Plus To Minus

It almost seems strange to say that we left behind the relative warmth of Tiree for the freezing temperatures of the Mainland.  Yet, strange as it might seem that is what we did on Saturday.

Firstlight over the Passage of Tiree

The Isle of Tiree has a mild climate with some of the highest levels of sunshine recorded anywhere in the British Isles.  The moderating influence of the Gulf Stream helps ensure that frost and snow are most unusual.

Life on Tiree
Sunrise from Pier Road, Scarinish, Isle of Tiree

Drawing back the curtains we were rewarded with a grandstand view of firstlight. Once again it had the magnetic effect that draws you out to watch the sun rise over the Ross of Mull.

Life on Tiree
Sunrise from close to the memorial beside Pier Road

It was more or less a cloudless sky above Tiree. What was interesting was that the Paps of Jura to the south lay under a blanket of cloud. It would not be until late afternoon that the cloud would lift briefly.

Life on Tiree
Sunrise over the Ross of Mull

Today’s sailing to Coll and Oban was to an amended timetable due to yet more problems in the ferry network. Apparently the MV Hebridean Isles was undergoing sea trials when it experienced rudder problems and had to return to Troon for further repairs.

Life on Tiree
The MV Clansman approaching the pier in Gott Bay on Saturday afternoon

Consequently the MV Clansman had to put in a crossing to Colonsay before sailing from Oban to Coll and Tiree.

Life on Tiree
The MV Clansman berthing on Saturday afternoon

Under the amended timetable the ferry berthed at Tiree at 14:50 instead of 11:05. Although the inbound traffic was moderate the return sailing for Coll and Oban was light.

Looking across the island towards Ben Hynish

The low winter sun had shone all day, however as the ferry berthed cloud was starting to make an appearance over the island. Any hopes of sailing off into the sunset were dashed.

heading out to sea as clouds gather over the island

As we headed out to sea the Paps of Jura to the south were clearly visible and would remain so until we berthed at Coll.

The Paps of Jura

Looking back towards Tiree, the MV Clansman’s wake was quite evocative for it was set against clouds illuminated by the setting sun.


The sea was calm and while the light lasted we could make out several of the The Treshnish Isles – an archipelago of small islands and skerries lying west of the Isle of Mull.

Bac Mor and Bac Beg from Coll

It was not fully dark when we berthed at Coll, but sufficiently dark for the pier lights to be switched on.

Lighting up time

Unlike Tiree, Coll does not have a Rural Centre with auction facilities so livestock has to be taken off the island for sale on the Mainland. Several cattle lorries were waiting in the marshalling lanes ready to be boarded.

From Coll the Treshnish Isles and the Paps Jura stood out as silhouettes against a sky coloured by the last vestiges of the setting sun. Before we entered the Sound of Mull the MV Clansman left the light and entered a dark world.

The Paps of Jura behind the Treshnish Isles

The crossing has a journey time of just under four hours so a meal in the Mariners Cafe is appreciated . Once again we found ourselves saying how the Clansman’s crew are welcoming, helpful and friendly.  Out of the main holiday season you know most of the passengers and the ferry can seem like an extension of the island.

A colourful arrival at Oban

As the ferry entered the waters of Oban Bay we were in the midst of a conversation with a fellow island passenger and so we hardly noticed the Clansman had berthed.

As we made our way over the covered passenger boarding bridge to the ferry terminal the cold air was intense and penetrating. We ought not to have been surprised at how cold it felt for it had been -10 at Tyndrum at 6:00am and had remained below zero all day. As we made our way across Scotland the car’s headlights revealed a world that looked as if it had been snowing due to the depth of the frost. We were thankful that the roads had been gritted. 

Sunday’s firstlight on Tiree – courtesy of S. Bottomley 

The following morning our phoned alerted us to a message that contained photographs of first light on Tiree – a thoughtful reminder of the world we had left behind.


You can be assured we were wrapped up well as we went out for our morning walk, not to keep out the wind, but the intense cold. The trees and vegetation were covered in frost.

A brightly crisp morning walk

Not surprisingly the canal was covered in ice. In these minus temperatures the ducks had to take to skating as they sought out clear  water.

An Ice Mirror

This is ‘Life on Tiree’ getting used to having moved from the plus to the minus. The sun may have shone all day, but it is a frozen world.