THE GUIDE TO
019 ON THE WEST COAST 2
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WHAT TO DO
CULTURE & EVENTS
ENJOYING THE JOURNEY
ON THE WEST COAST
CALMAC FERRY ROUTE MAP
Leverburgh Berneray NORTH UIST Lochmaddy
SOUTH UIST Sconser Lochboisdale ERISKAY
EIGG MUCK Kilchoan COLL Lochaline
Fishnish Craignure KERRERA KERR ER ERR RRERA A MULL
COLONSAY Dunoon Colintraive Portvadie Tarbert Rhubodach
ROUTE COLOUR KEY JURA
–- Winter and Summer routes –- Winter routes –- Summer routes
Tayinloan Tay yinloan
Port Port Ellen
Rothesay Claonaig BUTE
Gourock Wemyss Bay Largs
GREAT Lochranza CUMBRAE Ardrossan ARRAN Brodick
For timetable information, go to calmac.co.uk Campbeltown
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PHOTO: RACHEL KEENAN
This guide aims to paint a picture of Scotland’s islands on the west coast in all of its diversity, richness and beauty. It helps you find out what to do, gives you inspiring ideas, picks out the best of culture and events, and encourages you to enjoy the journey. Independently compiled, with the support of CalMac, we hope to reflect the best of what these islands have to offer and encourage you to set off and explore.
CalMac’s ferries are the gateway to the islands of Scotland’s west coast, connecting to, from and between Arran and the Kintyre peninsula in the south to Skye and the Outer Hebrides in the north. The fleet carries passengers, bikes, cars and commercial traffic right through the year as part of Scotland’s public transport network integrated with ports on the mainland. Journeys can be planned and tickets booked online at calmac.co.uk or you can find a handy journey planner at calmac.co.uk/journeyplanner.
Consulting Editor Donald Reid Project Editor Katharine Gemmell Writing and Research Craig Angus, Kerry Froud, Katharine Gemmell, Robin Hodge, Dr Kat Jones, Ruth Marsh, Deborah Martin, Arusa Qureshi, Donald Reid, Caroline Rye, Barry Shelby, Jason Thomson
Subeditor Brian Donaldson Design & Production Lucy Munro, Seonaid Rafferty Illustrator Seonaid Rafferty Partnerships Director Sheri Friers CEO Simon Dessain
©2019 The List Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of The List Ltd.
On the Water
In the Water
By the Water
Events and Venues 28
Published by The List Ltd 14 High Street Edinburgh EH1 1TE 0131 550 3050; list.co.uk Extensive efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this publication, however the publishers can accept no responsibility for any errors it may contain.
Printed by J Thomson, 14 Carnoustie Place, Glasgow, G5 8PB Cover Photo: The Isle of Harris by Rachel Keenan
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On the Water
PHOTO: RACHEL KEENAN
Speed bonnie boat Exploring one of Europe’s richest seascapes, Donald Reid suggests all sorts of ways you can get on the water to appreciate its beauty and challenges
n previous centuries, diverse maritime traffic picked their way through Scotland’s islands. Everything from leatherhulled Celtic coracles and Viking longships to galleons of the Spanish Armada and grey-hulled warships have traversed the west coast’s lochs, sounds, firths and Minches. It’s easy to forget that in the days before the mainland was accessed by roads, seaborne transport dominated along this coast which
was part of a significant trading arc connecting places like the Basque region and Brittany with Ireland, the Orkney and Shetland islands, and Scandanavia. Today, the fishing boats, ferries and cargo boats share the seaways with those using them for leisure and exploration. While these waters are widely known among committed sailors as fantastic waters for cruising, you don’t need to own a yacht or have the skills to charter one to experience them. Join island-hopping cruises in small, elegant converted wooden steam trawlers, or learn the ropes at a sailing school or one of the liveaboard yachts that set out on cruises around the islands; these experiences can last from a few hours to a few weeks. Smaller craft, particularly sea kayaks, have become a popular way to explore coastlines, and
various operations based on and around the islands offer the chance to take classes, guided expeditions or day adventures. Taking you even closer to the water, and occasionally into it, there are now surf schools based on the Atlantic coast of Lewis as well as on Tiree, which has an international reputation as a venue for surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, and the recent trend of stand-up paddling (or SUP). If you fancy something with a bit more speed, then wild, wet and often bumpy rides on RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) and other nifty craft can fly you across the waves to spot wildlife (including whales, porpoises and other sealife), scenery or, in the case of the Corryvreckan whirlpool, the mysterious movements of the sea itself.
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On the Water
CalMac Cruises PHOTO: RACHEL KEENAN
With careful planning and a close reading of CalMac’s ferry timetables, there are opportunities to take scheduled ferry trips that are more like a one-day cruise: multistop voyages that allow you to experience various islands, ports, passages and ever-changing views for the price of a day return as a foot passenger. Note that all departure ports (other than Kennacraig) can be reached by train. SMALL ISLES
On Saturdays in summer, the ferry makes two circumnavigations of all four of the Small Isles – one anti-clockwise departing Mallaig at 7.30am, calling at Rum, Canna, Muck and Eigg, and then clockwise leaving Mallaig at 2.25pm going in reverse order and returning at 8.50pm. Do the full tour (twice if you like!) or if you’re cunning, jump off on one of the islands for a few hours on shore then board the later boat to take you back.
Wednesdays in summer, you can manage an epic day aboard calling at Port Askaig on Islay, then the island of Colonsay, up the Firth of Lorn to Oban, then back, returning to Kennacraig by 10.50pm. Rather gentler is an evening passage on certain days leaving Oban at 4.30pm for Colonsay, returning at 9.15pm. THE MINCH IN A DAY
If you get on the ferry departing Kennacraig at 9.45am on
Wednesdays in summer are also the one time you can get across the Minch to the Outer Hebrides
OPERATORS TO HELP YOU GET ON THE WATER
• Selkie Explorers, Eigg • Yacht Corryvreckan, Oban
SAIL • Alternative Boat Hire, Iona • National Watersports Training Centre, Cumbrae • Oban Sea School • New Horizon Sailing School, Mull • St Hilda Sea Adventures, Oban
STEAM & POWER • Argyll Cruising, Dunoon • The Majestic Line, Dunoon • Puffer Steamboat Holidays, Crinan • Waverley Excursions, Oban (plus elsewhere) SEA KAYAK • Arisaig Sea Kayak
• • • •
and back in a day. Leave Oban on the 7.15am ferry which goes up the Sound of Mull, calls at Coll and Tiree, and berths at Castlebay on Barra at 2.15pm, completing the return to Oban seven hours later. TO KINTYRE VIA THE CLYDE
Revive the days of the cross-Clyde steamer services with afternoon sailing on Sundays in summer departing Ardrossan at 1.50pm, arriving in Campbeltown at 4.30pm and returning to Ardrossan at 7.35pm.
Centre, near Mallaig Eigg Adventures Kayak Wild Islay Kayak Scotland, Oban Raasay House, Raasay
SURF • Blackhouse Watersports, Tiree • Pete’s Surf School, Kintyre • Isle of Barra Surf and Coastal Adventures • Surf Lewis
SPEED & SEALIFE • Hebridean Whale Cruises, Stornoway • Islay Sea Adventures • Jura Boat Tours • Seafari Adventures, Oban • Sealife Adventures, Seil Island • Sea Life Surveys, Mull • Seatrek, Lewis ■ For contact details of operators, see list.co.uk
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In the Water
PHOTO: SEAFOOD SCOTLAND
BRINE AND DANDY Scottish seafood has an enviable reputation around the world. Caroline Rye finds out that many are caught and harvested around the western coasts
at, juicy langoustines, creelcaught crab, briny mussels and hand-dived scallops; Scotland is renowned for its seafood, and the waters around the west of Scotland are no exception. For many travellers, fresh seafood dishes taking just hours from sea to plate are a major highlight of visiting this part of the world. Local restaurants and hotels have woken up to the fact that visitors to the isles want sparkling fresh seafood. The kitchens and chefs worth searching out build close relationships with fishermen and local day boats to get the best of the day’s catch. Expect menus to change daily, depending on what’s available and tasting good. It’s not all just traditional fine dining restaurants either: outlets like The Seafood Shack in Ullapool and the Oban Seafood Hut are ideal places to sample accessible, top-notch seafood. Those staying in selfcatering accommodation who want
to try cooking local bounty should check out seafood merchants and fishmongers based on or near the local harbour. They’ll be able to advise on the best produce that day and how to cook and prepare it (remember to take a cool bag). Luckily, fresh seafood doesn’t need too much doing to it, so even the most basic holiday cottage kitchen kit can suffice. A steamed pot of plump mussels soaked up with crusty bread, or langoustines grilled in herb butter is hard to beat and doesn’t need a MasterChefstyle set-up to prepare. Once your holiday is sadly over, those still craving a taste of the sea can now order online. Lots of shellfish does travel well including live langoustines, oysters and scallops. Check out websites like The Hebridean Food Company or the Tobermory Fish Company for smoked fish to recreate a bit of the island experience once back home.
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In the Water
PHOTO: BEN JAMES / SCOTTISH NATURAL HERITAGE
PHOTO: SEAFOOD SCOTLAND
SELECTED SCOTTISH SEAFOOD IN SEASON SPRING (MAR-MAY) Cockles, brown crab, langoustine, lobster, oysters, coley SUMMER (JUN-AUG) Mussels, brown crab, cockles, herring, lobster, squid, haddock, ling, coley, mackerel AUTUMN (SEP-NOV) Mussels, brown crab, cockles, langoustine, lobster, oysters, squid, haddock, coley, mackerel WINTER (DEC-FEB) Mussels, cockles, langoustine, oysters, haddock, mackerel
Marine core The sea lochs, inlets and lochans across the Scottish islands and west coast of Argyll are a haven for wildlife, notes Caroline Rye Cetacean species such as porpoises and dolphins can be spotted jumping from the waves across The Minch; keep an eye out for them from the upper deck of the Ullapool-Stornoway ferry. Several species of seals, sprawled along the coastline are an easy way to catch a first glimpse of nature en route to the isles. Seabirds of all kinds claim the rocky outcrops in these parts as their own, including colonies of puffins, guillemots and Manx shearwater. The world’s largest colony of the latter can be found on Rum, and bird-watching
opportunities abound with RSPB Scotland reserves, hides and trails across the west coast. Make the trip out to Staffa to wonder at Fingal’s Cave and the huge variety of birdlife that make this remote part of the British Isles their home. Staying closer to dry land, the beaches and coastline across the region also offer plenty of rock pools to explore. All that’s needed are waterproofs and a keen eye to discover these fascinating worlds in miniature.
PHOTO: GRAHAM SAUNDERS / SCOTTISH NATURAL HERITAGE
Deep impact What better way to get a bit closer to the marine wildlife the islands have to offer than donning a wetsuit and getting face-to-snorkel with nature. The underwater landscape boasts everything from kelp forests to echinoderms to basking sharks for the keen diver.
As well as the incredibly diverse and thriving marine life, the seafloor is also home to many shipwrecks that have lain there for tens or even hundreds of years. Explore their secrets, less than a day’s travel from home but a world away under the waves.
Several providers in this region will offer facilities, equipment hire, boat charter and diving courses. For visitors to Skye, try Dive & Sea The Hebrides, while further south there are options including the Lochaline Dive Centre or the Puffin Dive Centre in Oban. (CR) The Guide to Scotland’s Islands 7
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By the Water
PHOTO: VISITSCOTLAND / PAUL TOMKINS
Tangasdale Beach, Isle of Barra
SEAWEED SUPPER Kerry Froud, the Wildlife Ranger at Glengorm Castle on Mull, runs regular seaweed foraging walks. Here, she shares expert tips on how to utilise this delicacy Along the rocky shores of Scotland’s western coasts and islands, you’ll find an array of beautiful, weird, delicious and nutritious seaweeds. In a shallow rockpool, admire the blue, iridescent fronds of carrageen seaweed glistening in the sunlight. This beautiful seaweed is used to thicken soups, make jellies, and soothe sore throats. Deeper down you can find the red, translucent fingers of proteinrich dulse, which is traditionally mixed into porridge or toasted over hot embers to bring out a bacon-like flavour. It can even be added into brownies, giving them a rich and earthy taste. With a bit of practice identifying them and an awareness of harvesting guidelines, you can collect and cook seaweeds fresh, dry them, freeze them, bake them, and add to both sweet and savoury dishes. With dabberlocks, oarweed, sea lettuce, pepper dulse, sea spaghetti and many other edible seaweeds lining our shores, you’re never far from tasty ingredients.
Sand and deliver Scotland’s islands are home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world. Robin Hodge selects a few gems he combination of golden sand, turquoise blue water, rolling surf and a backdrop of wild mountains has captured the heart and soul of countless visitors to Scotland’s islands on the west coast. This all makes a compelling reason to visit and explore the area. Among the best-loved is at Scarista on Harris, a glorious arc of sand and sea that stretches along the shore with dunes thrown up at its back. It looks out to Taransay which was used in 2000 for reality TV series Castaway. Further south, there are a beautiful series of smaller bays at the northeast corner of North Uist where the Atlantic rollers pound the shore. And still further south, impressive beaches lie on Barra, including the cockle strand which serves as the airport runway with take-off and landing scheduled according to the tides. On the Isle of Skye, it’s worth walking out to the delightful coral
beach north of Dunvegan. The sand is not in fact made from coral but from a rare white seaweed which has been crushed by the elements. The singing sands of Eigg are celebrated for the sounds they make as you walk across them. To some less poetic ears, it’s more a squeak than a song but it is a lovely island and there are magnificent views out across the water to the mountains of Rum. Colonsay is home to many lovely beaches, the best being Kiloran Bay on the west coast. And if you time it carefully you can also wade across to Oronsay and visit the old chapel. On Islay there’s Machir Bay, a small bay on the west coast with 2km of dunes and beach to discover. This beach is not recommended for swimming due to particularly strong hidden currents. This can also apply to other beaches across the islands, so it’s a good idea to check specific safety advice and take great care.
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By the Water
Awash with everything from gannets to guillemots, Scotland’s islands are a birdwatching heaven. Dr Katherine Jones details where you and your binoculars should be heading
WHERE TO SEE SEABIRDS Starting at Oban harbour look out for black guillemots. They nest in holes in the harbour wall. The remote Shiant Islands, accessible by day trip from Harris, is home to the largest
razorbills and other seabirds. Look out for the islands, and for its puffins, on the ferries to Lewis. The Shiant Islands (between Harris and Skye) is one such colony which, astoundingly, is home to 63,000 pairs of puffins, as well as many thousands of guillemots, razorbills and other seabirds. Look out for the Shiants, and for its puffins on the ferries to Lewis. A recent rat-eradication project (also seen on the Isle of Canna) offers the prospect of better
breeding success for the puffins and the return of Manx shearwaters to the islands. The Isle of Rum is famous for its Manx shearwaters, nesting in burrows high up on the island’s mountains. In March, around 100,000 pairs return from their wintering grounds off the coast of South America and you can see them on any of the ferry routes, riding on stiff, straight wings, almost touching the surface of the sea as they search for food. PHOTO: LORNE GILL / SCOTTISH NATURAL HERITAGE
Scotland’s fertile seas and wild, remote coastlines and islands make it one of the best places in the world to see seabirds. Nearly half of the world’s gannets breed in Scotland, and almost a third of the world’s Manx shearwaters nest on the Isle of Rum alone. From the deck of the ferry, gannets will be the largest seabird you’ll glimpse. Look out for groups fishing as they drop like arrows from the sky. They hit the sea at speeds of over 50 miles per hour, their specially adapted skulls offering some cushioning against the impact. Gannets nest in a few large colonies (St Kilda is one of the biggest) and can range hundreds of miles in search of food; this means they can be seen almost anywhere. Like gannets, other seabirds like to nest together in colonies and the scale of these ‘seabird cities’ can be vast: the noise, the activity and even the smell, makes them one of nature’s spectacles. Each species has its place in the colony; gannets on the summits, puffins in burrows in the grassy slopes, and kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills on tiny ledges on the sheer cliffs. The colonies on the Shiant Islands, between Harris and Skye, are home to 63,000 pairs of puffin, as well as many thousands of guillemots,
Nest in show
population of puffins in Scotland. A gigantic boulder field holds the main breeding colony. Lunga, a boat trip from Mull, is the place to see puffins, with thousands of pairs nesting on the tiny island, many in burrows only metres from the path. The best place to see Rum’s Manx
shearwaters is from the ferry. You will spot them cruising low over the water and gathering in huge rafts at dusk waiting to return to their burrows after sunset. Canna is a great all-round seabird island. Following a rateradication programme, Manx shearwaters
are back, and it’s also great for puffins and guillemots. No guide on where to see seabirds would be complete without an entry for St Kilda. The stacks and islands are home to more than 60,000 pairs of gannets, and a couple of operators offer day trips from Harris.
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Season’s greetings PHOTO: PAUL TOMKINS / VISITSCOTLAND
PHOTO: PAUL TOMKINS / VISITSCOTLAND
As the dark days and long nights start to fade, the islands off the west coast come alive with wildlife on a breeding mission and nature that blooms in glorious fashion. It's the perfect time of year to see something new. Balranald, on the island of North Uist, is ideal for stunning island fauna and migrating birds, including lapwings, corncrakes and corn bunting which you can catch as you walk along the beaches and marshland. You might even see skuas and divers at sea and porpoises jumping from the water. Islay, the fifth largest Scottish island with an impressive 130 miles of coastline, is also home to healthy bird and deer populations. Head over to Loch Gruinart where you’ll find two RSPB hides for great bird-watching opportunities. Elsewhere, you may just spot a puffin or two as they come ashore to breed from April to August in places like Staffa, the Treshnish Isles and St Kilda. The months of February and March, meanwhile, are perfect for observing golden eagles as they prepare for breeding season, performing acrobatic displays across the sky. Keep an eye out for them on North Harris, Lewis, South Uist, and Mull (which also has sea eagles).
Each west-coast island may have its own individual charm, but as the temperature rises in the summer months this is when island-hopping becomes most appealing. With white sandy beaches and turquoise seas, a plethora of outdoor events and activities, and exceptionally fresh seafood on offer, there’s much to explore in July and August. Get the ferry to Coll and if you’re lucky you might get to spot some basking sharks in the wild. The Outer Hebrides boast some of the best wild swimming spots in the UK during summer including the remote Traigh Iar on North Uist and picturesque Luskentyre Beach on the Isle of Harris. Summer is also the ideal time to try out activities like sea kayaking, abseiling, gorge walking or coasteering, which can all be attempted at Raasay House on Skye. Wild flowers take over on the Hebridean machair in the summer months, with exceptional colours and plant species providing a fitting backdrop. The Achamore Gardens on Gigha, the Mount Stuart Gardens on the Isle of Bute or the Armadale Castle and Gardens on the Isle of Skye are great options for seeing magnificent Rhododendrons, Azaleas and unusual tree shrubs.
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The seasons may change but that doesn’t mean there is ever a bad time to visit Scotland’s islands. Arusa Qureshi explains where to go and what to see whatever the time of year PHOTO: KENNY LAM / VISITSCOTLAND
As autumnal colours begin to emerge, the wildlife of the islands typically change with birds migrating south to avoid the coming cold. But species like the red deer, Scotland’s largest wild mammal, can be spotted year round in moorland and forests around the Isle of Rum, Isle of Mull and the Knoydart Peninsula. Just be aware that autumn is mating season and spotting needs to be done sensitively. Take in the special autumn scenery by walking or cycling the Hebridean Way, offering the opportunity to visit ten islands over the course of 156 miles. With lamb being at its most succulent in autumn, it’s a good time to try out locally reared meat and game. Taste-test the best specialities and delicacies by going on the Eat Drink Hebrides Trail, a self-guided path that allows you to sample food and drink experiences in the Outer Hebrides via shops, restaurants and producers. If you’re looking for adventure, Tiree is the place to go in October. Known as one of the windiest spots in the UK, the most westerly island in the Inner Hebrides is simultaneously one of the sunniest, with pleasant temperatures thanks to the warm Gulf Stream. Tiree’s windy conditions make it especially popular among windsurfers, who make the annual pilgrimage for the Tiree Wave Classic.
Even in the winter months, the breathtaking scenery and peaceful solitude of the west coast isles makes them an attractive location for a short break. Plus, the freshness of the wild winter weather is a brilliant way to dispel those seasonal blues, getting you ready for the festive period ahead. The Isle of Coll also makes the perfect location for star gazing as Scotland’s first official Dark Sky Community. The low winter sun makes for terrific photographs of the untamed landscape but above all, the darkness of winter and low levels of light pollution offer a rare chance to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights in places like Lewis, Harris and the most northerly tip of Skye. Island wildlife in winter is as spectacular as it is throughout the year, with red deer, white mountain hares and otters sometimes seen toughing it out in the frosty weather. Wildfowl are easy to spot in coastal areas and lochs, as many arrive from Greenland to escape the particularly harsh weather in favour of wetlands. Islay, for example, is known for the tens of thousands of wild geese that visit every winter. Head to RSPB Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve to see Greenland whitefronted geese up close. The Guide to Scotland’s Islands 11
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FARFLUNG FESTS FÈIS ÌLE 24 May–1 June The festival of music and malt: a perfect combination, especially considering the setting. This week-long festival includes a series of ceilidhs and tastings, a folk night at Ardbeg distillery and a ‘final fling’ at Port Ellen’s Ramsay Hall, with Have Mercy Las Vegas and A Hooligan bringing you the tunes. islayfestival.com ARRAN FOLK FESTIVAL 7–9 June The island known for being ‘Scotland in miniature’ presents a weekend of folk, centred in Brodick, with sessions, concerts and ceilidhs. The festival has a strong accessibility and community feel with free afternoon sessions in the Douglas Hotel, where you are encouraged to bring along your instrument. Equally essential are the famous late-night sessions at Brodick Bar. arranevents.com
Craig Angus speaks to Howlin’ Fling organiser Johnny Lynch, about the Isle of Eigg’s intoxicating lure and why he decided to start a music festival on this tiny eco-friendly island s soon as I stepped off the boat, my life changed.’ Johnny Lynch is recalling his first visit to the Isle of Eigg, where he runs independent label Lost Map and hosts the uniquely magical music festival Howlin’ Fling. This was back in 2010 before the island’s almost mystical attractions had fully taken effect on the then Fife-based singer-songwriter. ‘I had just started going out with my partner Sarah – a journalist in London who had decided to become a farmer on Eigg – and I went to visit her. It’s just an incredible place, with such friendly people. The islanders asked me what I did for a living; I said I was a musician who put on live music events, and they were all like “you should do one here!”’ If Lynch is anything, he’s someone who makes things happen, and one invitation was all he needed. The
festival was almost instantly born. ‘When I think back now, everything happened so insanely quickly. I visited the island for the first time in April, decided we should do an event, and announced it on the Fence Records website when I got back to Fife a week later. We put tickets on sale in May and they sold out in something stupid like six minutes. The event happened in September, and I’ve been living on the island ever since.’ It’s not hard to see why Lynch fell hard for Eigg. With a population of under 100, it’s a tight-knit community of like-minded folks, who – through their own Isle of Eigg heritage trust – own all 12 square miles of the eco-friendly small isle. They are proud of their special part of the world and rightly so. There are museums such as the Cleadale Crofting Museum and the social
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PHOTOS: BETH CHALMERS
PHOTO: BEN SHAKESPEARE PHOTOGRAPHY
Hit the Highland notes
festival represents the sixth bash of its kind on the island, having started under the Away Game alias when Lynch oversaw the day-to-day running of Fence Records. It’s a proper music festival; Lynch could easily rely on the geographical splendour of his surroundings to attract punters, but always curates a strong bill. Jon Hopkins headlined at the last event in 2017, British Sea Power topped the maiden voyage, and the likes of Cate Le Bon, Gruff Rhys, Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains, and Django Django have made it over. It’s hard not to fall in love with Howlin’ Fling; the camaraderie of the boat trip over from the mainland, the drama of setting up an eightperson tent in high winds, and the
wholesome joy of buying homemade festival posters created by the island’s children all bring back warm memories years later. The feeling you can’t shake is that there’s nowhere on earth quite like Eigg. ‘Acts always want to come back!’ says Lynch. ‘I think the good thing about Howlin’ Fling is that because it’s so small, the acts feel a sense of ownership of it. We encourage them to bring their friends and have a fun weekend with people they love.’ Ahead of this year’s bash, Lynch promises another top-notch lineup and says the plan is to film more sessions with m performers, capturing pe the island in all its glory. th Beyond that, a wild B time will be had and, ti inevitably, problems in will be solved. Lynch w recalling llaughs, eeverything from booze sshortages to broken llegs. ‘All the issues tthat occur during the eevent tend not to be iinsurmountable, as tthere are so many folk willing the event to w happen and so many folk wanting to help, that it kind of runs on its own steam. The whole thing is fuelled by the collective will. People want these events.’ And Lynch is already excited to welcome them. ‘My favourite moment each year is seeing everyone get off the boats and arriving on the island,’ he says. ‘There’s a lot of adrenaline pumping in the Tickets for thes body when that sell out fast, so e festivals it’s best to plan happens.’ ah Howlin’ Fling takes place on Eigg, 31 May & 1 Jun. Tickets are sold out.
ead. Check ou journey planne t the Calmac r and leaving the car consider behind. calma c.co.u journeypla k/ nner
PHOTO: COLIN CAMERON
PHOTOS: BETH CHALMERS
history exhibition at the Old Shop. There’s a terrific microbrewery called Laig Bay. The views from the aptly named mountain An Sgùrr (‘the sharp peak’ in Gaelic) are beautiful, particularly towards the neighbouring Isle of Rum. The history of the place is fascinating: you can read about the rousing local buyout in the community centre and, less uplifting but still of interest, visit The Massacre Cave where almost the island’s entire population suffocated at the hands of a rival clan back in the 16th century. Adding to that varied cultural fabric is Howlin’ Fling. This year’s
HEBRIDEAN CELTIC FESTIVAL 17–20 July Stornoway harbour is the setting for HebCelt, which this year welcomes KT Tunstall, Newton Faulkner, The Shires and the best in roots, celtic, folk and gaelic music. The town’s flagship venue, An Lanntair, is a hub of activity, hosting latenight ceilidhs and a festival club event over the weekend. hebceltfest.com EILEAN DORCHA FESTIVAL 26–28 July Sandwiched between North and South Uist, Benbecula is the beautiful setting for Eilean Dorcha which pitches itself as the friendly festival, celebrating the area’s rich musical traditions. This year’s main attraction is Tiree’s Skerryvore. edf.scot SKYE LIVE 5–7 September Skye’s picturesque peninsulas and jagged mountains are worth visiting over and over. Skye Live offers the best in trad fusion represented here by Lau, Elephant Sessions and local heroes Niteworks, with Erol Alkan and The Waterboys bringing different sounds to the party. skyelive.co.uk More events on page 28.
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ISLANDS ON THE SCREEN
From the brooding jagged peaks of the Cuillin mountains to the limpid Fairy Pools, the Isle of Skye has an otherworldly quality that seamlessly transfers to the big screen. When Chris Pine became the latest Hollywood A-lister to brave a Scottish accent in Outlaw King (pictured), his Robert the Bruce arrived by rowing boat into Talisker Beach, a sheltered bay at the end of Glen Oraid. The Quiraing is one of Scotland’s most iconic sights: part of the Trotternish Ridge formed by a massive landslip, the looped walk takes in staggering vistas of plateaus and rock pinnacles. They appeared in Steven Spielberg’s The BFG and housed Michael Fassbender’s triumphal coronation in Macbeth. For serious climbers, the Inaccessible Pinnacle is revered as Britain’s most notorious ascent; it was here that 80s fantasy epic Highlander had its cult sword-fighting scene. For those who prefer more pampering, follow the lead of Patrick ‘McDreamy’ Dempsey and visit the locations of his Skye-shot romcom Made of Honor; there, you’ll explore the 18th-century formal gardens of Dunvegan Castle and indulge in some splendid seafood cooking in the pastel-hued houses of Portree.
The time-travelling, bodice-ripping mega-hit Outlander launched a thousand themed tours around Scotland. Pay your own homage by setting sail to the Isle of Lewis and the Callanish Stones. Named in the TV series as Craigh na Dun, this is where WWII nurse Claire is whisked back 200 years into the arms of strapping Highlander Jamie. On the island’s west coast, the 5000-year-old Neolithic standing stones were the focus of Bronze Age rituals and pre-date Stonehenge. The compact Visitor Centre hosts an interactive Story of the Stones exploring how and why they were built (although they remain tight-lipped on the likelihood of you bagging an 18th-century dreamboat). To get the stones at their most atmospheric, insiders recommend visiting at dawn or sunset to experience them looming above the crystal clear saltwater of Loch Roag. Mussels and scallops from the loch are a renowned local delicacy and available at the nearby harbour village of Miavaig. Stock up and head to one of the numerous white sand beaches that hug the coast (Traigh na Beirghe aka Reef Beach is particularly majestic) for an impromptu seaside barbecue.
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From Stanley Kubrick using tinted lenses to turn Harris into Jupiter for 2001: A Space Odyssey to Ben Sharrock focusing on the Uists to tell a contemporary tale of refugees, Scotland’s islands have provided an irresistible backdrop to filmmakers for decades. Ruth Marsh asks you to follow in their footsteps and put yourself in the picture
You may feel that a stiff drink is in order after your wee propellor plane makes a landing on Barra, home to the UK’s only beach airstrip. The film location for Ealing’s timeless comedy Whisky Galore! may not yet be producing its own amber nectar, but you could always head to the main settlement of Castlebay to sample some refreshing Barra gin. The 1949 movie is based on Compton Mackenzie’s beloved comic novel about hundreds of crates of whisky washing ashore when the SS Politician sank off the coast of Eriskay. Whilst the 2016 remake (pictured) was filmed largely on the mainland, the original used Barra as a stand in for Eriskay, shooting at locations across the small island. At just eight by five miles (with nothing but the Atlantic separating it from the US), Barra happily lends itself to an idle day of touring. Head to the windswept dunes of Allasdale whose huge reef-breaks now make it a popular kitesurfing destination, or strike out across the manmade causeway to another of the film’s locations, Vatersay. Come night time, head to Barra’s only pub The Castlebay Bar to catch a regular set from renowned local trad act The Vatersay Boys and finally indulge in some whisky galore.
The Caledonian Sleeper, the train which spirits adventurous nocturnal Londoners to the far north, has scrubbed up nicely since Wendy Hiller boarded it in the opening sequence of Powell and Pressburger’s 1945 charmer I Know Where I’m Going! and makes for an irresistible way to arrive in the Highlands. Hiller is en route to the fictional island of Kiloran when stormy seas and Roger Livesey’s dashing young laird force her to abandon her meticulous plans and stay put on Mull. After 70 years, many of the film’s locations are still easily recognisable: Carsaig pier and boathouse is a perfect place to spot wild goats and the red phone box which is not a film prop but a functioning communications device despite being impractically located next to a loud waterfall. Duart Castle, which stood in for the fictional Castle of Sorne, is an imposing structure dominating the shores of the Sound of Mull and Loch Linnhe and serving up Tobermory fish and Scallastle Farm ham alongside produce grown in their own walled garden. The ruined Moy Castle is closed to visitors but still makes for a worthy photo stop, not least to ponder the fate of former residents including Iain the Toothless and Ewen of the Little Head. The Guide to Scotland’s Islands 15
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to hop from one island to another using your own transport, and include: • Our Five Ferries island hop to the Cowal and Kintyre Peninsulas and the islands of Arran and Bute. • A whisky themed island hopping adventure through Arran, Kintyre and Islay. • A Hebridean Island hopping adventure to guide you along the Hebridean Way, from one end of the Outer Hebrides to the other.
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Stills game Scotland’s whisky-producing islands create the world’s most distinguished drams. Jason Thomson looks at old favourites and some new revolutionaries looking to invigorate the business mazingly, for some people, even the slightest sip from a glass of whisky can transport them to the rugged shores of Scotland’s islands. It’s like aromatic magic. Be it the smokeladen drams from Islay or the surprisingly soft nature of Orkney’s Scapa, over the years the islands have produced some of Scotland’s most storied and well-known whiskies. During the past few decades though, the landscape has changed. New distillers have set-up. New whiskies are being made and fresh chapters are being written. In 1993 the Isle of Arran Distillery was the first of these new distilleries and created the model for what many others would set out to be. Although you could visit distilleries and enjoy watching the whisky-making process before
this, Arran was one of the first to put the visitor front and centre. It wanted to attract visitors rather than seeing them as a pleasant nuisance. And it’s certainly worked too. The distillery has been such a success that the company have recently built a second one on the island to simply keep up with demand. The Lagg distillery will be opening in the spring of 2019. Where Arran led, others have happily followed. Over on Islay (Scotland’s true powerhouse of peated whiskies), the first new distillery in over a century started production back in 2005. Kilchoman, founded by Anthony Wills and his family, may not be the biggest, but their focus on provenance has led to them quickly becoming an important part of the Islay whisky fabric.
They’re no longer the new kids on the block either; this year Islay’s ninth distillery will open. Ardnahoe is a passion project from well-known whisky bottler Hunter Laing. Although this Glasgowbased family has been involved with the whisky industry since 1949, this is their debut distillery. Islay may turn heads when it comes to whisky, but the real revolution is happening on Skye and the Outer Hebrides. For generations, Skye was home to just one distillery. Talisker, with its bold uncompromising character, bore the standard for the island alone until the opening of Torabhaig in 2017. Although their whisky won’t be ready until 2020, they’re already welcoming visitors through the doors to show how it’s made.
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PHOTO: BEN SHAKESPEARE PHOTOGRAPHY
WEST COAST ISLAND DISTILLERIES ARRAN Isle of Arran Lagg ISLAY Ardbeg Ardnahoe Bowmore Bunnahabhain Bruichladdich Caol Ila Kilchoman Laphroaig Lagavulin
Further west in the Outer Hebrides, there are two newer distilleries making their name. The first to open was Abhainn Dearg in 2008 on Lewis. The island had, surprisingly, not hosted a (legal) distillery since 1840, so when Mark Tayburn first fired up his stills it heralded a little piece of history. The other is on Harris. Right now the distillery is possibly better known for its gin, but the team are quietly maturing their whisky until they feel it’s ready. Another distillery waiting for its first whisky is found on Raasay. Founded by Alasdair Day and Bill Dobbie, the new distillery not only heeded the ‘visitor first’ model set by Arran almost two decades earlier but enhanced it. The still house has one of the most breathtaking views of any in the country, looking out
onto the rough-hewn landscape of neighbouring Skye. This isn’t the only way Raasay stands out though. It may be the only working Scotch whisky distillery you can sleep in. Raasay offers six luxury rooms within the distillery which can be booked for an extra special stay. What better way to enjoy your tour of one of Scotland’s island distilleries than to simply head upstairs to your very own room? Whisky made on the islands of Scotland has more history than perhaps anyone can tell. The longestablished distillers set a tone that you’d expect, but the new whisky producers seem happy to accept the challenges facing them. They’re doing new things and pushing new boundaries. It’ll be interesting to see how their new chapters in whisky history turn out.
MULL Tobermory ISLE OF JURA Jura ISLE OF HARRIS Isle of Harris ISLE OF LEWIS Abhainn Dearg ORKNEY Highland Park Scapa RAASAY Isle of Raasay ISLE OF SKYE Talisker Torabhaig
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PHOTO: PAUL TOMKINS / VISITSCOTLAND
Ground force Barry Shelby reflects on the history and the present-day reality of being a crofter
hen one travels across the islands of Scotland, the terrain you see has been unequivocally shaped by that unique element of northern Scottish existence: the croft. The isles of the Outer Hebrides and West Highlands – plus the northern Orkney and Shetland archipelagos – are all crofting territories. This inheritance of smallholding farms, mostly tenanted, stretches back at least 200 years. It is a way of life that was safeguarded by the radical Crofting Act of 1886 which enabled crofts to be handed on er. from one generation to another. nly On the islands, what mainly re keeps crofting alive are s, seasoned crofting families, ng historically Gaelic-speaking es island stock with names er such as Macdonald, Maciver m and Macleod. Add to them a number of incomers likee myself who bring a back-to-nature enthusiasm, varyingg
levels of entrepreneurial spirit and savings from lowland property sales. The way of life generally involves grazing sheep and occasionally cattle, keeping hens, growing tatties and some other vegetables enhanced, where possible, as on our croft, with additional produce from polytunnels. An additional component is government support (from the UK and – until presumably soon – the EU) for small-scale agriculture. Crofting land is regarded as Severely Disadvantaged ‘Severely Disadvantaged’ within the current regime of su subsidies. Even still, as a proper bbusiness proposition in the ccontemporary agricultural eeconomy, crofting’s place is te tenuous. Most crofters have aalways needed to supplement th their income through other ac activities. Historically crofters – that was predominantly the me men – had paid work: they were sm smithies, joiners, weavers,
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fishermen. Women toiled, too, and possibly harder: as housekeepers and hen keepers, doing multiple general chores around the croft such as child rearing, spinning yarn and knitting. Today, crofters are still multi-taskers: now they might also have an office job, or teach, or do some computer programming alongside running their croft. Thanks to the world-wide reputation of Harris Tweed many an unassuming shed houses a loom where the fabric – these days as much a feature of Parisian catwalks as the wardrobes of country lairds or university professors – is woven by men and women, old and young. In fact the heritage of high-quality manufacture is nothing new. In Barvas on the Isle of Lewis, once crude clay pottery was perfected to an artform of household crockery. Well into the 20th century many women had transformed ‘Barvas Ware’ into miniature bowls, teapots, and cups – expressly for sale to visitors doing their Grand Tour of the Hebrides. Today it is swatches of tweed and other crafts, say woven willow baskets, that become souvenirs to modern islandhopping visitors. Tourism adds numerous additional opportunities for the crofting economy, from B&B or holiday lets, running tea rooms, galleries and so on. Visitors to the islands rightly enjoy the timeless sight of sheep wandering single-track roads, glimpses of serpentine dry-stane walls, and the occasional whiff of peat smoke wafting across a crofting settlement.
WHERE TO FIND CROFTING PRODUCE HEBRIDEAN MUTTON Sandy & Ali Granville, 10 Tolsta Chaolais, Isle of Lewis Mutton from Blackface sheep roaming free. hebrideanmutton.co.uk FREE RANGE EGGS Sally Williams Shulista, Isle of Skye A mix of Road Rock Black, White Sussex, Lomond Browns. shulistacroft.co.uk SALLIE TYSZKO TAPESTRY ARTIST 21 Tobson, Great Bernera, Isle of Lewis Tapestry wall
hangings woven on floor looms. sallietyszko.co.uk ROBSON & MURDIE SKYE LOCAL PRODUCE Hill Cottage, Galtrigill, Isle of Skye Seasonal vegetables and soft fruit sold at the gate. glendalehigh landmarket.com/ robson-murdie-skyelocal-produce AIR AN LOT 19 North Dell, Ness, Isle of Lewis Lamb, mutton and eggs from a croft you can visit. airanlot.com
The place to witness the highest concentration of island crofts is where our croft is located along the west side of Lewis. It’s a landscape to observe something honourable, dignified and attractive in land worked in a low-impact manner, and an opportunity to appreciate a living system for land-based communities unavoidably intimate with the landscape, history, weather and nature.
THE SEASONS OF CROFTING A typical year in the parish of Uig, Isle of Lewis JAN–FEB Fertilising: Seaweed may be brought off the shores and added to improve the soil. MAR Chitting: Seed potatoes are put in a light room to begin sprouting. APR–MAY Lambing: Breeding ewes are brought off the vast 100+ hectares common grazing (rangeland) into
townships and to the ‘in-bye’ croft land to give birth. Peats: Slabs are cut from the banks in the common grazing and laid out to dry. Potato planting then takes place. JUL Shearing: Sheep are gathered off the common grazing, penned, and their wool is cut. Harvest: First early potatoes lifted.
AUG–OCT Peats: Dried bricks are brought in and stacked closer to the house. Sales: Livestock is gathered again in pens (the ‘fank’) and sorted for market. Most lambs are sold as ‘store’, that is, they will be fattened on farms further south before slaughter. NOV (EARLY–MID) Harvest: The main
crop potatoes are lifted, often in the traditional ‘Thanksgiving’ school holidays. NOV–DEC Dosing: Once livestock was dipped but now generally is injected to prevent various diseases. Tupping: Rams are brought to the breeding ewes, which have been gathered off the common grazings.
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PHOTO: RONNIE LEASK
FROM NEWSPEAK TO FAKE NEWS Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four is now cemented in the Isle of Jura’s history Jura stretches north east up from Islay, and near the top is an old farmhouse called Barnhill. In 1946, George Orwell lived there with his young son, Richard, while working on Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell came to Jura to relieve his precarious health and find somewhere quiet to concentrate. It gave him the space to conjure up Big Brother, doublethink, newspeak and slogans such as ‘ignorance is strength’. The book has been acclaimed as one of the 20th century’s most important, though it’s only now that reality has caught up with Orwell’s imagination through fake news and mass surveillance. Visitors to Jura should take a guided boat tour to see the Corryvreckan where tides form terrifying whirlpools. But don’t do as Orwell did and take a small boat through the most turbulent water. The motor was wrenched off and the boat capsized, with Orwell and some of his family having to scramble onto a nearby rock where they were rescued by a fishing boat. The world was very nearly deprived of a classic novel. (RH)
Inspecting Lewis Robin Hodge delves into Peter May’s series of novelss that get below the surface of contemporary life in the Hebrides t has been speculated that there re are more literary murders inn Scotland per year than actual al ones. Nowhere is this moree evident than on the Isle of Lewis,, where various gruesome homicidess take place in Peter May’s gripping trilogy. Although the author is an outsider, he spent many years on the island and has an impressive ability to convey the complex strands of history, religion, drink, conflict, landscape, climate and family that shape the lives of those who live there. Life is generally hard, unrelenting and unforgiving, but there is a spirit of place that permeates the soul creating ties that can be stretched but never broken. The three books (first published between 2011 and 2014) each start with a murder before moving forwards and backwards in time to unravel the secrets of three generations of characters. The story is anchored around a police detective sent back to the island to investigate the opening murder. May’s dialogue convincingly captures the island lilt while the people and landscapes are lovingly described, drawing you into the community as his plots develop. May weaves powerful accounts of various real aspects of life on the island into the books. These include the legacy of 1919’s terrible tragedy when over 200 local men who had survived the Great War drowned when the Iolaire sunk. This horror occured within sight of their loved ones. May also writes about the annual Sula Sgeir guga (gannet chicks) hunt, undertaken by locals from Ness who scramble over precipitous rocks. This is Scotland’s only surviving example of the traditional hunt. The storytelling is brilliantly crafted and, once you start, you will soon feel compelled to read all three books, or inspired to visit and experience the island for yourself.
Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy features The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man and The Chessmen.
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Island hopping Journeys both old and new to Scotland’s fabled islands are waiting to be uncovered Touring Scotland’s west coast by visiting a number of different islands is a delightful adventure which dates back to the 18th century when James Boswell persuaded his London friend, Dr Samuel Johnson, to travel north. They both wrote accounts of their Tour to the Hebrides, and the most lively is Boswell’s who explored, drank, partied and danced on Raasay, Skye, Col and Mull. They provide an informative and entertaining window into the old Highland way of life, one that was in the process of radical change due to the suppression of Gaelic culture after the Jacobite rising, and both forced and voluntary emigration. The best contemporary guide is The Scottish Islands by Hamish Haswell-Smith which is now in its third edition. Written and beautifully illustrated by the author, it lists each individual island with maps, astonishing population stats, brief histories, and guides to the geology and wildlife. Haswell-Smith has sailed his boats around Scotland for many years and his love for the islands inspires all who read the book to set out and explore them for themselves. (RH)
The world’s end? Geraldine McCaughrean imagines what really happened when a boat went missing in St Kilda in 1727 About 100 people used to live on Hirta, the main island of St Kilda located some 40 miles out into the Atlantic beyond the Outer Hebrides. In early summer each year, a group of men and boys would be taken from Hirta to a sheer stack of rock hidden from view about five miles away. There, they would harvest birds including young gannets. After three gruelling weeks, the boat would come again to bring them back, along with the plucked and cured
birds which would provide sustenance through the long harsh winter. But in 1727, the boat never returned and the three men and nine boys were left marooned for nine months on the rock with no way of escaping and no explanation. It felt as if the world had finally come to an end. Geraldine McCaughrean fleshes out these bare bones left by history, exploring the way people interact in the rawest of raw conditions that nature can contrive. The struggle for survival, the battle between the good and evil in each of us, the power of the imagination and danger of delusion, the perils of self-righteousness, the tyranny of the bully, and the kindness and empathy of friendship are all evident in this emotionally harrowing, bare-knuckle cliffhanger of a book. Highly recommended for young adults and others. (RH)
OTHER BOOKS SEAROOM Adam Nicolson Detailed and loving description of the Shiants, a cluster of uninhabited islands off Harris that the author was given as a birthday present by his father. THE SILVER DARLINGS Neil Gunn Gripping novel on how the herring fishing fleets came into being in the 19th century. Mostly set on the mainland but includes time spent around the Isle of Lewis. SORLEY MACLEAN’S POEMS The foremost Gaelic poet of the modern era, he was born on Raasay and wrote powerful, elegiac verse celebrating the glens’ landscape and lamenting their depopulation. WHISKY GALORE Compton Mackenzie An endearing account of the shenanigans resulting from a ship full of rare whisky being washed aground during WWII. Based on a true story, it has been filmed twice, most notably as a classic Ealing comedy in 1949. KATIE MORAG Mairi Hedderwick Inspired by the author’s time living on Coll, these delightful books have caught the imagination of countless children.
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Treasured islands PHOTO: PAUL TOMKINS / VISITSCOTLAND
PHOTO: PAUL TOMKINS / VISITSCOTLAND
Nicknamed the ‘jewel in the Firth of Lorne’, Kerrera can be found just off the coast of Oban. The island’s tiny population and the fact that you can’t take cars there makes it a very peaceful spot for walkers, cyclists and pony trekkers. There’s plenty wildlife to see while exploring, including sika deer, wild goats and otters, as well as seals relaxing on Cutter Rock. You may also spot the occasional dolphin, whale or basking shark. The island has two main walking circuits, with the northern one leading to Hutcheson’s Monument, an impressive obelisk guarding the entrance to Oban harbour. The southern circuit will take you to Gylen Castle, a ruggedly romantic ruin overlooking the rocky coastline and offering views towards Mull, Jura and Colonsay. Afterwards, you can head to the nearby Tea Garden for homemade scones or make your way to the Waypoint Restaurant & Bar at the marina, both of which are seasonal. Aside from these two eating spots, there isn’t much in the way of tourist infrastructure on Kerrera but that, of course, is a big part of its charm. You can get away from it all, wander the beaches and watch the goats grazing. If you fancy being spirited away into the past, this is where to head. Just remember to take anything you bring with you to the island back off with you.
Despite being just seven miles long by a mile wide, Gigha offers up plenty of charms beyond its silvery beaches. Take a stroll in one direction and you can spot dolphins playing by the pier, and in another, seals basking beside the natural blowhole of the ‘Spouting Cave’. By night, the island transforms into a stargazer’s paradise with the aurora borealis making an occasional cameo appearance. Just a 20-minute ferry journey from Kintyre, Gigha is actually the most southerly of Hebridean islands with a warm climate that gets much less rainfall than the rest of Scotland. No wonder, then, that the Vikings named it ‘The Good Isle’. Proudly owned by its population of circa 160, delicacies include Wee Isle Dairy produces, which you can buy in the local Ardminish Stores. Walkers and bikers will find much to explore, from rocky coves to heather-covered hills, with the subtropical Achamore Gardens and the ancient standing stones of Bodach and Cailleach must-sees. Active types can head out on a kayak or paddleboard, while golfers can spend an afternoon on the panoramic nine-hole course. A hike to either the top of North Cairn or Creag Bhan will reward you with beautiful sunset views, while Mill Loch makes for a serene picnic spot on sunnier days.
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Deborah Martin profiles four wee islands that, despite their size, have a whole lot to offer and hold delights just waiting to be discovered PHOTO: RACHEL KEENAN
PHOTO: PAUL TOMKINS / VISITSCOTLAND
From white beaches to green sea lochs and mauvish heather moors, Eriskay is known for its vivid Hebridean colours. The island is also famous for having had a couple of notable landings on its beaches, including Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 and, two centuries later, the infamous ‘Whisky galore’ haul of around 24,000 bottles from the SS Politician. Both sand strips feature on the Eriskay beach and hill circuit walk, where you can cross Prince’s Beach with its pretty pink bindweed flowers (said to have been brought to the island by Charlie himself) then stop off at an abandoned village where salvaged whisky was stashed beneath floorboards. Other highlights include a sunset stroll up the hill to St Michael’s Catholic Church followed by a drink at the nearby Am Politician bar. The Acarsaid Mhor walk is another pleasant ramble and takes you to a tucked away bay where you might spot seals or otters. For some of the best scenery, head up to the island’s highest point of Beinn Sciathan, which offers views of neighbouring Barra. Wherever you wander, you’re sure to bump into a few of the native Eriskay ponies at some point. Most are grey, although other colours may be seen. Foals can be black, bay or roan which fades to grey in adulthood.
With over 1000 historic sites to explore, Canna may be the smallest of the Small Isles but it packs plenty of punch. A well-planned hike could take you on a whistle-stop tour of the past 5000 years, from ancient forts to 7th-century Celtic crosses and abandoned 19th-century settlements. This Inner Hebridean island is also a sanctuary to over 20,000 seabirds, while other wildlife picks include whales and porpoises. A popular walking route is Saturnino’s Path, which will take you through bluebell woods up a rock so magnetic that it plays havoc with compasses. Alternatively, the Three Churches walking route offers a chance stop at St Columba’s Chapel, while in spring and summer you can head to the island’s puffin colony to watch hundreds of them gather on the rocks. Uncannier charms are offered by the mysterious 2000-year-old underground chambers known as the Souterrains or the volcanic black sand beach of An Coroghon, while souvenir hunters can pick up brightly coloured yarn made from island sheep before dining on fresh-landed lobster at Café Canna. A must-see is the atmospheric Canna House, which has a Marie Celeste air of recent abandonment and includes a walled garden with an orchard. The Guide to Scotland’s Islands 25
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IT’S ABOUT THE JOURNEY... Just as Samuel Johnson and James Boswell did in the 18th century, journeying around the islands of Scotland is one of the best ways to take in the culture, tradition and landscapes of this part of the world. However, you don’t have to hop-on-and-off numerous islands to experience something new, as there are plenty of smaller journeys that can be just as evocative and memorable
HEBRIDEAN WAY Cycle 185 miles, or walk 156 miles, through some of the most jaw-dropping landscapes in the UK on this dedicated route through the Outer Hebrides from Vatersay to Lewis. Take in the vast Atlantic Ocean, causeways, ferries, and inspiring Gaelic culture and heritage. hebrideanway.co.uk CUMBRAE CYCLING Cycling around Cumbrae was / is a rite of passage for many Scottish holidaygoers during their summer
holidays. The island is referred to as the ‘Islands of a Thousand Bicycles’ and has a perfectly formed 10.25-mile circumference, making it ideal for a day of cycling for all levels and ages. millport.org/cycling MULL & IONA FOOD TRAIL Although these islands are famous for a different kind of pilgrimage, this one could still be considered as sacred to foodies. The trail takes in island produce on Mull, Iona, Ulva, Gometra and Erraid and is developed so you can do
it yourself and take in what you can. It includes shops, local eating places, producers, markets, and farm shops. mullandionafood.co.uk ISLAY WHISKY TRAIL An unofficial trail through the whisky-dense island of Islay. At only 25 miles long, the island holds eight distilleries (plus two pending) and journeying around them can make for a fun and informative day out. You can split your trail up depending on location, flavours or transport: cycling is a popular way to do it. islayjura.com
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PHOTOS: RACHEL KEENAN
GAELIC PLACE-NAMES ISLE OF BUTE Eilean Bhòid [ellan vawdge] Eilean means ‘island’ but the word Bòd ‘Bute’ is of unknown meaning. STORNOWAY Steòrnabhagh [shjee-or-na-vaGH] (GH is a guttural sound that does not exist in English) Originally a Norse name, meaning ‘steerage bay.’ BRUICHLADDICH Bruthach a’ Chladaich [broo-oCH lat-ee] (the CH is pronounced a bit like the ch in Scottish loch) ‘the brae of the shore.’ BUNNAHABHAIN Bun na h-Abhainne [boon nuh hav-een-uh] ‘the foot of the river.’ MALLAIG Malaig [malik or mawik] Of uncertain meaning, but most likely from Norse.
SEA PLANE EXPERIENCES Discover the islands from the sky on an unforgettable, luxury seaplane experience. Fly over the islands and take in the stunning scenery from the rolling hills to the clustered islands and blue lochs. Your pilot will even provide a rolling inflight commentary. lochlomondseaplanes.com ARRAN COASTAL WAY Challenge yourself on a 65-mile walk around the coastline of Arran, which fits in neatly to a week-long walking holiday. You can self-guide and if you don’t
have a week you can walk a variety of smaller parts of the whole thing: just make sure to follow the marker posts that feature a gannet. An excellent way to see local wildlife and scenery. coastalway.co.uk BONNIE PRINCE CHARLIE ROUTE Follow in the footsteps of the ‘Young Pretender’ by retracing the places he visited, fled to and hid in the Outer Hebrides. Choose from short or longer versions of the tour and learn more about Scottish history and the Hebrides. visitouterhebrides.co.uk
TOBERMORY Tobar Mhoire [toe-per voe-ruh] ‘Virgin Mary’s well’ Can still be visited in Tobermory; it was said to cure mental illnesses. TARBERT An Tairbeart [un tar-uh-per-sht] ‘The isthmus’ A piece of land between two bodies of water narrow enough to drag a boat across. CORRYVRECKAN Coire Bhreacain [kaw-ruh vreh-CHkin] ‘Breacan’s kettle’ The name of the gulf between Jura and Scarba, the whirlpool is A’ Chailleach ‘the hag.’ (Dr Jacob King, Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba)
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EVENTS CALENDAR 2019 GINTYRE: FESTIVAL OF SCOTTISH GINS Town Hall, Campbeltown, gintyre.com Festival of Scottish gins, with the chance to taste gins from across Scotland.
FO INFORM R AT MORE E ION ON VENT GO TO S
PHOTO: RACHEL KEENAN
WALK ISLAY Various venues, Isle of Islay, walkislay.co.uk See the best of Scottish island landscapes with six different walks to choose from, including the traditional Friday walk around Jura and Cnoc-Brec. 27 & 28 APRIL
COLONSAY BOOK FESTIVAL
Colonsay Village Hall, Scalasaig, Isle of Colonsay, colonsaybookfestival.org.uk This unique book festival puts the emphasis on meeting and chatting with the featured writers, plus heated debate and good craic in the pub.
TIREE 10K AND HALF MARATHON An Talla, Isle of Tiree, tireefitness.co.uk 10k and half marathon across the remote island of Tiree. 17–20 MAY
29 APRIL–19 MAY
COLONSAY FESTIVAL OF SPRING Various venues, Colonsay, Isle of Colonsay, colonsayspringfest.co.uk Series of events showcasing the island’s natural beauty including workshops, tours and much more. 1–4 MAY
THE ISLE OF HARRIS MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL Various venues, Isle of Harris, iohmf.co.uk A variety of outdoor mountaineering activities to celebrate Harris’
ARRAN MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL Various venues, Arran, North Ayrshire, arranmountainfestival.co.uk This mountain festival features a huge variety of guided walks and scrambles throughout Arran. 17–20 MAY
SCOTTISH ISLANDS PEAKS RACE Various locations, west coast of Scotland, scottishislandspeaksrace.com Adventure race for teams of sailors and fell runners starting in Oban and sailing through the
likes of Arran, Jura and Troon for 3–4 days. 21–24 MAY
CAMPBELTOWN MALTS FESTIVAL Various venues, Campbeltown, springbank.scot An annual showcase of the best of Campbeltown’s whiskies and spirits, with distillery open days and whisky dinners. 23–25 MAY
ISLE OF SKYE ACCORDION AND FIDDLE FESTIVAL The Royal Hotel, Portree, Isle of Skye, skyemusic.co.uk A weekend of traditional music honouring the twin tenets of the accordion and fiddle. 24 MAY–1 JUNE
ISLAY FESTIVAL OF MUSIC AND MALT Various venues, Isle of Islay, islayfestival.com See Fèis Ìle, page 12.
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31 MAY & 1 JUNE
12 JULY–20 AUGUST
THE SKYE FESTIVAL: FÈIS AN EILEIN
Ceilidh Hall, Isle of Eigg, lostmap.com See feature, page 12. 7 & 8 JUNE
OBAN LIVE Mossfield Stadium, Oban, obanlive.com A two-day open air concert showcasing international acts. The line-up includes Skerryvore, We Banjo 3, Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Lucy Spraggan, Elephant Sessions, Talisk, Jigjam and more. 7–9 JUNE
Various venues, Isle of Skye, seall. co.uk/feis-an-eilein-skye-festival This summer arts festival began in 1991 and celebrates island culture and performing arts with a strong focus on Scottish traditional music.
and world-famous surf, it’s been described as one of the most stunning festival locations in the world. 17–20 JULY
HEBCELT FESTIVAL Various venues, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, hebceltfest.com See page 13.
6 & 7 JULY
TARBERT SEAFOOD FESTIVAL Tarbert, Loch Fyne, tarbertfestivals.co.uk Opportunity to sample the internationally renowned seafood from the waters of Loch Fyne.
ARRAN FOLK FESTIVAL
MULL HIGHLAND GAMES Erray Park, Tobermory, Isle of Mull, shga.co.uk Traditional Highland games with piping, dancing, track and field as well as heavy events.
Brodick, Isle of Arran, North Ayrshire, arranevents.com See page 12.
ISLE OF HARRIS HALF MARATHON AND FAMILY FUN RUN
20 & 21 JULY
Various venues, Isle of Harris, harrishalfmarathon.org Half marathon taking place on the scenic Isle, along sandy beaches and rugged, loch-strewn moorland.
Various venues, Isle of Bute, butestudiotrail.com Explore the vast variety of work created by the artists and craftspeople across Bute.
26 JULY–2 AUGUST
CANTILENA FESTIVAL ON ISLAY
WEST HIGHLAND YACHTING WEEK
Various venues, Isle of Islay, cantilenafestival.co.uk A repertoire of world-class classical music descends focusing on collaboration, education and creativity.
Various Venues, West Highlands, whyw.co.uk A week of racing and social entertainment, the regatta moves from centre to centre covering 80 miles of Scotland’s west coast.
EILEAN DORCHA FESTIVAL
ISLE OF SKYE HALF MARATHON Portree, Isle of Skye, skyehalfmarathon.org.uk A half marathon on the Isle of Skye. Break the course record and you could be taking home a cash prize. 29 & 30 JUNE
ISLE OF GIGHA MUSIC FESTIVAL Various venues, Isle of Gigha, gigha.org.uk The smallest music festival in Scotland offers a perfectlyformed line-up of ceilidhs, headline concerts, sessions, workshops and a musical beach picnic. 29 JUNE
BARRATHON (ISLE OF BARRA HALF MARATHON & FUN RUNS) Castlebay, Isle of Barra, barrathon. org.uk An aptly named half marathon around the island sometimes nicknamed ‘Barrabados’.
Various venues, Isle of South Uist, ceolas.co.uk Annual summer school focusing on the connections between Scottish traditional music, Gaelic song and dance, with expert tuition and workshops.
ISLE OF BUTE OPEN STUDIO TRAIL
Liniclate Machair, Isle of Benbecula, edf.scot A family-friendly festival in the Outer Hebrides. See page 13. 26–28 JULY
BUTEFEST 12–14 JULY
TIREE MUSIC FESTIVAL Various venues, Isle of Tiree, tireemusicfestival.co.uk With its picture-perfect white sands
Ettrick Bay, Rothesay, butefest.co.uk Three-day family-friendly music festival taking place of the picturesque Isle of Bute. The Guide to Scotland’s Islands 29
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ARDBERG ISLAY HALF MARATHON
MULL OF KINTYRE MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL
Various venues, Isle of Islay, islayhalfmarathon.co.uk Started in 1986, the 13-mile route runs from the Bowmore to Islay Airport and back in a circular route. 7 AUGUST
Various venues, Campbeltown, mokfest.com Traditional and contemporary Celtic arts festival. The event offers a selection of traditional music and mixed-genre concerts and sessions.
THE ISLE OF SKYE HIGHLAND GAMES
Skye Games Field, Portree, Isle of Skye, skye-highland-games.co.uk Traditional highland games with all the usual treats, including piping, Highland dancing and kids activities.
COWAL HIGHLAND GATHERING Dunoon Stadium, Dunoon, cowalgathering.com Around 23,000 people descend upon Dunoon for this heady mix of traditional Highland events.
29 AUGUST–1 SEPTEMBER
Showfield, Bridgend, Isle of Islay, islayshow.co.uk A show for the advancement of agriculture.
ISLAY BOOK FESTIVAL
MARATHON HEBRIDES Pairc Niseaboist, Isle of Harris, facebook.com/marathonhebrides The only running event going the full 26.2 miles around the Hebrides. The Route goes from the village of Leverburgh, finishing on the coastline of West Harris.
Various venues, Isle of Islay, islaybookfestival.org.uk Festival catering to Scotland’s love of crime thrillers as well as introducing quirky and challenging books in a programme for all ages. 30 AUGUST–1 SEPTEMBER
MILLPORT COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL
PHOTO: PAUL TOMKINS / VISITSCOTLAND
Various venues, Millport, millportcountrymusic.com A rootin’ tootin’ weekend of country and western gigs across several venues on Great Cumbrae. 1–7 SEPTEMBER
MENDELSSOHN ON MULL Various venues, Isle of Mull, mendelssohnonmull.com Classical music festival in which young musicians are mentored by professionals in chamber musicmaking with a series of concerts held around the island. 6–7 SEPTEMBER
SKYE LIVE The Lump, Portree, Isle of Skye, skyelive.co.uk See page 13.
Colonsay Brewery, Isle of Colonsay, ceolcholasa.co.uk Four-day folk fest with some great acts appearing. 27 & 28 SEPTEMBER
LOOPALLU Ullapool Pier, Ullapool, loopallu.co.uk Intimate music fest inaugurated in 2005. 27–29 SEPTEMBER
ISLE OF JURA MUSIC FESTIVAL Various venues, Isle of Jura, juramusicfestival.com Island festival of Scottish traditional music which encourages local talent featuring an array of concerts, workshops and sessions. 29 SEPTEMBER
WORLD STONE SKIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS Easdale Island Community Hall, Easdale Island, stoneskimming.com Attracting competitors from all around the world. Anyone can enter and have a skim, as long as you can get that angle right. 9–23 OCTOBER
COLONSAY FOOD AND DRINK FESTIVAL The Colonsay Hotel, Isle of Colonsay, colonsayfoodfest.co.uk Autumn festival celebrating the season’s bounties. Features workshops on foraging, cooking, preserving and tasting. 12–18 OCTOBER
BWA TIREE WAVE CLASSIC Various venues, Isle of Tiree, tireewaveclassic.co.uk A windsurfer’s paradise for this classic annual event.
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OCTOBER, DATES TBC
FACLAN: THE HEBRIDEAN BOOK FESTIVAL An Lanntair, Stornoway, lanntair.com Fed and nourished by its location in the Gaelic heartland, the book festival has diversified in recent years to take in film, music and art.
VENUES WITH REGULAR PROGRAMMES AN CRÙBH A hub created as a flexible gathering space with added shop and cafe. Sleat, Isle of Skye, ancrubh.com
OBAN WINTER FESTIVAL
AN LANNTAIR ARTS CENTRE AND CINEMA Multi-purpose arts centre and promoter and advocate for Gaelic culture. Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, lanntair.com
Various venues, Oban, obanwinterfestival.com The coastal town gets frosty with a series of activities, films and light shows to celebrate the season.
AROS CENTRE Skye’s only permanent cinema doubles up as a theatre reminiscent of the Globe. Portree, Isle of Skye, aros.co.uk
NOVEMBER, DATES TBC
NOVEMBER, DATES TBC
SEALL FESTIVAL OF SMALL HALLS Various venues, Isle of Skye & Lochalsh, seall.co.uk An eight-day multi-arts civic celebration bringing music to small halls around Skye and Lochlash. NOVEMBER, DATES TBC
DUNOON FILM FESTIVAL Various venues, Dunoon, dunoonfilmfestival.org Boutique weekend festival bringing world cinema, forgotten classics and new work by Scottish directors. NOVEMBER & DECEMBER, DATES TBC
AN LANNTAIR’S WINTER FESTIVAL An Lanntair Arts Centre, Isle of Lewis, lanntair.com A festival in honour of St Andrew’s Day, Hogmanay and Burns Night. 8-21 FEBRUARY
HEBRIDEAN DARK SKIES FESTIVAL An Lanntair Arts Centre, Isle of Lewis, lanntair.com Ambitious arts programme based around the island’s dark skies.
BURGH HALL Creative and cultural hub with a regular programme of theatre, comedy, music, visual art exhibitions and more. Dunoon, dunoonburghhall.org.uk COMAR, AN TOBAR ARTS CENTRE Vibrant centre for visual arts, craft and music, promoting innovative work at the heart of this island community. Tobermory, Isle of Mull, comar.co.uk JURA HALL Community hall and regular venue for music events organised by the Sound of Jura island studio. Craighouse, Isle of Jura, soundofjura.com/events.htm
ROTHESAY PAVILION (RE-OPENING 2019) Bauhaus-inspired building with two event venues coming back soon. Rothesay, Isle of Bute, rothesaypavilion.co.uk SABHAL MÒR OSTAIG Higher education college, known for its Gàidhealtachd research, that also hosts regular arts and culture events and programmes. Sleat, Isle of Skye, smo.uhi.ac.uk TAIGH CHEARSABHAGH MUSEUM AND ARTS CENTRE Arts centre with regular exhibitions, music events and educational programmes. Lochmaddy, Isle of North Uist, taigh-chearsabhagh.org
MOUNT STUART HOUSE AND GARDENS A 19th-century mansion that’s home to an annual visual arts programme and one of the biggest collections of private art and artefacts in the UK. Rothesay, Isle of Bute, mountstuart.com
TAIGH DHONNCHAIDH ARTS AND MUSIC CENTRE Cultural centre that aims to preserve the tradition of local music and culture. Ness, Isle of Lewis, taighdhonnchaidh.com
QUEEN’S HALL Newly refurbished community venue that hosts regular entertainment events. Dunoon, argyll-bute.gov.uk
TALLA NA MARA Creative arts and entertainment centre with exhibitions, live music and more. Paric Niseaboist, Isle of Harris, tallanamara.co.uk
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THE GUIDE TO
019 ON THE WEST COAST 2 PHOTOS: RACHEL KEENAN
Sweeping vistas, unspoiled beaches and some of the best seafood and whisky in the world – Scotland’s islands really have it all. With rich natural and cultural heritage and local traditions, the islands are brimming with things to do and see. From bird watching on North Uist in spring, to windsurfing in Tiree in the autumn, or catching sight of the Northern Lights on Skye during the winter, there is always something amazing to see and visit. This new guide to Scotland’s islands on the west coast aims to inspire you by highlighting destinations and providing features on a range of interesting themes.
This Guide to Scotland’s Islands on the West Coast includes: ■ Recommendations of the best things to see and do including beaches, hills, distilleries, attractions, wildlife, gardens and arts and culture ■ An illustrated map of key ports and ferry routes ■ Things to do in the water, by the water and on the water ■ Local events and venue recommendations ■ Tips on hidden gems, journeys and seasonal activities
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This guide aims to paint a picture of Scotland's islands on the west coast in all of its diversity, richness and beauty. It helps you find o...
Published on Mar 13, 2019
This guide aims to paint a picture of Scotland's islands on the west coast in all of its diversity, richness and beauty. It helps you find o...