" A Scottish Adventure ~ 1. Off to Tiree ~ "

Date & Time: Tuesday 8th - Saturday 19th May 2012.

Locations : The islands of Coll and Tiree, part of the Scottish Inner Hebrides group of islands.

Places visited : Oban, Sound of Mull, Coll harbour, and then on to Tiree.

Accommodation : The Rockvale Guest House, Balephetrish Bay, Tiree.

With : Ann and myself plus the dogs, Harry and Bethan.

Weather : Cloudy to start but the skies cleared as we move off-shore. A cool NW breeze.



We've planned a visit to two Scottish Islands that we've not set foot on before . . . Tiree and Coll.

An easy four and a half hour drive north from home found us in Oban, ready and waiting for the ferry to take us on our Scottish adventure.

First a sea chart to put our journey in perspective for those not familiar with the islands.

Don't get confused . . . we travelled by car and vehicle ferry not a sailing boat !

Our route follows the black line out of Oban (right) up the Sound of Mull and off to Tiree, calling at Coll on the way.

First a look around Oban as we are in good time.
You shop, we drop onto the local Kerrera Ferry.
A Scandinavian square-rigger alongside the North Pier

Our boat, The Clansman rounds the channel markers on its way into the pier.

Once moored alongside we can drive on and our holiday can really begin.

Lismore Lighthouse.

This Lighthouse marks the south western tip of Lismore Island and defines the end of the wide Firth of Lorne and the start of the Sound of Mull.

The first strong sunlight of the afternoon catches the chapel at Bunavullin on the way up the Sound.

Across the way, the town of Tobermory is enjoying the same improvement in the weather.

The brightly painted houses that characterise the seafront are hidden from view

but we could see the Lifeboat pier and the large, square Tobermory Distillery.

The Kilchoan Ferry crosses ahead of us, making its way over to the Ardnamurchan Peninsular.

We used this convenient smaller ferry during our Mull & Ardnamurchan Holiday in 2009.

Zooming in on two local landmarks . . . the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse and behind it, the Sgurr of Eigg.

The Island of Eigg is approximately eleven miles behind it and sixteen miles away from us as we turn west around the top of Mull.

The Island of Rum, its top peaks of Ainshaval and Askival shrouded in a little cloud.

For island spotters, the darker cliffs to the right is the Island of Muck.

Just an hour later and we were calling in at the small village of Aringour on the Island of Coll.

You can see the church on the hill and Coll Hotel behind the green channel marker buoy.

The ferry pier is about half a mile down the road to the left where there is deeper water and room to turn the larger boats.

We'll be staying at Coll shortly but our first accommodation will be on the adjacent Island of Tiree.

Here we are leaving Coll, planning to return to land on the island in just five days time.

A fifty minute cruise down the  coast with Coll and Tiree on one side, finds us admiring the Island of Lunga on the other.

This volcanic island is home to a large bird colony including guillemots, razorbills and in season, the characterful little Puffins.

For those lovers of classical music, this is Staffa, its basalt cliffs being home to Fingal's Cave

made famous by the Mendelssohn's Hebridean Overture of the same name.

Click here and play the music in the background while you continue your viewing.

Our holiday destination comes into view as we cross Gunna Sound and enter Gott Bay.

You can almost hear the ship's tanoy asking passengers to return to their cars ready for disembarkation.

Notice the strength of the wind as shown by the taut flag out on the foredeck.

High, dark clouds above the boat but a patch of sunshine lights up the cottage close to the jetty.

They are loading the last of the vehicles and will leave shortly for the return trip to Oban.

A five minute drive across the single track island roads and we were turning into our accommodation

at the Rockvale Guest House . . . the owners Alison and Neil live in the newly built house on the right.

Bags unpacked, we took a stroll the short distance over the sand dune to enjoy the last of the evening sunshine at Balephetrish Bay

A natural arch of red granite adds a touch of mystery to the surroundings.

What a great start to our holiday as we enjoy seeing a flight of Oystercatchers

sweeping across the bay, calling as they went with their high pitched cry.

What's all the commotion ?

It's only two people and their land-dogs walking the beach.

Walking the beach . . . and enjoying the last rays of the setting sun.

- - - o o o - - -

Next day it dawns bright and clear and we decide on a local walk along the coast.

That wind is still strong and it's blowing from the north west so it is cool as well.

It's a case of full paramo jacket, hat, gloves, buff . . . and suntan cream !


Our route to the beach is through the arch this time.

Harry is already through and enjoying a stick of seaweed.

The tide is lower this morning and Bethan has spotted something out to sea . . .

It's those Atlantic Grey Seals again, three of the six in the bay this morning.

Two come in close to check us out . . . they were definitely as intrigued with us as we were with them.

Turnstone (thanks RA) scouring the tide line for meal.
Sanderlings, often feeding together in small flocks.

A flight of Oystercatchers again, this time the black and white contrasting with the bright blue sky.

If only !

An old lobster pot washed up on the shore.

It would have been a good catch had the bottle been full !

A raft of Eider Duck, males and females.
The small brown & white (female) Wheatear.

Initially I thought it was a stonechat from the sound but the wheatear also has a "wee-chat-chat" call

[ Correctly identified by Richard A & Elaine B . . . if I'm not careful I'll be getting a school report . . . "could do better" ! ]

Looking north across a blue sea, the clear water allowing the white sands of the small coves to show through clearly.

Graylag Geese by one of the fresh water pools.
They fly off along the coast as we approach.

Faint outlines of distant Rum and the white horses on a lumpy sea form a backdrop

to these Herring Gulls who are sitting across the way on the machair grass.

Bethan trying to look look like wildlife so that she gets her picture taken too.

The objective of the walk was to see what they called "The Ringing Stone"

It was there in the last photo but I didn't realise it at the time.

Click here or on the photo above for an enlarged version.
Ann tests the ringing capability of the large stone.

Apparently it is a glacial erratic boulder of a rock type found on the distant Isle of Rum.

Note the cup marks than have been carved into the surface by early settlers thousands of years ago.

There's no rush so we sit and soak in the scenery . . .
. . . and check out the lovely "sea pinks".

These are more commonly known by their usual name of "Thrift" and are a common sight growing on rocks along the seashore.

The Ringing Stone found, we return along the farm track passing close to one of the larger fresh water pools.

The dogs take a break in the water, I just open a cuff or two to reflect the warmer temperatures.

No point in getting carried away after all . . . that cool breeze is still about.

Ann's eyes find smaller plants in the grasslands . . .
These are Lousewort, often found on more damp ground. (thanks HH)

Best guess so far for the blue flowers is Spring Squill (many thanks SS) but any other ideas would be appreciated.

Back to the wide sweeping Balephetrish Bay as we near the end of the walk.

The extended farm complex of Balephetrish seen behind my shoulder in the last photo.

( It is probably named after the gaelic Baille pheadairich - the place of the storm petrel)

We are a little early to see the dunes and machair grass covered in wild flowers due to the long, cold and damp winter.

- - - o o o - - -

After lunch we drove around to explore more of the island.

This is the white sands of Sorobaidh Bay, Traigh Shorobaidh.

An old thatched black house has been modernised some time in the past with a pitch-painted felt roof.

The low, thick stone walls of the old croft house are still very evident.

The village of Balemartine has old and new houses side by side.

It also is home to an ancient church and burial ground.

The signboard at the graveyard . . .
. . . and the ancient Maclean's Cross.
Along the road to Balephuil we pass . . .
. . . a small herd of Highland Cattle.
How could you not stop . . .
. . . and admire those cuddly little calves.

We stop at the base of Ben Heynish . . . funny the map doesn't show a golf course !

Across the way, Beinn Ceann a'Mhara which we would walk later in the week.

Today we walk the track up to the top of this hill.

Here we're looking down on West Heynish . . . and way out to sea to the Skerryvore lighthouse some eleven miles out.

Wildlife spotting again.

Surprisingly Tiree has no rabbits . . . but has a healthy population of hares instead.

Big Brother is watching you ... in the nicest possible way !

We're nearly at the top and have almost reached the golf ball . . . is this a throw back to the 1960's television show "The Prisoner" ?

[ Hold your cursor over the picture above  to reveal the truth ]

The reality of the installation is that it is the Air Traffic Control radar for the Western Approaches to the UK.

It plots all the aircraft flying the Atlantic routes out and back from America and Canada.

[ If you ever wondered what aircraft is flying over your house and where it is heading, check out this link sometime . . . Flight Radar 24 ]

The summit view being slightly obscured, I chose another high point for a few long distance photos.

The third Tiree summit of Ben Hough across the fresh-water Loch a' Phuill.

Looking back at Balemartine and the southern Tiree coastline.

South here to the Paps of Jura.

Below us, the Skerryvore Lighthouse shore station.

- - - o o o - - -

The busy day was drawn to a close with dinner out at Sandaig on the west coast of the island.

More island architecture in the form of a lovingly maintained, modern croft house at Hough.


The Ceabhar Restaurant, Tiree

The finest place to dine on Tiree . . .

We booked for all four nights of our stay based on their reputation

and I can say we were definitely NOT disappointed.

Our host Duncan as head waiter and barman (in this picture), and
compliments to his partner and excellent chef, Polly (not in this picture !)
Sheep views and sea views from every table.
Spend an evening in fine surroundings . . .
with fine food and a bottle of Scottish Wine . . .
and let time drift enjoyably by.

Technical note:   Bramble . . . This was a fruit (not grape) wine, one of a range that included a delightful Oak Leaf wine. 

The name on the label is pronounced "care-no-more" . . . of course !

Our departure coincided with sunset so we stopped to enjoy the spectacle . . .

On the beach at Balevullin Bay

The sun setting over the western ocean.

It actually set behind Barra Head on the Island of Berneray, the southern-most island of the Outer Hebrides

. . . leaving us with fine memories of our first full day on the island.

- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Canon Sureshot, or my Canon G10 / 1100D digital cameras.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . . a bountiful helping of natural beauty.

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