" 5. A Scottish Adventure ~ Southern Coll ~ "

Date & Time: Wednesday 16th - Friday 18th May 2012.

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

Places visited : Arinagour, Crossapol Bay, Totronald RSPB Reserve, Feall Bay.

Accommodation : The Dunara Self Catering Cottage, Arinagour, Coll.

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

Weather : Changeable . . . frequently . . . but generally fine and sunny.

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 " 5. A Scottish Adventure ~ The Island of Coll ~ " at EveryTrail



It's midweek of our two week holiday and we're off to explore the west end of the island.

A local advert in the shop invited us to join a RSPB Bird walk on their reserve . . . so that could be a focal point for our visit.

Another morning . . . another tide has come and gone at Middle Pier.

Loads of time to wonder up the village and look around.

On the corner at the turn to the hotel is their War Memorial to those from the island who fought and died for their country.

The island has gathered enough funds to build a fine new hall (seen behind) and a new bunkhouse style hostel for visitors alongside.

This will give the island a large events venue, a new social centre and hopefully some regular income through increased visitor numbers.

The island's three other social centres are shown in this one photo.

On the hill, the Church of Scotland

to the right, the Coll Hotel

and down here on the harbour front, the Island Cafe.


Full marks to the cafe for excellent food and service

both during the day and in the evenings.


Full marks too for them as they offer wireless internet.

This must be one of the most beautiful

"BT Fon" locations in the UK.


Inside or out here in the sun I could check for emails,

see the next ferry sailing information (important after last weekend)

and backup the camera photos to the PC for safety.

- - - o o o - - -

This time we took the only other road on the island to explore the "West End".

In the village, near the memorial, the road splits and we take the B8071 (sounds grand) down toward Crossapol Bay.

Along the way . . . we passed a herd of Highland Cattle.

We could see them  . . . but could they see us ?

Mum and a fine little calf . . . I won't post the rest of the photos of them or we'll be here all day !

We park near the dunes at the end of the road and take a walk to Crossapol, the wide sandy bay at the southern tip of the island.

Those not looking at the shiny looking car will notice the top of an old looking tower over the dunes.

We weren't looking either . . . we were looking at you !

Such a shame ... but all will be seaborne rubbish

This is the beautiful sandy bay of Crossapol, stretching for nearly two miles around to the southern tip of the island.

It has an extensive system of sand dunes where the sheep and cattle graze and apparently it is home to a rare species of sand lizard

Hold your cursor over the picture to see the down-side of island life. 

The sea-borne litter problem was evident in many places but was particularly bad at this point. 

Dumping of rubbish at sea is illegal but the islanders are fighting back by organising a litter-pick later this month.

Everywhere else, apart from the tide line at the top corner of the bay, was beautiful white sand

reflecting the fact that its origins lie in large quantities of crushed seashells rather than just eroded rock.

Harry, seen here, and Bethan in the previous photo, are enjoying the wide open spaces.

We didn't walk the whole bay but we did cross over to the rocks on the left hand side headland.

What caught my eye here was the patch of bright stone alongside the rock pool.

Something was unusual . . . there was no black algae colouring or barnacles.

It also had something strange on the rock . . .
. . . It was what I take to be an Otter scat or excreta.

I don't often take pictures of animal droppings but this one was interesting as it gave evidence of the scales and bones of the animal's food source.

Otters use scent marking and leave their scat as a way of marking territory. There were many otters on the island but we've yet to see them.

This was the closest I've got to seeing otter signs . . . I'll know what to look for in future.

On the back of the next section of the bay was a walled cemetery,

its grand nature related presumably to the castle tower that we saw over the dunes earlier.

As we head back we keep to slightly higher ground

so as not to disturb the locals who had also come down to enjoy the bay.

This is the 'new' castle at Breachacha, the one we had seen across the dunes earlier.

This large mansion was originally built in the mid 18th century, extended upwards and the turrets added later,

and is now undergoing some much needed renovation.  It is also known as Breachacha House

The original castle sits closer to the shore and dates from the 14th century.

This has a fine example of the classic "square keep" tower and was stronghold of the McLeans for many centuries.

It fell into disrepair some time after the new house was built, but was restored to habitable condition in the 1960's

by the owners of the Project Trust ( where we parked when climbing Ben Hogh a few days ago)

Coll is a good place to go bird spotting

and this was a Snipe sitting on a sawn off telegraph pole.

The picture above is a close up of the other

so two photos for the price of one !


It has a fine, long straight beak for probing for food in the mud.


When it dived, we could hear the classic snipe sounds of the

bleating/fluttering of the wind rushing through its tail feathers.

A passing aircraft,

identifiable by the wind passing through its propellers,

prepares to land at Coll airport

as we drove across to Totronald Farm.


Coll is not as busy as Tiree airport

and does not have such extensive facilities.

Na Sgeulachan ("Teller of Tales") Standing Stones at Totronald with the airport behind.

There was an RSPB guided walk available this afternoon and it started at their Totronald Centre on the island,

Totronald reserve has been set up to protect

the remaining habitat of the Corncrake.


Once common across much of England and Wales,

its habitat is now very much restricted to the islands of Scotland

where farming methods are more traditional.

Ian fills in the detail and explains the maps.
This one shows the decline in population in just fifty years.
Spot the corncrake . . . you always hear it first.
"Crex - crex" repeated . . . a bit like an oversized grasshopper !
Can you see it now . . . it's not easy !
All those fields around and we found one in the front garden !

The Corncrake (Crex crex )

Mechanical hay-cutting has been blames for the demise of the bird, but it can only be one of the reasons for the dramatic fall in numbers.

The reserve encourages the local farmers to leave corncrake-friendly edges to fields, to cut fields later, and to start cutting from the centre out

so as to allow the birds to escape to the hedges rather than trap them in an ever-diminishing central swath of hay or silage.

The reserve has increased its corncrake numbers

from 10 calling males in 1992 to 99 recorded in 2007.


There is a full time warden but Ian has been employed for the summer

to do bird surveys, spread the word about farm techniques

and to show people like us around the reserve.


- - - o o o - - -

Having successfully spotted our bird at the first opportunity

we continued on with the walk around the reserve.


On the sand dunes Ian stops by a funny looking stone.

This has been placed as an artificial bee-nesting site

in order to encourage the normal bumblebee and the rarer

great yellow bumblebee found on Coll.

The Lapwing.

We didn't spot the dramatic display flight of males in the spring but there were plenty of these birds flying round the islands

They are also known by their call (and their second name) the "peewit". This was one of several adults and youngsters on the marsh.

Up onto the higher dunes at the back of the Hogh Beach with a slight rain shower in the air.

From this higher spot we could see the seabirds and discussed the wider aspects of the reserve on Coll.

- - - o o o - - -

We complied a brief bird list afterwards and our roll call for the afternoon included :-

Sedge Warbler     Snipe    Lapwing   Hooded Crow    Wheatear     Swallow

Corncrake    Red Shank   Oystercatchers   Great Skua   Great Northern Diver and  Arctic Tern .

Not bad for a two hour walk around the reserve.

- - - o o o - - -

We met Ian's colleague Alex down on the meadows next day

where he was ploughing and re-seeding the grassland with a special corncrake-friendly "Coll mix" of grasses and wild flowers.

Do you get the feeling we were being watched . . . as we started on an afternoon walk to Feall Bay.

This bay is the northern side of the Crossapol sand dunes and together they form a land bridge to the western end of the island.

Our passing was certainly being watched with interest.

We climbed up onto Ben Feall overlooking another small, unnamed bay

but it did give us wonderful long distance views to the other islands in this clear sea air.

Looking west to Tiree across Feall Bay

Zooming in on the "Golf ball" and Gunna Sound between the two islands.

East over Breachacha Castles to the high ground of Ben More on Mull.

The Island of Rum with the Cuillins of Skye in the background.

North to the Outer Hebrides and Barra Head where we saw the dramatic sunset last week.

We leave the summit to the cows who were following us around (or so it seemed).

Down on the beach . . . time to relax . . . if we weren't relaxed enough already.

Shoes abandoned in favour of a little paddle.

The green coat signifies that the wind was blowing well despite the sunny conditions.

Feall Bay swings round in a grand, sweeping curve to the headland opposite.

Ann taking this relaxing bit seriously.

Harry following suit as Ann takes the camera.

Time to leave the bay to the incoming tide and make our way back to the village.

Blue skies over Dunara, our cottage for the week.

- - - o o o - - -

Time to wonder over to the Island Cafe for an excellent evening meal . . .

" I overheard management talking about a mint-sauce boat . . . do you think we're in trouble ? "

Fading light at ten-thirty in the evening . . . one last attempt to spot otters in the bay at dusk.

Success ?    . . . well I managed a nice photo of the hotel . . . but nothing else.

- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Canon Sureshot SX220, my Canon G10 or 1100D Digital SLR.

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

This site best viewed with . . . . an expert in the corncrake-friendly field.

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