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Scottish anchorages

Coll and Tiree

Photo gallery Coll and Tiree final

Eilean Mòr





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Gott Bay with Ben More on Mull in the distance

Frank Cowper got these islands wrong when he wrote: "As for Tiree and Coll, the less said about them the better". As John Knox had found in his tour 100 years earlier, his problem like Cowper's was also the lack of safe anchorages which to some extent is still true today, even with our engines and chart plotters. Mind you it was to Loch Eatharna, then known as Lochiern and where Arinagour now is, that Boswell and Johnson got blown during a dark and stormy night, and found safety in 1773.


Every island has its own character. Coll’s is Outer Hebridean even though it is firmly part of the Inner Hebrides — similar forbidding and grim eastern coastline, and similar delightful beaches on the western coastline. It has a population of around 200, with about 30 in the primary school. Something like a third of the houses are holiday or second homes these days, so most of the locals appear to be English (no harm in that, it just seems a bit odd in the outermost of the Inner Hebrides). Coll is probably best known outside Scotland as the home of Project Trust and inside Scotland as the home of Mairi Hedderwick who wrote the lovely Katie Morag children's stories. She also wrote The Last Laird of Coll (Birlinn, 2011), a rather nice account of how most of Coll was once owned by a family who latterly farmed it and eventually by 1991 had sold most of their estate to the islanders, the RSPB and incomers. Interestingly, Coll too had a 'Whisky Galore' second world war moment when the Nevada ran aground in Struan Bay — an easy walk from the Sorisdale anchorage  and deposited thousands of cigarettes for the islanders to squirrel away. In 2008 a commercial air service to Coll was launched from Oban airport of all places, we will see how long it lasts. It is still there, just in 2020! In 2013 Coll was awarded Dark-Sky status, although you would have to be sailing there early or late in the season to appreciate it.


Tiree, the final inhabited island I got round to sailing to, is completely different to Coll and everywhere else. It reminds me of Connemara — flat with occasional mountains poking up in the distance, although unlike Ireland the mountains here are on different land masses (Jura, Mull, Rum and Skye). Tiree is so flat and low that global warming and a slight rise in sea level could do for it; imagine the chart in a hundred years, no Tiree just a couple of rocks — Sgeir Hough and Sgeir Hynish!   The island is not much visited by boaties, I guess because there is no all weather anchorage, indeed there are only three anchorages of any sort in the Sailing Directions and the main one — Gott Bay — is exposed to the south and east, and not all that attractive.   However, take a windsurfer, Tiree is famous for wind and waves (and sunshine). Strangely, given about 800 people live on Tiree, there seems to be remarkably little in the way of good cafés or pubs within easy reach of the anchorages. The two hotels are hardly hugely welcoming (quite unlike the Coll Hotel). Maybe nothing changes because even back in 1695 Martin Martin complained that "The ale that I had in the inn being too weak, I told my host of it, who promised to make it better". He didn't. The Ceabhar Guesthouse and Restaurant at Sandaig is too far away from an anchorage although it certainly looks attractive from its website.




Gott Bay

Gott Bay with Ben More on Mull in the distance

"The inhabitants are Protestants. They have a notion here, that Tyre-ty breeds more women than men, and Coll more men than women; so that they may people each other without the assistance of their neighbours”  from the 1761 edition of 'A Tour thro' that part of Britain called Scotland', originally by Daniel Defoe, later editions and additions by Samuel Richardson