Highs and Lows of the Inner Hebrides
Date published: 12 November 2019
As I am sure most people involved in the tourist industry in Scotland will agree, if you’re running a business efficiently it is very difficult to get away from the “coal face” during the summer season. This makes the short breaks that we do get all the more precious as an opportunity to visit some of many awe-inspiring anchorages which attract sailors to Scotland.
We (my husband and myself) were fortunate enough to get away for a few days at the end of July. Sunday morning saw us setting off from our charter base at Armadale on the Isle of Skye on one our Jeanneau SO 439’s “Explorer of Sleat”. It was an absolutely glorious day without a cloud in sight. There wasn’t much wind though, so we found ourselves motoring past the Small Isles towards Ardnamurchan Point. The Small Isles all have their individual attractions and characters and we passed fairly close to Eigg with the view of the interesting peak of the Sgurr of Eigg changing shape as we passed. Passing close to the wonderful Stephenson Lighthouse at Ardnamurchan, it was onwards down the West Coast of Mull towards the sheltered anchorage at Gometra. There were fabulous views of the Treshnish Isles (more on those later) and we could clearly see Staffa with Iona, Coll and Tiree in the distance.
Motoring carefully into the shelter of Gometra Harbour which lies between the islands of Gometra and Ulva, at 17.00 we found there were several yachts already at anchor but there was plenty of space for “Explorer”. The sun continued to beat down and we were able to spend the evening on deck enjoying watching other boats arrive including a classic yacht and a small cruise boat. Dinner on deck was sublime and the sunset that evening was fabulous.
Monday morning was bright and sunny, and we set off (motoring again) to get to Lunga in the Treshnish Islands before the tourists descended on it. It is quite difficult to land on Lunga which has a very rocky shoreline, but the effort is well worth it. We crept up the hill quietly and arrived at the main puffin colony to find that it was still well inhabited with puffins! It is a very rewarding experience to sit among the puffins quietly and watch their antics. For people with a more dedicated interest in sea-birds there are plenty of walks on the island to take you close to the nests of guillemots and shags. As we reluctantly left at lunchtime the trip boats for the day started to arrive as well, so we had been lucky to only have to share the island with the birds and rabbits!
It was still a wonderfully sunny day with only light winds, so we decided to head over to Gott Bay, Tiree where visitor’s moorings had recently been laid. Historically yachts have been reluctant to visit Tiree as it is a very flat island and the anchorage at Gott Bay is exposed. The moorings are certainly very helpful but some of them are quite close inshore so do run your tidal range calculations when selecting one. It was my first visit to Tiree, so I was keen to have a look round and found that the village of Scarinish is about 10 minutes’ walk away. Evening meals are available at the Scarinish Hotel and there is also a well-stocked Co-op. There are lots of stunning beaches on Tiree and if time permits it would be interesting to hire a car and have a tour of the island. Back on board “Explorer”, the sunshine continued and there was another stunning sunset which was clear to see over Tiree’s flat horizon!
The following morning brought a change in the weather forecast and we decided to head for Tobermory for overnight shelter, although it was still brilliant sunshine and light winds at the time. The passage there was mainly under engine, but a lovely breeze filled in as we headed round into the Sound of Mull. We arrived to find the pontoons at Tobermory full as you would expect in July, but we managed to secure a mooring close by. Much has been written about Tobermory which is always a popular place for yachts and has excellent facilities, so suffice to say, we had a lovely evening there and enjoyed an excellent meal ashore at the Galleon Grill.
On Tuesday morning we awoke to the sound of rain coming down and the wind whistling past! In Scotland, we say that “if you wait ten minutes then the weather will change” but it took a little longer on this occasion! However, after a leisurely breakfast the rain had stopped, and the wind had dropped so we headed out of Tobermory with two reefs in the main and rolled out half of the jib and were soon heading round Ardnamurchan at 8 knots. “Explorer” and her crew were thoroughly enjoying an exhilarating sail and as we passed Eigg the sun came out and a couple of dolphins passed very close to the boat.
Back into the Sound of Sleat we ignored the temptation of stopping for lunch at the lovely Camusdarrach Beach and headed straight up to Armadale Bay. Picking up the mooring there, it was back to work but with some fantastic reminders of the highlights of sailing on the West Coast of Scotland.
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