Tiree, Scotland’s ‘Sunshine Island’

As well as pristine beaches and the maximum sunshine hours within the UK, the Inner Hebridean island has an abundance of wildlife
The last time I sat in the saddle of a pushbike I become nonetheless in brief trousers. Forty years later, I changed into pedaling gleefully down an undulating single-music road on a clean blue mid-July morning. Either side, the road was framed by hedgerows and, beyond, untamed croft land turned into gold and pink way to an abundance of buttercups and Heather. Up ahead lay an expanse of ocean, aquamarine, and twinkling. The air becomes wealthy with birdsong and the scent of grasses and sea. There wasn’t an automobile in sight. It changed into like using into the pages of an Enid Blyton tale. Until that is, an awesome black-sponsored gull swooped from on high, plucked an sizable brown rat from a roadside ditch, soared all over again to the heavens and flung its terrible sufferer returned to Earth and its doom.

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Such are the enchantments and wildness of Tiree – resident population 650, and the most westerly island of the Inner Hebrides. When I arrived the previous morning with the aid of ferry from the mainland port of Oban, it didn’t so much loom as sneak into view: pancake-flat but for Ben Hynish, the solitary, 141-metre hill, and all however treeless. Tiree, though, glories in what takes place around and approximately its 36 miles of shoreline. It both reinforces and gives misinform the cliche that the seashores of the Hebrides could belong to the Caribbean or Pacific, but for his or her climate, heather and midges.

 

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Tiree’s edges are certainly made of numerous secluded crescent-formed bays, every with quality, white sand, as image-postcard ideal as the next, and close to deserted. Thanks to the mild influence of the Gulf Stream, Tiree is the Sunshine Isle, basking in more hours of annual daylight than just about some other place inside the British Isles. Since it’s also out in the Atlantic, and as such additionally Britain’s windiest region, it has the extra benefit of being inhospitable to the summer season-lengthy curse of most of Scotland’s islands and Highlands: midges.

‘The noblest of all deep sea lights’: nineteenth-century Skerryvore Lighthouse.
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Skerryvore Lighthouse. Photograph: Alamy
The Gulf Stream also warms the waters round Tiree and its close to-neighbour, Coll, and that they teem with lifestyles. The latter half of my 4-hour ferry adventure changed into a marine journey in itself. From my vantage point on the upper stern deck, I counted five surfacing minke whales, an eight-robust pod of leaping white-beaked dolphins and the arched black backs of many extra harbor porpoise. Not to say squadrons of gulls, shags, guillemots, arctic terns, marauding arctic skuas and diving gannets.

The three-mile power from the tiny port of Scarinish to my accommodation protected a quarter of Tiree’s duration. I stayed in a comfy, white-walled crofter’s cottage, Traigh Mhor, surrounded on three facets by heathland grazed by a herd of Highland farm animals and facing out to the island’s longest uninterrupted stretch of sand, Gott Bay. Other snug and hardy houses (with outer partitions painted brilliant purple, yellow or crimson) are dotted alongside the music roads that crisis-go the island. At 12 in quantity, Tiree additionally boasts the highest concentration of traditional thatched homes in Scotland.

House No 7 designed via architect Murray Kerr.
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House No 7. Photograph: David Barbour
Tiree’s exceptions to the convention are House No 7 and An Turas. Nestled into a coastal promontory at the southern tip of Scarinish, the former is a multi-award-prevailing home. Designed and built for his dad and mom by using London-based architect Murray Kerr, it is hanging, however empathetic melding of an older, renovated cottage with a brace of extra futuristic-searching, steel-clad, barn-like extensions. Sadly, it’s now not for lease. Sited dockside at Scarinish port and Scotland’s 2003 Building of the Year, An Turas in the meantime is a standout cuboid structure of glass, metallic and wood that serves as both artwork exhibition space and a haven for foot passengers on the ferry. Both buildings convey a dash of daring to Tiree.

Otherwise, Tiree is an escape from the fast pace of modernity and pleasant visible from a motorbike (hired from various shops across the island, from £8 a day). On an excellent afternoon, I pedaled up and down Tiree’s southern extremity, traveling Balevullin Bay at one quit and Balephuil Bay at the other. At Balevullin, surfers and windsurfers rode crashing white-water waves. From Balephuil, the venerable Skerryvore lighthouse is seen at the horizon, standing to defend on its base of jagged, treacherous rock. It was defined through Robert Louis Stevenson as “the noblest of all deep sea lighting fixtures,” and there is a captivating museum to this 19th-century monument on the close by township of Hynish.

For lunch, I referred to as on the Farmhouse Cafe, just across the headland from Hynish in Balemartine, which offers easy sandwich and snack fare. Sitting on a solar-dappled patio, I changed into serenaded from the bordering grassland by the distinct comb-scraping-on-matchbox name of the corncrake. Later, I stopped off at Chocolate & Charms, a gift-and-snack store in Heylipol, for a cup of rich, creamy warm chocolate. On this event, from my out of doors perch on a wood bench, I was dive-bombed by way of batteries of swallows and sand martin.

Wild journey: surfers love Tiree’s crashing white-water waves.
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Surfers love Tiree’s white-water waves. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock
Eating out at night in Tiree is likewise a rustic enjoy. The island has a handful of fish and chip stores, and the Cobbled Cow at Crossapol does meat and seafood dinners. However, you will seek in vain for great eating. Best bet for an evening meal is to pick up some thing from Tiree Lobster & Crab in Scarinish. It’s essentially a Portacabin within the vehicle park next to the Co-op and sells catch-of-the-day fish and shellfish at affordable fees.

On my ultimate night time on Tiree, I walked a mile up the road from my cottage to Salum Bay. This more rugged, tucked-away corner of the island hosts a 70-robust gray seal colony and presents a wide ranging view of the Outer Hebrides, the shadow peaks of Barra, South Uist and Benbecula sweeping off into the also Atlantic. At 11 pm, the darkened sky became nevertheless gashed with the purple of a setting sun, and there has been no sound however for the barking of seals and lapping waves. Like Tiree, I changed into completely at peace.