, after leaving the Army and embarking upon an itinerant lifestyle, moving from one abandoned and isolated property to another, until setting there.

His home was described as having no access road, no running water, no electricity, and no telephone. He made his own furniture from fish boxes and driftwood washed onto the shore, and kept warm by burning peat he dug from the moor, and ate trout caught in nearby lochs. He also painted murals on the walls within his home.

A biography written about him tells of two significant events in his past that brought major change to his life, and that both involved women very close to him. The first involved his mother, and the second his wife. It also describes him as a complex character, intelligent and resourceful, artistic and creative. However, he also drank heavily, a habit which resulted in regular confrontation with hillwalkers and anglers who visited his bothy home, and the law.[1][2]

Another account claims he had been a riveter in a Glasgow shipyard, before giving up his job and seeking a life of solitude. This also tells us he fell ill and was admitted to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness where he died, aged 75. He was buried in the tiny hamlet of Sheigra, which lies just a few miles from his home on the Cape. It tells of the time in 1981, when volunteers rebuilt much of the house after winds blew down a gable wall, and threatened to destroy the remainder of the structure around its occupant.[3]

According to the text that accompanied the 2003 photograph of his home:

This bothy was the home of hermit James McRory Smith who lived here for 32 years until 1996. He died in 1999 at Raigmore hospital, Inverness and is buried nearby at Sheigra. To collect his pension and supplies involved a weekly 21 mile round trip on foot.


1 Highland Hermit | Amenta Publishing Retrieved April 22, 2013.

2 Highland Hermit – Chapter 1 | Amenta Publishing Retrieved April 22, 2013.

3 Cape Wrath Retrieved April 22, 2013.

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