George McGavin, entomologist and author

Where is it?


How did you discover it?

We always spent our family summer holidays somewhere on the west coast of Scotland, or on one of the islands. It’s hard to pick one special place but, if I had to, it would be Iona. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s when holidaying at home was pretty much the norm. These days people seem to want to go abroad and lie about on beaches. I’m so glad I had the chance to get to know the beauty and grandeur of Scotland.

How often do you go?

I haven’t been back since I was a teenager and I’m beginning to wonder why?

What’s your favourite memory?

On Iona I was free to wander and play all day, even walk around the whole island, as long as I was back in time for tea. An abiding memory is walking across the island to the secluded bay at Port Ban.

The flowers of the machair were alive with insects and just offshore I could see a seal bobbing its head out of the water. I had heard the seals respond to music and so I started whistling and singing Ca' The Yowes over and over again.

To my great joy and amazement, the seal dipped below the surface and came closer and closer until it was only a few yards away. In that moment, nothing else mattered. It was just me and the seal alone together in one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen.

Who do you take?

None of my grandchildren have ever been to Scotland, let alone its magnificent islands, so I suppose it is my grandfatherly duty to take them there one day quite soon. I’d want them to fall in love with it as I did. I’d still like to spend a little while on my own, though.

What do you take?

These days, a camera to take macro photographs of the insects. While I’d love to go back to visit Iona, I would always be worried that it might have changed - that modernity might dash my fond childhood memories to pieces.

I don’t know if it’s possible, but I’d like to take a small tent and pitch it at Port Ban for a night and wake up to the sound of Atlantic waves breaking gently on the shore. Come to think of it, if that was the last thing I ever saw, I’d be happy.

What do you leave behind?

I leave nothing behind when I visit somewhere and even take away some of the rubbish others have left. I still cannot understand why people visit a beautiful place only to pollute it. I did leave a bit of my heart on Iona when I was a boy.

Sum it up in five words.

Glorious. Peaceful. Timeless. Enchanting. Unspoiled.

What other travel spot is on your wish list?

I’d love to visit all the Scottish islands, especially some of the smaller ones like Coll, Tiree, Rum, Eigg and Barra. I’d better get a bend on as I’m not getting any younger.

The Good Bug: A Celebration of Insects and What We Can Do to Protect Them by George McGavin (Michael O'Mara Books, £10.99), is published on June 20