A Quick Turnaround

Once a year can you sail by ferry from Tiree to Coll and return on the same day.
It is very different the other way round from Coll to Tiree and return.
Once a week in the summer you can make that journey.
The latter let’s those on Coll shop at the Co-Op!
Wednesday 12th September was the day.

A busy Oban bay with the MV Isle of Mull, MV Loch Striven and MV Courisk brining colour on a grey afternoon

The previous evening we had been on board the MV Clansman homeward bound.
On arrival in Oban by coach an alert we received an alert from CalMac.
There was the possibility of disruption or cancellation to our sailing.
A strong swell was anticipated out at sea.

Troubled waters surround Lismore Lighthouse built on Eilean Musdile

Leaving the sheltered waters of Oban Bay the ferry enters the Firth of Lorne.
It is not without significance that there are two lights in the vicinity.
There is the Lady Rock Light and Lismore Lighthouse.
The latter is located on Eilean Musdile.

MV Courisk in rough waters by the Lady Rock Light

Before entering the Sound of Mull you knew you were on board a ship.
The wind and the strong currents had the ferry rising and falling.
Once in the Sound of Mull everything calmed down.

THE MV Clansman about to have its face washed by the waters of the Passage of Tiree

It was a different story once we left the Sound.
There is nothing between you and the Little Minch.
You are in open water with no islands for protection.
As we made our way towards Coll the ferry had its face washed.
Even at Coll’s pier the effect of the wind and the swell could be felt.

Safety a priority as the MV Clansman berths at Coll

Thankfully Got Bay proved much calmer.
We took a little longer than normal to berth, but that was all.
Unlike the stop at Coll the gangway was in use for foot passengers.

The MV Clansman uses her powerful thrusters to approach the pier side-on

Fifteen hours later we were back down at the pier.
Wednesday was one of the annual livestock sales on the island.
The ferry had left Oban at the normal time but had sailed direct to Tiree.
On board were several cattle trucks, buyers and others attending the sale.

Cattle trucks arriving for the September Livestock sale on Tiree

On summer Wednesdays the ferry sails through the Gunna Sound to Barra.
On this occasion the ferry was bound for Barra but sailing via Coll.
Returning from Barra the ferry would visit Coll before Tiree.
For this reason it was possible to have a day out on Coll.

The Dutchman’s Cap (Bay Mor) sitting in a silvery sea.

Only the Gunna Sound separates Tiree from Coll.
Neighbouring islands, they are often referred to as twins.
Twins they may be, but they are certainly not identical twins.
The Island of Coll feels and looks very different from the Isle of Tiree.

The sun welcomes visitors from Tiree to the Isle of Coll

Coll has a ruggedness that is more akin to a Highland landscape.
It has a village, ‘Arinagour’, but farms and homes are more scattered.
The population on Coll is about a quarter of the population that is on Tiree.

From the Isle of Coll you are much closer to Rum

The wonder of the Hebrides is that every island is different.
Naturally here is a right sense of pride and belonging
This does not stop you appreciating other islands.
And there much to appreciate about Coll.

A contented ‘marmalade’ cat sits unperturbed as we pass by

Leaving the ferry we passed through Arinagour.
Somehow it reminds us of a tiny North-East fishing village.
Unlike Tiree, Coll does not havre roads going round the island.
It primarily has just one road running the whole length of the island.
Other than that there are one or two short side-roads leading off the main road.

Part of the historic graveyard on Coll

We stopped to visit the historic graveyard, both ancient and modern.
From there we noticed the Clansman sailing out to Castlebay on Barra.
It was sailing to the north of the island having departed from the pier at Coll.
The Clansman has crossed the Little Minch on many occasions but not from Coll.

The MV Clansman in the Little Minch – seen far out to sea through the grass covered dunes

It was interesting seeing similar place names.
There is a Crossapol, Cornaigmore and Cornaigbeg.
We stopped once again and followed the course of a burn.
We found ourselves in an interesting lagoon like bay and beach.

We followed a burn

Suddenly the clouds looked threatening.
And just as suddenly the rain began to fall.
We were like drowned rats before we reached the car.

Who would have guessed that in minutes it would be a downpour

Our next stop was at Sorisdale – literally the end of the road.
The is a largely deserted former crofting and fishing village.
There is considerable evidence of its recent past.
It has an attractive and secluded bay.


From Sorisdale there are views across to Ben More on the Isle of Mull.
Sadly the view up the Sound of Mull was obscured by low cloud.
Yet, there was a clear view to Ardnamurchan Lighthouse.

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse and Sorisdale

Most beaches on Coll need a drive and a walk to reach them.
And the next bay we chose to visit was called Cliad.
Our walk took us across an area of machair.
There were still many wild flowers about.

The walk to Cliad beach

With some fellow passengers we had dinner at the award winning Coll Hotel.
Before returning to the pier we drove to the opposite end of the isle.
All to soon it was time to head back to catch the ferry home.

The MV Clansman seen through the Coll linkspan

It is unusual to stand at Coll pier watching the ferry approach.
Normally we are on the ferry as it approaches the pier.
It was certainly calmer than the previous evening.

The MV Clansman berthing at Coll

We arrived back in Tiree as darkness was descending.
On board were some very tired school children who had made the trip.
There in the marshalling lanes were the livestock trucks waiting to depart.
It would almost be midnight before they arrived at the ferry terminal in Oban.

The traffic waiting in the marshalling lanes at Tiree

This is ‘Life-on-Tiree’.