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.
Review of the Isle of Tiree
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 my 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, 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.
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 my Western Isles articles.
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Things to do on the Isle of Tiree
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 talent 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.
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 enjoying 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.
Getting to Tiree
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. 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 an OS map as mentioned below) or hire a bike.
Bike hire is my preferred option to explore the isle and in my opinion your best option is to 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).
The 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).
Accommodation on Tiree
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.
Find more places to visit with my Scottish Tourist Attractions Map.
- 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.
- Tiree is far quieter than big islands like the Isle of Mull and it has a certain olde-worlde charm to it. It’s a bit like stepping into a time machine.
- …apart from the TMF music festival! When the festival is on the island really comes alive. Likewise with the annual windsurfing event.
- It’s quite windy with wind speeds averaging around 18 mph so make sure you take windproof clothing with you whatever time of year you visit.
- The winds have been known to cancel ferry sailings without much notice so check the Calmac website for details before travelling.
- The beaches you visit will depend on the wind direction (you’ll want to find somewhere where the wind isn’t blowing at you from the sea). OS maps are great for this. Buy OS Explorer Maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
The Isle of Tiree can be visited by air and by sea.
For airfares and flight times contact:
For ferry prices and sailing times contact Caledonian MacBrayne
Photo gallery & video
More places to visit on Scotland’s islands
- Brodick – Isle of Arran: Complete Visitor GuideBrodick is the main village on the Isle of Arran, located on the west coast of Scotland. Brodick lies halfway along the eastern side of the island where it overlooks Brodick Bay and Goatfell mountain. It is the arrival point for most visitors due to the ferry port but is popular in its own right thanks to its beaches, surrounding forests, castle and quality restaurants.
- Arran Forest Walks: Complete Visitor GuideThe forests of Arran offer some of the best mountain biking routes of any of the west-coast islands and any cycle ride is almost guaranteed to include sightings of Arran’s famed red squirrels. The most popular wooded areas are; Brodick Castle, Dyemill, Glenrickard, King’s Cave, North Sannox and South End.
- Lochranza – Isle of Arran: Complete Visitor GuideThe village of Lochranza on the Isle of Arran is located in an exceptionally picturesque area on the north of the island. Although it is mostly visited for the small ferry terminal that connects the island to Claonaig on the mainland, Lochranza is also worth visiting for its tourist attractions. The village lies at the foot of dramatic mountains that encircle it to the south while a small scenic bay opens up to the Firth of Clyde and the Campbeltown peninsula to the north.
- Goatfell Mountain – Arran: Complete Visitor GuideGoatfell is an 874-metre mountain on the Isle of Arran on Scotland’s west coast. The mountain (designated a Corbett) is one of four on the island and is located three miles west of Brodick Castle. Although Goatfell is the highest point on the Isle of Arran the walk to the summit is quite easy with a robust staircase of boulders towards the top and a well-laid path through moorland and forest at the bottom.