Yes! That’s correct. Unrestricted travel to, from and around Tiree by imagination. On our last trip we visited the West End of the island to’ Lag na Cleite’, or as it more commonly known ‘Happy Valley’. Today, let us take you on a walk around the East End of the island. North, South, East and West, none are far apart on Tiree. There is only about 11 miles between the East and West ends and towards the East End there is less than a mile between North and South. There is a saying, ‘East, West, home is best’ and that is how we will leave it. In the 21st Century with cars and made up roads, you could be forgiven for finding it strange that in the recent past people should go on holiday from one end of the island to the other.
Having travelled by imagination there is no need to arrive either by ferry or plane, sufficient to say Tiree Airport is at Crossapol and the pier is at Scarinish. There is a direct single-track road from Scarinish to Coalas at the East End and for a good part of the way the road runs right alongside Gott Bay with its big beach. However today we will be on foot so make sure you have your walking boots on, at the very least some sturdy footwear. It is not too strenuous but it can be a little wet underfoot. Better safe that soaked.
Just one more point before we set out. Since our last virtual walk I have discovered that my inability to picture people, places or objects is known as aphantasic. II can describe, but I cannot picture and so photographs take on an extra significance. In these days of restricted travel we will have to turn once again to our extensive library of photographs.
We start our walk from Salum and walk round in a clockwise direction. We have always appreciated the beach and bay at Salum. It was at Salum beach that we were first conscious of seals following us as we walked along the beach Seals are so inquisitive. Today the tide is out but it is a beautiful sight looking through the Machair.
On our walk we are passing through a number of different habitats. These include machair, in-bye grassland, and sandy bays. There is also sliabath and wet grassland with pools. Add to that a rocky coast with small inlets. Finally there are several small lochs.
It feels good to be walking along the track from Salum to Miodar. Here we walk was on a raised bank that appears to be a natural feature, but the track was man made.
Tiree is famous for its numerous beaches but here we encounter a very different land and seascape. The coastal scenery is certainly different on this stretch of our walk – there are some small sandy beaches but the dominant feature are the rocks.
As we look out to sea we are able to make out the Isle of Rum. There it sits between a blue sky and a deep blue sea. It is strange fact of life on Tiree that islands and mountain peaks are not always where you think they ought to be.
Every indent, every bay, every islet and historically almost every rock has a name but for us the next identifiable place is Miodar at the North East end of the island.
At Caolas we are back to white shell sand beaches. It is low tide and we are able to walk along the beach. From here we looked out on the blue waters of the Gunna Sound.
Our timing is perfect for as we strike out along the beach the MV Clansman makes her once a week trip out to Barra from Tiree passing through the Gunna Sound. Later in the afternoon she will proceed through the Sound as she returns to Tiree and then sails onwards to Coll and Oban. To many ‘The Clansman’ is respectfully known as ‘The Mighty One’. The Sound is the stretch of water that separates Tiree from the Isle of Coll and the smaller island known as Gunna.
The name Gunna Sound may sound familiar. probably because the Isle of Tiree has a great musical heritage and Gunna Sound is one the many bands that has its roots on the island. Other bands include Skerryvore, Skippinish, Dun More and Trail West. Dun Mor, Gunna Sound and Skippinish are all place names on our walk.
it really is our day for we see the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world. As we are on a virtual walk the veteran, for she over 70 years old, is operational once again and has followed the MV Clansman into the Gunna Sound.
The township of Caolas has some very special views across the Hebrides. – Mull and the Treshnish Isles, Coll, Gunna, Rum, Eigg and the Western Isles – There are even views to Ardnamurchan and distant mainland peaks. We must never forget that crofting is one of the defining characteristics of life on Tiree. Rather than follow the coast to Port Ban for Milton, we will come off the beach and head up to a croft house with an apt name – ‘Coll View’. Here we see that a crofter’s work is never done.
Coll View is a working croft but it is also the base for Tiree Tea. The business is run by Rhoda Meek who also works in software and has set up isle20.com. The banner heading states, ‘Support the Scottish islands during Covid-19 by shopping from the comfort of your sofa!’ A visit to the website proves that there are so many island businesses and talented people with goods to sell. Many of these businesses are dependent on the tourist market but footfall is now non-existent due to the travel restrictions to island communities. Today our visit has to be virtual but you can support our island community by purchasing from our shops online.
Our walk today is an adaptation of two walks detailed in the book ‘Tiree Walks – 12 walks through an Island Landscape’. Caolas is the meeting point of two separate walks and both involve returning to your starting point by road. Today, however, we are striking out for Milton Harbour which recently saw a massive investment in mooring and shore based facilities. A number of boats fish out of Milton and they are a vital part of the island’s economy.
Although not an integral part of the official walk we are ascending Dun Mor a Chaolais. It is not particularly high but it is most interesting. This is the site of a historic broch – Dùns or brochs were built about 1400 years ago. Unlike the broch at Vaul this has not been excavated. The Isle of Tiree has many historic sites waiting further investigation.
This lofty vantage point has views right round the compass. To those who constructed the broch this was important. From a long way off they could see seaborne enemies. This is surely a highlight of this particular walk with views even as far as the Outer Hebrides. A cairn sits on top of the ancient site and not far away is something rather more modern. Scottish Water have an installation near the top of the hill.
To the east, across the water, the dominant feature is Ben More on the Isle of Mull. Tiree is know as ‘the land below the waves’ because the island is low lying, but we look out on one mountain peak after another. Closer to hand are seals sun-bathing on the rocks.
No matter where we are on our walk we can see Tilley – the nickname of the island’s turbine. The turbine is owned and operated by Tiree Renewable Energy Limited and generates electricity and finance for the island. All surplus revenue is donated to finance community projects through the Windfall Fund.
Along the way we come across several ’standing stones’ and perhaps the most dominant is at the the far end of raised grassy bank, which is probably a natural pebble bank. Passing through Ruaig as we head for Gott Bay we come across some beautiful gardens which appear to be looked after with great care and speak volumes of he skill and efforts of the gardeners.
Before heading back to our standing point at Salum we come to Brock a sub-township of the larger crofting township of Ruaig. Close to the shore, were the former cottars’ cottages. There are two folk accounts for the derivation of the name Brock but according to Dr. John Holliday, the name most likely has a norse origin.
Well our walk has almost come to end. All that is required is to take the single track road from Ruaig to Salum and we are then back where we began our brief tour of the East End.
Well we hope you have enjoyed travelling by your imagination to the island of Tiree and the walk with us today to the East end of the island. Whether you a regular or occasional visitor, or you have never been before, in the not too distant future we look forward to being able to welcome you to Tiree – when it is deemed safe to do so.
The choice is yours – a short flight from Glasgow Airport or a cruise from the Mainland ferry terminal of Oban.