It is hard to believe that it is almost a week since we returned to our island home. Having spent almost three weeks on holiday in Oxfordshire with family and with a few days visiting Stratford Upon Avon, we stopped overnight in Falkirk on our way home in order to sail on the Tuesday afternoon ferry.
The hot weather we had experienced in Oxfordshire followed us north. On Tuesday morning, en route to Oban, we had a coffee break in Callendar. What a beautiful journey it is through Bonnie Stathyre, Lochearnhead, Glen Ogle, Glen Dochart and Crianlarich. We arrived in Oban in time to catch a bite of lunch and do some essential shopping before the 3:00pm sailing.
It was our attention to buy some fresh fish on our way to the Ferry Terminal and to do so we had to pass Oban’s railway station. Sitting at the platform was one of the new Highland Explorer carriages. These carriages have been especially designed to support active travel, by providing people with the space and storage needed to comfortably take their bikes, skis, or other sporting gear with them on their journey. Each carriage has a total of 20 individual bike racks, as well as designated seating for 24 people. Rail Magazine explains: ‘The carriages have had a full interior and exterior refresh, including the installation of free WiFi, at-seat power points, USB sockets and a refurbished toilet. An e-bike charging socket has also been provided for the first time ever on a UK train. An eye-catching exterior livery has been designed by Scottish artist Peter McDermott, and depicts typical Highland scenery alongside famous landmarks on the WHL, including the Glenfinnan monument and viaduct and the Skye Cuillin mountain range.’
Oban was sunny and warm but the view looking down the Sound of Kerrera and in the opposite direction out into the Firth of Lorn was distinctively different. From Oban Ferry Terminal in both instances a bank of low cloud or sea mist could be seen while at the same time the clear blue sky above was clearly visible. As soon as the MV Clansman left Oban Bay and entered the Firth of Lorn, her horn sounded long blasts time and time again. We were well into the Sound of Mull before we entered clear blue skies. From then on it was blue skies all the way to Tiree. No wonder the outside deck was popular!
It was great to be back in what for us now are home waters, sailing between the Isle of Mull and the Mainland. With the mist or sea fog rolled back what spectacular views all round, especially of the mountain peaks on Mull. No wonder many around us were not only taking in the view but seeking to capture it on their mobile phone cameras.
With the mist or sea fog rolled back what spectacular views all round, especially of the mountain peaks on Mull. No wonder many around us were not only taking in the view but seeking to capture it on their mobile phone cameras.
It was in the Sound of Mull that perhaps those most fascinated event took place. Was it the sound that we first heard or did we catch a glimpse? Whatever it was, it caught our attention. A sea plane was flying low over the waters of the Sound, while above and just behind was another small plane. Was the latter attempting to film the sea plane?
With the weather so bright we lost no time in going for a walk along one of Tiree’s famous shell sand beaches, thus Wednesday afternoon found us on Balinoe beach. The beach was busy, but on Tiree the beaches are never crowded, unlike so many beaches in the West of England. Anchored in Hynish Bay was a lone yacht, which added to the attractiveness of the seascape.
Although we had appreciated our view of the setting sun while on holiday in Thame, Oxfordshire, it was great to view the setting sun once again in Tiree’s wide skies.
The full moon was just days away. Nevertheless, the waxing moon was particularly colourful. In the coming days we were to experience particularly high and low tides.
On Thursday morning, the sound of swirling blades drew us to our south facing window. A helicopter was about to land between the lighthouse and the BT exchange and on board were engineers coming to work in the exchange. In more normal times on the Mainland the sight and sound of aircraft are common place, but on the island at any time, normal or otherwise, the sound of an aircraft draws your attention, especially if it is not the twice daily aircraft from Glasgow Airport.
Tiree is proving to be a popular destination for yachting enthusiasts. Before going on holiday we counted no less than thirteen vessels at anchor in Gott Bay one evening. Since returning we have counted on average about ten yachts or pleasure craft at anchor in the bay each evening. With stunning views you can understand why Gott Bay is beaconing so popular.
On a Friday morning, for the duration of the Summer timetable, the Ferry departs Oban at 6:10 and sails direct to Tiree, arriving at 9:30. Understandably for many coming to Tiree the early sailing is not so welcome, but for those sailing from Tiree it is popular due to the earlier arrival in Oban.
For three days in a row (at least) Tiree has been the sunniest place in the UK. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday Tiree topped the Met Office records, locally and nationwide. Not only was Friday sunny it was extremely warm by Tiree standards Although we thoroughly enjoyed our holiday, we were looking forward to Tiree’s cooler climes and refreshing breezes. We could hardly have imagined struggling to cope with the temperatures on the island!
When the temperature had cooled slightly we went for a walk along Salum beach. It was a good choice! What pleasure watching the sun going down over the bay. Our walk brought back vivid memories for it was here we first saw seals following us as we walked along the shore.
Just in time, with literally seconds to spare, we arrived back at the pier in Gott Bay, to see the sun dip under the horizon. Almost unbelievably, both at Salum and at Gott Bay there was hardly a ripple on the water. There was both a silence and a stillness.
Once again, as we drew the curtains for the night, we caught sight of the moon known as the Buck Moon, named after the new antlers that emerge from a buck’s forehead around this time of the year. It is also called Thunder Moon, Hay Moon, and Wort Moon. This year, particularly in the South of England, ‘Thunder Moon’ is most appropriate.
Saturday evening was surreal. Having spent of the day preparing for Sunday we went out for a walk as the sun was about to set. No sooner had we stepped outside the door than we began to see a mist creeping over the lower areas of the landscape. As we walk along the mist was coming denser. Looking out from the pier across the bay, between the mist and the stillness, there was a strong feeling that this was surreal. The sea wall that runs along the length of the pier felt very warm to the touch. Apparently the mist was down to ‘temperature inversion, with hot air sitting on top of colder air.
Many are remarking how busy the island is this year. Due to social distancing measures capacity is limited on the ferry. Nevertheless, there is no doubting the number of visitors, a welcome boost to many island businesses.
On Sunday the number of people the Baptist Church is able to accommodate increased due to a relaxation in the social distancing rules for churches. It is always a joy to welcome visitors to the Church’s Sunday Gathering held in An Talla, the island’s community hall.
Already there has been a change in the weather. Today has been overcast and cooler and rain is forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday. Much of Scotland has suffered from a lower than average rainfall and Tiree is no exception. Perhaps the forecast rain will surely freshen the Machair and turn brown vegetation green once again.
This is ‘Life on Tiree’.