Affinity

Our oldest son has an affinity with Scotland and enjoys his regular visits to Tiree.  Of our four children he alone was born in Scotland while we were living and working in Ayrshire. His love of Scotland and Tiree runs deeper than simply the fact of being born here.

Kenavara from the Maze

It was through Andrew that we were introduced to the Isle of Tiree. In August 2011 the three of us walked the Rob Roy Way from Drymen to Pitlochry. The following week we were based at Bunree by the Corran Ferry about 10 miles from Fort Willian. It was at his suggestion that on the Thursday we make an early start in order to catch the 8:00am ferry to Tiree as it was possible to spend the afternoon on the island. Back then it was one of the excursions advertised by CalMac and it included lunch at the Scarinish Hotel and a tour of the island. The experience most certainly had unforeseen consequences.

Balinoe Beach Approach

The following year we had our sights on walking the West Highland Way but for a variety of reasons this was not possible. Instead, we enjoyed a week on Tiree and a week on Skye. One year later in 2013, again in August, we moved to the Isle of Tiree.  Andrew helped with the removal.

Ben More and Distant Peaks from Traigh Crionaig (Tiree)

In mid July this year daughter ‘number one’ came to visit us along with her husband. We travelled back with them to their home in Oxfordshire and spent just over two weeks there. During that time we celebrated our other daughter’s 40th as well as having a short break in the historic market town of Stratford Upon Avon.   We then travelled north with Andrew to Tiree.

Wild Flowers with Distant Outer Hebrides from track to Ben Hough

There was to be no relief from the heat we had experienced while staying in Oxfordshire. Although not quite as intense, our first week back on Tiree was almost unbelievable. Our second week back has for the most part been bright and more suitable for walking.  It has been most enjoyable getting out together.

Loch Riaghain

In addition to our daily walks around Scarinish, we enjoyed the walk from Gott to the Ringing Stone. Along with much of Scotland, the West Coast of Scotland has been unusually dry and the Isle of Tiree bears witness to this. The usual vibrant green landscape is tinged with brown. The plus side was the walk from Gott to the Ringing Stone was dry underfoot – in wet conditions the path can be flooded. 

Inlet by the Ringing Stone

Although the path was dry and the lochans lower than normal, there was evidence all around us of just how much of Tiree is covered in water.

The Ringing Stone

Our walk was ‘Coast to Coast’. Thankfully the walk is close to the narrowest point in the island – Tiree is shaped like a lamb chop!

Ringing Stone – Cupmarks clearly seen

A feature of the walk was the sheer number of wild flowers. The Machair may be well past its first bloom, but there is a wealth of beauty all over the island. Ou walks around the island have been a reminder of the second verse of the song by Moira Kerr about Tiree that states, ‘There are so many wild and pretty flowers, To try to name them all would take for hours’.

Bluebells on the Reef by Baugh Beach

Having walked along Baugh Beach, I happened to notice on the edge of the dune on the Reef side, a patch of bluebells. The bluebells were eye catching, but they were not alone.

On a walk along Vaul beach we were struck (not stung) by the number of jelly fish. What interesting patterns were on display.

Gott Bay Moorings

Most evenings we have been taking a walk to the pier around sunset. We have remarked how popular Tiree and Gott Bay in particular has become with those who enjoy yachting and cruising. 

Fishing Boat in Gott Bay

Seals are not unknown by the pier, and each year two visit around this particular time. We started calling them Sammy and Sally, occasionally they have brought along a friend. But you know the old saying ’tow is company, three is a crowd’. We were feeling rather disappointed that they had not made an appearance this year. However, what pleasure we had on Monday when we watched them swimming about. It was so calm once again, that we could hear their breathing.

Sammy or is it Sally?
Sammy and Sally

No matter how strong our son’s ties to the island, the time is fast approaching for his departure. On Thursday he takes his leave as he boards the ‘MV Clansman’ for the sail to Oban. He is already thinking of his next possible visit – half-term perhaps?

Gott by Gott Bay

Having mentioned the ferry, it is encouraging to hear that as from Monday the 9th of August, with the restrictions relating to social distancing relaxed, the ship’s capacity will be more or less back to normal. This will be of particular benefit to foot passengers, especially to those with urgent appointments on the mainland.

MV Clansman in the Gunna Sound

This is ‘Life on Tiree’.

Loch Riaghain

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Amended Timetable

It’s Thursday 27th May 2021 and due to the technical fault affecting MV Loch Seaforth, an amended timetable is in operation. Instead of the normal timetable of a Oban – Coll – Tiree – Coll – Oban sailing an additional leg has been factored in. From Tiree the MV Clansman continued on to Barra.

MV Clansman in the Little Minch

With an appointment for coffee to be kept in the morning it was impossible to observe the progress of the MV Clansman through the Gunna Sound on her way via the Little Minch to Barra. So this afternoon around 4:30 there was the opportunity to watch the return of the ‘Mighty One’. Parking at one of the higher spots on the road between Ruaig and Caolas the ferry could be seen out in the Little Minch.

The MV Clansman about to enter the Gunna Sound

The weather was favourable with only a slight breeze, blue skies and a a calm sea. It is always a pleasure to observe the stately approach of the ‘Mighty One’ through the Gunna Sound. The ‘Sound separates Tiree and Coll and takes its name from an island there.

The MV Clansman with the Isle of Rum as a backdrop.

As the ferry enters the Sound, the Isle of Rum is a great backdrop and on this occasion the outline of Rum was clearly visible.

The MV Clansman enters the Sound

Right on schedule the ferry entered the Sound. There was no fanfare to herald her arrival. There was only the steady thob of her engines.

The MV Clansman approaches the navigation buoy.
The MV Clansman ploughs her way through the waters off the Sound

Before the ferry leaves the Sound, Ben Hiant on the Ardnamurchan Peninsular can be seen in the distance.

The MV Clansman leaves the Gunna Sound

As the vessel leaves the Sound and enters the Passage of Tiree, the mountain peaks on Mull including the munro ‘Ben More’ provide the backdrop.

The backdrop is the west coast of the Isle of Mull

Instead of returning directly the pier at Scarinish, the next point of observation was from the sandy shore of Gott Bay.

The MV Clansman enters Gott Bay

The shoreline of Gott Bay gave a completely different view of the ferry, in particular her berthing alongside the pier. For normal the view would be across the pier.

The ‘Mighty One in Gott Bay
The MV Clansman swings to come alongside the pier stern first.
The approach to the pier
Preparing to berth
A yacht with an amazing view of the MV Clansman
A surfer’s kite provides even more colour
Almost there!
A view from the Roadway

Under the favourable conditions the ferry berthed on time alongside Tiree’s pier, Gott Bay, Scarinish. For the past two weeks the MV Clansman has sailed out to Barra on a Wednesday and Thursday. Thankfully, other than have three ferries with a late arrival in Oban, Tiree has been unaffected by the woes of the MV Loch Seaforth.

The MV Clansman

This is ‘Life on Tiree’

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Success

It is Monday and after the recent spell of stormy weather things have settled down. It was pleasantly mild for this morning’s walk around Scarinish. Conditions in Gott Bay could hardly have been better for the berthing of the MV Lord of the Isles with hardly a breath of wind and calm seas.

A distant view of the MV Isle of Mull

The aim had been to report on Saturday’s activities at the pier but a busy weekend put paid to that. At last a window of opportunity to give an update.

Through the Linkspan

Anyone with an interest in the ferries serving the Clyde and islands of the West Coast of Scotland  will be aware of the issues facing the ferry operator at the present time. An aged fleet, a global pandemic, adverse weather conditions, technical issues and vessels in turn withdrawn for their annual overhaul and certification – these are just some of the issues.

Turning in order to berth stern first

As a consequence CalMac are having to deploy the remaining vessels in the fleet as best as they can. One look at the ‘Status’ of the various routes is punctuated with explanations like: – Due to a technical issue elsewhere in the network, please note that there will be only stop at Coll. Due to a technical issue elsewhere in the network, this service has been cancelled. Due to adverse weather conditions this service is liable to disruption or cancellation at short notice.

A Bridge Eye View

The ongoing situation has serious consequences for island life and businesses. On the lighter side, those who enjoy ferry watching are able to observe ferries they would not see in more normal circumstances.

With bow across the roundhead

With Thursday’s sailing to Coll and Tiree unable to successfully berth at either port, the MV Isle of Mull undertook the crossing on Saturday morning. Designed for the short crossing from Oban to Craignure on the Isle of Mull, it is not best suited for the longer crossing to Coll and Tiree or to Castlebay on Barra.  Thankfully weather and sea conditions were such the vessel could berth safely and successfully. 

Midship line thrown
Starboard ropes secured

On this occasion a member of the pier staff had to climb one of the dolphins which support the linkspan in order to secure an additional stern rope.  The MV Isle of Mull is high sided and so is more likely to catch the wind. It appeared that no chances were being taken over the ropes.

Not everyone’s Cup of Tea
Ready! Steady! Catch!

As had been reported on a previous occasion this particular vessel is an infrequent visitor to Tiree. She can carry fewer vehicles on her car deck but more passengers. So she has been deployed as an addition ferry when passenger numbers are extremely high – such as the Tiree Music Festival.  The problems facing CalMac and the build up delayed traffic, particularly freight, resulted in the MV Isle of Mull visiting Coll and Tiree on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday evening she sailed Oban to Barra, returning on Monday morning.

MV Isle of Mull alonhside the pier

Tiree required a delivery of petrol on Saturday and this resulted in the MV Lord of the Isles sailing from Oban to Tiree on Saturday afternoon. The MV Isle of Mull has a fully enclosed card deck and is unable to transport a tanker carrying petrol. There was no return sailing to Oban. Instead the ferry sailed to Barra.

Petrol Tanker on LOTI

In normal circumstances about the 24th of March the ferry would have moved from the winter to summer timetable. This year due to the pandemic this has been delayed until late April.  

MV Lord of the Isles departing Gott Bay – Barra Bound

The summer timetable would normally see the Oban, Coll and Tiree service extended to Barra once a week and in recent years this has been on a Wednesday. This does enable a day visit (about six hours) to Tiree. It has the added benefit of allowing Coll residents to shop at the CO-OP on Tiree. Although traffic is low between Tiree and Barra there are those who appreciate the service.

MV Lord of the Isles entering the Gunna Sound

The ferry would normally sail to Barra via the Gunna Sound – the stench of water separating Coll and Tiree. Last year due to the emergency timetable and covid restrictions this once a week sailing was suspended.

LOTI approaching the navigation buoy in the Gunna Sound

On Saturday it felt a treat to watch the MV Lord of the Isles sail through the Gunna Sound.  As she left the Sound and entered the Little Minch you were conscious, even  from the shore, of the vessel rising and falling.  Normally it would be the MV Clansman that makes the transit so it was great to see LOTI in the Sound. However, it has to be acknowledged she is no stranger to the waters of the sound.

Laeving the Gunna Sound – Rum in the dtstance

This is ‘Life on Tiree’.

Rising and Falling in the Little Minch

Rising and Falling in the Little Minch

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East End Eve

After a day of scattered showers, some more like downpours, the evening was a treat. So, father and son, the latter a frequent visitor to Tiree, set out to watch the sunset. The first thought was to head for Vaul but instead we made our way to Caolas. From Caolas you look out across the […]

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Island Life

“It’s just island life.” Sometimes the phrase is a reference to the weather. Sometimes it relates to Tiree’s transport links to the Mainland. And sometimes it is a combination of both. It is November and while parts of the UK have experienced devastating floods, here on Tiree we have enjoyed some truly sunny days. However […]

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May Day Celebrations

What a great day May the 1st turned out to be. The whole day was one big celebration There was surprise and sunshine. A mid-morning telephone call gave an alert. The ‘Flying Farmers’ were about to descend on Tiree. This resulted on 11 planes parked on the apron at once. (See the previous post relating […]

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Playing Catch-Up

It is a beautiful but breezy Friday. This morning the MV Clansman cut a striking image. Due to the prevailing conditions she departed slightly early. On Friday mornings the ferry arrives at the Isle of Tiree at 9:35. How this past week has flown by. Today has the appearance of a catch-up day. It is […]

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Return to Normality

It’s a Wednesday, the day of the Barra sailing. In the Summer Timetable the ferry sails from Oban to Coll and Tiree. Then it heads through the Gunna Sound and out into the Little Minch. Its next port of call is Castlebay on the Island of Barra almost three hours away. There is a sense […]

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Barra and Back

Today the weekly Summer Sailing from Tiree to Barra and back commenced. This was one weekly later than originally advertised. And this was due to vessel redeployment issues. The MV Clansman is still in dry dock! Until further notice this service is being operated by the MV Lord of the Isles. In the past she […]

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Barra Bound

CalMac provide a summer only service  to the island of Barra from the Isle of Tiree. It makes the once a week crossing – there and back – on a Wednesday. For the past two weeks this sailing has been cancelled. The reason given was the wind and the waves. This was the Penultimate Passage […]

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