Tiree claims to be the sunniest place in Scotland, and has a comparatively low average rainfall, but it's also one of the windiest places in the country. So windy, in fact, that Tiree has become the windsurfing capital of Scotland and is known as the 'Hawaii of the North'. International windsurfers are attracted by the huge Atlantic rollers that break on the island's countless, long, clean and silver beaches.
Tiree is a low, flat island, only about 11 miles long and six miles across at its widest, and is also known by the nickname Tir fo Thuinn, or 'Land below the waves'. When seen from a distance most of it disappears below the horizon, save its two highest hills, Ben Hynish (462 ft) and Beinn Hough (390 ft), on the west coast. Being flat and small, it obviously makes good sense to explore it by bicycle, but remember that the constant wind varies from strong to gale force.
The ferry port is at Gott Bay, half a mile from Scarinish, the island's main village and home to a Co-op supermarket, post office and bank (there's a garage at the pier head). About four miles from Scarinish, is Vaul Bay, where the well-preserved remains of Dun Mor, a Pictish Broch built around the first century AD, stand on a rocky outcrop to the west of the bay.
A few miles west of here is the Clach a'Choire, or 'ringing stone', a huge glacial granite boulder covered in Bronze-Age cup marks which makes a metallic sound when struck. Legend has it that should it ever shatter, or fall off its pedestal, then Tiree will sink beneath the waves.
Local Sights & Activities for TireeSightseeing
The island's main road runs northwest from Scarinish, past the beautiful beach at Balephetrish Bay to Balevullin, where you can see some good examples of restored traditional thatched houses. Just to the south, at Sandaig, is the Sandaig Museum which tells of the island's social history. Info - Jun-Sep Mon-Fri 1400-1600.
In the southwestern corner of the island is the most spectacular scenery of all, at the headland of Ceann a'Mara, or Kenavara. The massive sea cliffs are the home of thousands of sea birds and you can see seals on the rocky shore. East from here, across the golden sands of Balephuil Bay, is the island's highest hill, Ben Hynish, topped by a radar-tracking station resembling a giant golf ball. Despite this, it's worth the climb to the top for the magnificent views over the island and, on clear days, across to the Outer Hebrides.
Below Ben Hynish, to the east, is the village of Hynish, where you'll find the Signal Tower Museum, which tells the fascinating story of the building of the Skerryvore Lighthouse (1840-44) by Alan Stevenson, an uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson. This incredible feat of engineering was carried out from Hynish, where a dry dock/reservoir was built for shipping materials by boat to the Skerryvore reef, 11 miles to the southwest.
There are several guesthouses and B&Bs, the best of which is the wonderful Kirkapol House, Tel./Fax. 220729, in a converted Victorian church overlooking Gott Bay. Price includes dinner. D The Glassary Guest House & Restaurant, is at Sandaig, Tel./Fax. 220684. 4 en suite rooms, open all year, very good food (mid-range). There are 2 hotels: the C Scarinish Hotel, Tel. 220308, Fax. 220410, is in the village; and D Tiree Lodge, Tel. 220368, Fax. 220994, at Gott Bay. It's possible to camp free on the island, but ask for permission first.
The best food on offer is at the The Glassary (see above). There's also the option of bar lunches and suppers at the Tiree Lodge and Scarinish Hotel. For afternoon tea or coffee you're limited to the Alan Stevenson Centre in Hynish, open 1430-1630, or Glebecraft in Scarinish.
Travel Directions to Tiree
Getting to Tiree
Tiree has an airport and there are regular daily flights (except Sun) all year round from Glasgow. The airport is at The Reef, Crossapol (Tel. 220309). There are CalMac car and passenger ferries to the island from Oban, via Coll and, occasionally, Tobermory. The ferry port is at Scarinish (Tel. 220337). From Oban to Tiree (55 mins) once daily on Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri and Sat. One-way ticket to Tiree costs £11.40 per passenger and £65 per car. From Coll to Tiree costs £2.90 and £19.90.
Getting around Tiree
There's a shared taxi service which operates on request Mon-Fri 0930-1500 (limited service on Sat), also Mon-Wed and Fri 1600-1730. There's also a Tue evening service for arriving ferries, but only in the summer. For private taxi hire call Island Cabs, Tel. 220344 (evenings and weekends only). There's a postbus service around the island, including to and from the airport. The timetable is available at Scarinish Post Office. Bicycle hire is available at the Tiree Lodge Hotel (see below), or contact Mr N Maclean, Tel. 220428.
Tiree is much greener and more fertile than its neighbour. It was once known as the breadbasket of the Hebrides and its Gaelic name, tir-iodh, means 'Land of Corn'. The island supported a population of 4,450 in 1831, but was ruthlessly cleared by its owner, the Duke of Argyll, so that by 1881 the population had been halved. Not content to stop there, he even drafted in the marines in 1885 to evict those crofters who dared to protest. Today Tiree enjoys relative prosperity, and crofting is the mainstay of the economy, with cattle and sheep grazing the miles of rich machair. Tourism is also a major contributor and during the height of the season the island's population approaches the levels of the early 19th century.