Island Years, Island Farm by Frank Fraser Darling

“A remarkable portrait of a family adapting to isolation and the extremes of nature, in a land shaped by an unceasing and intimate relationship with its people.” Iain Stewart

Unhappily land-locked in his early adult life, Frank Fraser Darling’s fortunes changed when he began visiting Scotland’s west coast in the 1930s. Surviving treacherous boat journeys, a broken leg, and hell-bent storms, he made temporary homes with his family on some of the remotest Hebridean islands so he could study the habits of grey seals and seabirds. The family finally settled on an abandoned croft in the Summer Isles, on Tanera Mòr, and started farming the barren land.

Read the full introduction by Iain Stewart


Paperback with flaps | 210 mm x 156 mm | 312 pages


In stock


Frank Fraser Darling was born in a farm stable near Chesterfield. Aged 15 he ran away from school and worked in the Pennines. At agricultural college he met ‘Bobbie’ (Marian Fraser), a fellow student who became his first wife in 1925. He gave up farming in Buckinghamshire for a PhD at Edinburgh University in 1928, and later won a research fellowship to study red deer in the Scottish Highlands. In 1937 he moved to the remote Summer Isles to observe seals and seabirds, and during this time became a pioneer of human ecology. Alongside his scientific work, he wrote many popular books about natural history, including A Herd of Red Deer (1937), Island Years (1940), Island Farm (1943) and the Collins New Naturalist Natural History of the Highlands (1947). His groundbreaking Reith Lectures of 1969, Wilderness and Plenty, foretold a human-made climate change.

Additional information

Weight350 g
Dimensions14 × 156 × 216 mm

1 review for Island Years, Island Farm by Frank Fraser Darling

  1. the Guardian

    Ian Jack, columnist for the Guardian and the former-editor the Independent on Sunday and Granta, journeyed to Tanera Mòr recently, to discover the island where Frank Fraser Darling lived with his family in the ruins of the 18th-century herring factory.

    ‘Fraser Darling was a practical kind of romantic’, he writes in the Financial Times. Reading Island Years, Island Farm on Tanera Mòr, Ian Jack found it ‘a moving experience: our immediate surroundings were intimately described and little had changed. The soil in the back garden was still as black . . . Down below, in the valley that cuts the island in two, the field that Fraser Darling reclaimed (a picture in his book shows it lined proudly with corn stooks) had returned to reeds and bog.’

    Maybe next year we’ll finally get ourselves to the Summer Isles!

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