Isle of Tiree

By Craig Neil
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Summary

The Isle of Tiree is the most westerly island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Known as the ‘Hawaii of the north’, Tiree is famed for its clear blue seas and wide golden beaches, as well as the annual Tiree Music Festival and Surf Wave Classic events.

Discover Tiree with this guide which includes an overview, good-to-know visiting advice, and a 360° virtual tour.

The highlights

1: This is the place to visit if you’re looking for beautiful, wide-open sandy beaches. Admittedly it’s quite windy, but then you can always head to different parts of the island to find shelter.

2: Tiree is far quieter than big islands like the Isle of Mull and it has an olde-worlde charm that is rarely found these days.

3: It’s a quiet island… except for the TMF music festival! When the festival is staged the island really comes alive. Likewise with the annual windsurfing event, the Tiree Wave Classic.

Tiree

Visiting tips

1: Tiree is quite windy with wind speeds averaging around 18 mph, so make sure you take windproof clothing with you whatever time of year you visit.

2: The winds have been known to cancel ferry sailings without much notice so check the Calmac website for details before travelling.

3: The beaches you visit will depend on the wind direction. OS maps are great for working out where the most secluded beaches are.

Buy OS Explorer Maps direct from Ordnance Survey. Use the map in conjunction with this article: The Best Beaches on Tiree.


Overview

Isle of Tiree Beach

The Isle of Tiree is the most westerly island of the Inner Hebrides and although small at only 30 square miles it has become increasingly popular with tourists thanks to its golden sandy beaches and shallow bays of crystal clear water.

This low-lying isle has a small population of around 650 permanent residents but this number increases significantly in summer when tourists flock to the island to enjoy the beautiful beaches and peaceful setting.

The weather in Tiree can be changeable but the island enjoys a relatively high number of total hours of sunshine (around 1500) during the late spring and early summer compared to the average for the United Kingdom, although strong winds can be felt throughout the year.

The island is probably best known for its collection of gorgeous beaches (you can read about them in the Guide to Tiree’s Best Beaches) which surround the picturesque coastline almost end-to-end from the wide-open bays of Gott and Crossapol to the off-the-beaten-track hideaways of Sandaig and Caolas.

Isle of Tiree

But there’s a lot more to Tiree than dreamy expanses of white sand and crystal-clear sea.

This is an ancient island in every sense and humans have lived on it for thousands of years, and you can still see examples of those bygone days at the heritage centres at Scarinish and Hynish.

But while the island’s ancient history is celebrated it doesn’t mean the place is stuck in the past because it draws visitors from far and wide to two of the biggest events in the calendar of Scotland’s west coast islands – the Tiree Music Festival and the Tiree Wave Classic.

These events bring in a large number of visitors of all ages and yet Tiree never feels overly touristy, so I consider it a bit of a hidden gem amongst the west coast islands.

Isle of Tiree Beach

This family-friendly little island offers plenty of activities for young and old alike with miles and miles of golden beaches just aching to be explored and plenty of rock pools, wildlife, and azure-blue waters keeping nature-lovers engrossed for hours on end.

Do you remember the balmy family holidays you used to have as a child? Well, that’s pretty much what you can expect on Tiree.

The island has definitely got a different atmosphere about it compared to many of the other Western Isles which I think is down to the fact that it’s nowhere near as commercialised as Skye or Mull and it’s much flatter.

But what you lose in dramatic mountain peaks you more than make up for in beautiful sheltered beaches and I reckon it’s the perfect place for a quiet summer beach holiday.

If the Isle of Tiree has whetted your appetite for Scotland’s west coast take a look at these Hebrides Isles articles.

Isle of Tiree Beach

Tourist information

Sometimes called The Hawaii of the North due to its glorious weather, the Isle of Tiree is a popular windsurfing venue and the longest-running windsurfing competition in the world – the Tiree Wave Classic – is held on the island each year in October.

The event showcases some of the best windsurfing talents in the world and it’s an opportunity for spectators to enjoy surf culture as well as watch this exciting sport close up.

Another big event held on the island is the annual Tiree Music Festival which features the cream of Scottish folk and rock music performers across three days of fun, food and music.

Tiree Music Festival

The event has been steadily increasing in size since its creation in 2010 and now attracts around 2000 eager music fans to this intimate festival, and in fact, it’s been doing so well that it’s already won 9 national awards – including the Best Scottish Small Event award.

There are lots of wee attractions to explore on Tiree like the local history museum in the island’s main village of Scarinish and the Skerryvore Lighthouse Museum, while natural wonders including Fingals cave and the Ringing Stone offer some lovely excursions into the island’s remote wilderness.

But for me, the best part about visiting Tiree is just getting out onto a beach that’s miles from anywhere and enjoy the peace and quiet without any distractions from the modern world coming to interfere with your holiday.

Visiting the place is like stepping back in time twenty years which is an experience that’s difficult to find nowadays, and it’s for this reason that Tiree tops the list of my favourite Scottish islands.

Isle of Tiree Beach

Travel

Access to Tiree is easy thanks to the small airport and the regular Calmac ferry crossings, although as accommodation is limited it can be hard to find a place to stay during the peak summer season so it’s recommended to book well in advance.

As far as flights go you can take a scheduled Loganair flight from Glasgow airport or charter a flight from Oban with Hebridean Air, with the more popular Glasgow flight taking a mere 40 minutes door-to-door.

As you fly over the island you’ll get your first glimpses of what’s to come – crescent-shaped bays, utterly flat plains of machair, and tiny villages dotted here and there like something out of an Enid Blyton novel.

Tiree

You might even see pods of dolphins and minke whales swimming off the coastline.

Once you’re on the island you’ve got several transport options available although the easiest is to use your own car if you’ve caught the ferry.

However, if you want to be a bit more eco-friendly you can either walk (don’t forget to get the OS maps mentioned below) or hire a bike.

Bike hire is perhaps the best option to explore the isle, so contact Tiree Fitness who hire bikes for just £15 per day (£65 per week) and electric bikes for just £25 per day (£120 per week).

Isle of Tiree

Electric bikes are a great idea as they allow you to roam around the miles of country roads with a minimum of effort and they make it easy to cycle into the inevitable headwinds that’ll battle to push you off course.

If you’d prefer four-wheeled transport you can hire a car from MacLennan Motors or you can hire a taxi from John Kennedy Taxis who operate out of Crossapol (tel: 01879 220419).

Find more places to visit with the Scottish Tourist Attractions Map.

Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:

Coll & Tiree – 372 Explorer.

Coll & Tiree – 46 Landranger.

OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.

OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.


Things to do

1: Skerryvore Lighthouse Museum. Address: Hynish, PA77 6UG.
This is a small, free-to-enter museum that explores the history behind the Skerryvore Lighthouse – one of the remotest, oldest, and tallest lighthouses in the United Kingdom.

Skerryvore is situated on the southeast corner of Tiree which is a great place to visit in itself as it offers visiting tourists the chance to walk along a wild, rocky coastline that’s home to countless seabirds.

2: Gott Bay. Address: Kirkapol, PA77 6TW.
Gott Bay is the largest bay in Tiree and is home to the largest beach on the island. The southern end is the location of the Barra and Coll ferry jetty while the northern end allows access to a small and rarely visited islet.

Due to the fact that Gott Bay is sheltered and it is a popular destination for watersports and is also an ideal family beach thanks to its shallow waters.

Isle of Tiree Beach

3: The Ringing Stone. Address: Tiree, PA77 6UY.
This unusual natural attraction is a large boulder that sits in a remote region on the northwest side of the island. This boulder has an unusual rock composition which creates a ringing sound when struck, similar to striking metal.

Though folklore says the boulder was thrown there by a giant, it is, in fact, a remnant left behind by a glacier.

4: Scarinish. Address: Scarinish, PA77 6UH.
Scarinish is the main settlement on Tiree and is the location of the island’s supermarket as well as a bank and a post office.

In addition, Scarinish has an attractive harbour which is the main departure point for wildlife cruises to the Isle of Lunga.

5: Balevullin Beach. Address: Balevullin, PA77 6XD.
This beach on the southwest corner of Tiree is one of the most-visited due to its position facing the strong winds of the Atlantic Ocean, making it a superb location for windsurfing.

Visitors looking to learn the sport before heading out onto the open water can head inland to nearby Loch Bhasapol which is used by watersports training schools.


Accommodation

Tiree is always busy in summer so you’ll have to book well in advance if you want to secure a holiday let.

Many of the Islanders let out their homes for the summer season and prices are constantly updated so instead of listing them all on this page I’ll just link to the official Isle of Tiree Accommodation page which has a fairly comprehensive list of available holiday homes.

Booking.com

Frequently asked questions

What size is Tiree?

Tiree is 30.24 square miles / 78.34 square km / 7,834 hectares in total area.
Tiree is served by Calmac ferries and Logainair flights.
Directions map: Google Maps

Is Tiree the sunniest place in the UK?

Tiree enjoys an average of 1534 hours of sunshine annually, making it one of the sunniest places in Scotland.
The seaside resort of Shanklin on the Isle of Wight is officially the sunniest place in Britain with an average of 1923 hours of sunshine annually.

Do you get midges on Tiree?

Midges are prevalent on the west coast of Scotland. However, Tiree is known as the windy isle and midges are virtually non-existent in summer.

Midges cannot take off when the wind speed is above 7 mph, and the average wind speed on Tiree is 13 mph from March to October.

Is Tiree worth visiting?

Tiree is one of the most popular west coast islands in Scotland thanks to its clear seas and wide, golden beaches that are easy to access.

Tiree is a haven for windsurfing thanks to its shallow bays and high winds, and it is home to two much-anticipated annual events – the Tiree Music Festival and the Tiree Surf Classic

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