Gone visiting. Yes. That’s correct. On Wednesday we visited the neighbours.
Coll and Tiree are near neighbours separated by the Gunna Sound. It is only a narrow navigable channel yet by ferry it takes about an hour to travel between the two islands. Inter-island travel can take days and not hours.
In calm conditions, during the summer months, it is possible to make the same journey by the rib ‘Aurora’ in half the time. On such occasions you can travel there and back on the same day.
By ferry, it is only possible to sail to Coll and back on the same day on one day in the year. On this day there is a livestock sale on Tiree and the ferry sails directly from Oban to Tiree before sailing to Coll and then on to Barra. It then sails back to Coll, Tiree and Oban. However, as a result of Tuesday’s sailing having been cancelled due to the weather and sea conditions the sailing to Barra was cancelled. Instead the ferry made two crossings to Coll and Tiree from Oban, maintaining the pattern of Oban, Tiree, Coll, Oban, Coll, Tiree and Oban. So we could still go visiting.
Much as we wanted to go visiting, it was imperative that we get back to Tiree on Wednesday evening. We might have appreciated an overnight stay in the Coll Hotel, but we had to get back that evening in order to travel to Oban the following day. We had to make the crossing on the Thursday in order to officiate at a wedding on the mainland. We must not fail the bride and groom.
For normal we travel as foot passengers, boarding the ferry by the gangway. However, on Wednesday we boarded via the car deck, as car passengers. We were not alone in visiting the neighbours. There were about two dozen of us looking forward to a day out on Coll.
As we drove up the linkspan and onto the island the sun was shining. The sun continued to shine as we drove through the village of Arinagour and headed towards Coll’s west end.
Although Coll and Tiree are often referred to as twins, they are far from identical. They have a village and farms where Tiree has crofting townships. Tiree has almost no trees, whereas there are definitely trees on Coll. The overall impression is that Coll is much more highland in appearance.
Our visit took us to what is known as the ‘Walled Garden’. It is home to a small, isolated, well sheltered campsite that is surrounded by the RSPB reserve. The walled garden built in the 18th Century is listed by Historic Scotland for its historic value, and has an association with Breachacha New Castle.
Depending on the direction of the wind the adjoining house is in a relatively sheltered spot and has an attractive, mature garden that is home to birds and bees. On clear days from the hill within their acreage there are not only clear views across to the Breachacha Castles, but there is also a view of the ‘Golf Ball’ on Ben Hynish on Tiree.
The owners took us on a most interesting walk that included their garden, up the small hill and down through their wood. We were accompanied by their three well behaved Jack Russell terriers. How we enjoyed watching the run about hens and a cockerel that knew how to crow.
How time flies! Especially in the company of interesting people. It was close to lunch time and so we made our way to the newly extended Coll Hotel, where we had a table reservation.
It was like a grand reunion. Most of those who had made the trip from Tiree seemed to have had the same great idea – lunch at the hotel.
The new build made the most of the view across the sea loch and village. The build was tasteful and the food equally tasty.
Next on the itinerary was a visit to An Cridhe, the Isle of Coll’s community centre. The hall was opened by HRH Princess Anne on 11th July 2012. An Cridhe means “the heart”, and the building is intended to be at the heart of life on Coll. It is a multi-purpose facility that caters for the many different needs of islanders and visitors.
The hall is an attractive, well maintained facility. It has a carved wooden reception desk that sits in the entrance and general circulation area. The whole atmosphere conveys the sense of pride that islanders have for their hall and island.
We had to be at the pier for 4:30 to wait the arrival of our ferry. Our confidence in the MV Clansman not to let us down was rewarded with her timely berthing. All too soon our visit to the neighbours was over. Surprising how tiring it can be enjoying a relaxing day out visiting the neighbours.
This is ‘Life on Tiree’ returned from gone visiting.