Canna (Scottish Gaelic: Canaigh; Eilean Chanaigh; Scots: Canna) is the westernmost of the Small Isles archipelago, in the ScottishInner Hebrides. It is linked to the neighbouring island of Sanday by a road and sandbanks at low tide. The island is 4.3 miles (6.9 km) long and 1 mile (1.6 km) wide. The isolated skerries of Hyskeir and Humla lie 6.2 miles (10.0 km) south-west of the island.
The islands were left to the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) by their previous owners, the Gaelic folklorists and scholars John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw in 1981, and are run as a farm and conservation area. Canna House, one of two big houses on the island (the other being Tighard), contains John Campbell’s important archives of Gaelic materials that were donated with the islands to the nation. Since then the NTS has engaged in new initiatives to attract new residents and visitors to Canna. However, these initiatives have enjoyed only limited success (see ‘Call for families for Canna’ below), and in December 2017 it was announced that the NTS would be devolving to the island community the responsibility for attracting and retaining new residents on the island.
There are some 20 buildings on Canna and Sanday, including three churches, one of which has been deconsecrated (see below). There is also a post office which was converted from a garden shed. The Canna tea room, which closed in 2008, reopened in 2010 as the Gille Brighde Cafe and Restaurant. This restaurant closed in 2013 but has since re-opened again as Cafe Canna. A new resident manager for the island was appointed in 2010. The island is isolated and in the past inhabitants have had to buy all their provisions from the mainland, but it now has a small unstaffed shop operated on an ‘honesty’ basis. There is a telephone link, a red telephone box and broadband internet access, although there is no mobile phone coverage. Electricity is provided by a diesel generator, at mainland voltage and frequency, and there is a private water supply. In 2010 a proposal to establish a fish farm off Canna was defeated in a residents’ ballot, even though it would have created a number of new jobs.
The island has a very low crime rate, but a mainland-based police officer visits the island twice a year, mainly to inspect gun licences. A doctor based on the neighbouring island of Skye is available for house calls once a month. The roads on Canna are not metalled and are privately owned; local vehicles therefore do not require road tax. The previous footbridge to Sanday was destroyed by storms during 2005, and has recently been replaced by a road bridge. This allows vehicular access at all tide levels for the first time, although the road on Sanday is still covered by high tides. However, in 2017 an appeal was launched to raise funds for the reconstruction of the road on Sanday so that it is also available at high tide.