31 Aug 2016
There are many reasons to sail the beautiful waters of Western Scotland but we’ve whittled it down to ten…
The waters inside the Hebrides are protected from the full assault of the Atlantic Ocean by barrier islands, making sailing more predictable – especially important for people with limited time for holidays. The lochs provide miles of lovely sailing along undeveloped and lushly forested hillsides, often with quaint villages and marinas at their heads.
Troon Yacht Haven, Clyde Marina, Ardfern Yacht Centre, Craobh Marina, Oban Marina, Tarbert Harbour, Tobermory Harbour and others deliver full-service, world-class marine facilities. Troon has a 400-berth marina with some of the best services in the country, excellent links by road and rail to Glasgow, and fast ferry to Northern Ireland. Being less than 10 minutes from Glasgow Prestwick Airport makes it the most accessible marina in Scotland for crew changes.
If tying up in the marina every night is not your style, then rest assured that you can find an inexhaustible supply of anchorages in which you’ll find shelter without crowding. In many of the anchorages, yours will be in the only boat in evidence. In others, like the ever popular and delightful Tinker’s Hole between Mull and Erraid, be prepared to squeeze in on shorter than normal scope and watch the fun as children of all ages scramble up the pink granite walls to jump into the crystal clear waters below.
The west coast is characterized by deep lochs formed by glaciers that are a joy to explore, with castles on high pinnacles and towns in their crevices. The deep penetration of the ocean in the sea lochs and firths (estuaries), means that you are rarely more than 40 to 50 miles (65 to 80 km) of the open ocean. The Highlands to the North and the Uplands to the South are distinctly mountainous compared with the central lowlands of the Midland Valley to the east.
Some islands are gneissic bedrock formed three billion years ago, some are formed from red sandstone about 400 million years old, and others like Rum were created from more recent volcanic activity. Whereas Skye, Mull and Jura are mountainous, others like Tiree and Colonsay are relatively low lying with beautiful sandy beaches. Staffa has geometrically distinct basalt columns formed by abrupt volcanic eruptions. Then there are the strangely shaped Treshnish Isles. They are all fascinating.
Unspoilt natural beauty is around every bend in the west of Scotland. Whether it’s a matter of rocky cliffs jutting out into the sea, jagged peaks covered in dark dense greenery, pristine white sand beaches, machair landscape that stretches to the horizon, or your own little bit of paradise, you’ll experience more ooohs and aaahs with each passing day.
The western isles are home to amazing flocks of rare birds, seals, otters and more. Some like Mull and Jura have large wild deer populations. In the Treshnish Isles, listen to the serenade of seals basking on the rocks while unperturbed puffins walk right up to you in greeting. In the outer regions, dolphins and porpoises, whales and basking sharks can be observed. Of course, you might have the good fortune of spotting the elusive Loch Ness Monster.
The island of Islay has no fewer than eight distilleries and the best way to get there is by boat. It is covered in peat, bathed by sea spray, which gives the malts created here its smoky flavour with hints of seaweed. The 24 whiskies from the Highlands tend to have a more nutty, honey or heather character. The five remaining distilleries in the lowlands have a gentler, softer, lighter style. Discovering the distinctive character of each is part of the fun.
Although people have lived in Scotland for roughly 10,000 years, its recorded history begins with the arrival of the Roman Empire in the 1st Century. Scotland has many ancient burial sites, castles, forts and, of course, Hadrian’s Wall. The oldest standing house in Northern Europe is at Knap of Howar, dating from circa 3500 BC. Scotland is home to Europe’s oldest tree, the 5000-year-old Fortingall Yew. Imagine how much history that tree has lived through.
Scotland has an abundance of myths, folklores and legends. The fictitious unicorn is the official heraldic symbol. Kelpies, the supernatural water horses, lure victims to a watery grave. Selkies transform from seal to human and back again. Nessie, a dinosaur-like creature, inhabits Loch Ness. The Blue Men of Minch wait for boats to get into trouble so that sailors drown. Bean-Nighe is the fairy who can be seen along rivers and streams, washing the clothes of people who are about to die. Charming!
If your perception of Scottish people is based on Hollywood movies, you may be surprised to find that research done by Cambridge University suggests that the Scots are the friendliest people in Britain. Expect a warm welcome when you visit the Scottish shores: you may even be invited to a Burns supper, complete with Scotch broth and haggis as the main course, served with neeps and tatties. Perfect sailing fuel…