They are amongst the most stunning islands in the world, mostly uninhabited but also home to an unwelcome tide of plastic pollution. 

Now, a concerned group of nine women kayakers have paid to combine a holiday in the waters of the north-west coast with collecting plastic from the shores of the Summer Isles. 

The eco-trip has been so successful that the tour operator is planning more.

The plastic paddlers were led by Erin Bastian, of Cornwall-based Evoke Adventure.

They teamed up with Kayak Summer Isles and over several days collected 
“tonnes of nets, crates, rope, buoys, toys and endless amounts of plastic bottles”.

Will Copestake, 28, owner of Kayak Summer Isles, was named both Scottish 
and UK Adventurer of the year in 2015 for his 364- day solo trip round Scotland by kayak and continuous ascent of all 282 Munros in winter.

But he said he had become increasingly concerned about the damage being done by marine plastic.

He said: “So, together with Erin, we put on this trip where people paid to pick up plastic but also kayak to some of the most beautiful places.

“In total, we collected plastic from seven or eight beaches. There was so much plastic that I could have filled my trailer up five times over. It was mostly fishing gear.

“Some of the plastic was really old and very brittle. There were even tins that originated from the old Klondyker factory ships that used to visit the area in the 1960s. 

We are doing a lot of trips to the Summer Isles and it was nice to give something back and do something positive for the environment.

“What was surprising was that what rubbish you saw from a distance was nothing compared to when you got close up. It was far worse than we expected.”

Mr Copestake said the trip was such a success that more would be run next year at a day cost of £65-per-person, which includes all equipment hire and a guide.

He added: “It is really interesting to see how motivated people have been. People have wanted to have a holiday which does some good for the environment as well as themselves.”

Ms Bastian, 30, from Falmouth in Cornwall, said the women who had joined her on the plastic pick up had come from all over the UK, including Wales, Brighton and London.

She said: “I have seen more and more plastic in the sea in recent years and it is challenging to say the least particularly collecting it in hard-to-reach beaches. So I decided to do something about it. 

“This trip combined adventure with activism and everybody felt good that they were doing something great for themselves as well as the environment. I am planning more of these types of expeditions in Scotland and elsewhere. We probably collected at least a ton of plastic on every single beach – on some more. It was horrendous and a much bigger project than we envisaged.”

The organisation Living Seas has also helped remove the rubbish.

The Summer Isles are an archipelago lying in the mouth of Loch Broom.

Tanera Mor, the main isle, is the only one that is inhabited – by a few people – and issues its own postage stamps.

The 800-acre island’s population grows in summer with seasonal staff running self-catering holiday lets, the post office, cafe and sailing school. About 5,000 people visit the island annually, many on tourist boats from Ullapool and Achiltibuie.

The Summer Isles Post Office located on Tanera is notable for issuing its own postage stamps since 1970.

Tanera is the only Scottish island to operate a year-round private postal service.
A letter posted on Tanera must therefore bear two stamps: a Summer Isles stamp to carry it from Tanera to the mainland post office in Achiltibuie, and a Royal Mail stamp for the rest of its journey.

Tanera was the location that provided inspiration for Frank Fraser Darling’s book Island Farm. The pagan-cult island of Summerisle featured in the film The Wicker Man is thought by some film critics to be set in the archipelago, although the movie itself was filmed in Galloway and Plockton.

The island is home to various protected species, including the European otter, and it has flora unusual for the area because there are no sheep, rabbits or deer to feed on it.

Tanera Mor was bought in 2017 by English hedge fund tycoon Ian Wace. Mr Wace, who has a reported net worth of £590 million, is overseeing a four-year programme of improvements to make it a retreat capable of hosting up to 60 paying guests.