LIKE so many great ideas it began in the pub and involved water – but not the sort you add to your whisky.

Instead, what the tipplers were discussing was a plan for a skimming stone competition.

On the tiny Scottish island of Easdale in 1983, retired police officer Bert Baker dreamt up the idea up after a few drinks. He promptly dragged his pals out after closing time to a disused quarry where they held the first championship.

But it was soon dropped as just a bit of fun and lay fallow until it was resurrected in 1997 as a fundraising event.

More than 30 years after it was first mooted, Easdale – population 65 –hosts the World Skimming Stone Championships with 800 people travelling to the island from all over the globe to take part or spectate.

Today, people will gather around a flooded quarry to watch 350 participants of all ages and levels of skill spin flat stones across the water.

Organiser Donald Melville says: “Easdale was once the centre of a thriving Scottish slate industry. When that folded in the early part of last century we were left with flooded quarries and a lot of slate that had been washed back from the sea where it had been dumped, so we have an abundance of perfect skimming stones on the beach.”

The championships are held every year on the last Sunday in September with people coming from as far afield as Japan, Russia and the USA to take part.

For a skim to qualify the stone must bounce at least three times. It is then judged on the distance achieved before it sinks.

For one weekend a year Easdale, the smallest permanently-inhabited island of the Inner Hebrides, is over-run with people, most of whom stay in Oban, 16 miles away on the mainland, as there is scant room other than a handful of self-catering cottages and a B&B that also has a modest campsite.

A small, open ferry is kept busy carrying 10 passengers at a time on a five-minute journey to and from the neighbouring Isle of Seil, which is connected to the mainland across a thin sea channel by the hump-backed Clachan Bridge, popularly known as the Bridge Over The Atlantic. There are no cars on Easdale and the islanders use wheelbarrows to ferry goods around.

“It’s a fantastic event – there’s a pre-skim party with dancing to a live band and a barbeque the night before. There’s a special late-night ferry service at the end of the night. The next day hundreds of people line up around one of the disused quarry to watch and take part in the championships,” says Melville.

“A lot of people just want to have a laugh but there are some competitors who take it very seriously, so we have strict rules and categories that split up people by age groups and gender.

“Every year we have a team that comes over from Switzerland, where they also have a stone skimming competition, as well as Germany, Holland and further afield. At the end of the event we hold an awards ceremony and make sure everyone gets onto the ferry within operating hours.

“It’s really put Easdale on the map as we’ve been on Japanese and Russian television, as well as on British television.

“It’s great fun on a beautiful island and a terrific family day – the children love it."