Tiree Revisited


Tiree is a small island in the Hebrides located approximately four hours by ferry from Oban on the west coast of Scotland. For nearly twenty years now windsurfers have been travelling to this remote destination in the hope of finding wind and waves. What makes the place so special? The answer is simple. Tiree is smack in the middle of the ocean and has little to block or mask the wrath of low pressure systems crossing the Atlantic. Accordingly Tiree is one of the most consistently windy locations in the UK with its average year round wind speed being an incredible 18 MPH. It also receives its fair share of Atlantic swell and this combined with ten or so beaches all facing different directions and within fifteen minutes drive of one another adds up to a pretty unique location.

Gott Bay Sailing, by Phil Young

The Scottish Student National Championships held annually at Easter and the Tiree Wave Classic traditionally held in October have both used this statistic to their advantage. Both events have had a near perfect success rate.

The local windsurfing centre was set up by Willy Angus Maclean in 1998. Willy had spent three years working with Jamie Knox in Dingle in the southwest of Ireland before eventually coming back home to set up his own centre on Tiree. Prior to Wild Diamond being set up a small group called the Tiree Windsurfing Club established a healthy following from which local windsurfing blossomed. Willy has simply built on their initial hard work over the last five years to create a well equipped and enthusiastic centre catering for all levels of windsurfer from beginner to advanced wave sailor.
The site where Wild Diamond now operates from is a shallow sand bottomed loch called Loch Bhasapol (vasapol) which is ideal for learning in. The loch in many wind directions is the windiest spot on the island. Willy also has a shop situated beside the Tiree Lodge Hotel overlooking Gott bay. The shop stocks all the essential hardware as well as any spares you might need during your holiday.

Balephuil, by Phil Young

• Wild Diamond Windsurfing (daytime) – 01879 220 399 • Wild Diamond Windsurfing (evening) – 01879 220 399 • Wild Diamond Windsurfing (mobile) - 077 121 59205 • www.tireewindsurfing.com • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Gott bay
The ferry service run by Caledonian MacBrayne from Oban to Tiree brings you into Gott Bay. Gott is the largest of the beaches on the island and has an incredible horse shoe shape. The tight mouth of the bay faces roughly south east and although small swells occasionally find their way into the beach Gott is ideal for learners through to those looking for flat water to master gybes and water starts. The Tiree Lodge Hotel sits in the middle of Gott bay and serves food and beer to those requiring sustenance after their day’s efforts!

Crossapol Beach
Travelling southwest around the coast from Gott the next sailable location is Crossapol. Being much more exposed than Gott this beach is the only one on the southeast facing coast to pick up much swell. Crossapol is ideal for intermediate sailors right through to those looking for fast down the line wave riding. Light and forgiving waves peel down the bay in a south westerly to westerly wind (Starboard Tack)
Balemartine beach
Balemartine is the last beach on this coast line before going around to the more exposed west coast. The beach has a few rocks scattered across it at low tide and generally gets little or no swell. It is ideal for those looking for flat water blasting in a southerly wind.

Crossapoll, by Phil Young

Balephuil Beach
Continuing around Hynish point from Balemartine the first beach you come to is Balephuil. Also called Travee, this is the first of the real wave beaches that Tiree boasts. Balephuil is normally sailed starboard tack in a north westerly and will hold as big a swell as the Atlantic can through up on the beach. Professional sailors have commented that on its day Balephuil is like Ho’okipa on Maui but heavier and better wave sailing. High praise indeed! However this does not happen once a week so you can’t expect to get it that good on a weekend trip!
The Maze
This beach is probably the most famous of the beaches on Tiree and a real favourite with visiting windsurfers. The sailing can be equally good in northerly or south easterly wind directions. The beach itself faces almost directly west and so is also open to any swell that the Atlantic is kicking up. Access is currently quite restricted at The Maze and the best way to get to the beach is usually found by speaking to the local windsurfing centre.
Hough Bay
Hough is a north westerly facing beach which has predominantly flat water due to offshore reefs blocking almost all incoming swell. The beach is accessed by a long gravel track found by looking for Balevullin beach and continuing on the main road past the Balevullin turn off.

This spot is quite a bit more technical to sail at than the other beaches. High headlands block the wind flow at either end of the bay and make the wind gusty for the first few hundred metres from the beach. Southerly is cross offshore from the left and holds up what is already a strong, pitching wave. The light rip current across the bay can make for an interesting days wave sailing but if you are up to it, one you will take delight in.
The Green

Northerly facing and again quite gusty this can be the only spot with waves after a few days with north easterly winds. Rocky headlands at both ends and a large horse shoe shape on the bay can make launching tricky when the waves are big and onshore. Access can be problematic at times since farming land has to be crossed to reach the beach. The best accesses can be found by asking the local windsurfing centre.

Gott Bay Sunset, by Phil Young

Balephetrish beach and reefs
The last of the sandy beaches on the north coast of Tiree, Balephetrish has mainly flat water conditions on the beach created by the offshore reefs. Largely unexplored these reefs can regularly produce breaking swells of up to twenty feet. The 1994 Tiree Wave Classic saw a number of sailors tackle one of these reefs while it was breaking around ten feet or so. The action to say the least was breathtaking!
(For more information on these and other spots try www.tireewaveclassic.com or www.tireewindsurfing.com).

There are around forty or so commonly available self catering cottages on Tiree as well as two hotels, two guest houses and around eight bed and breakfast providers. Contact numbers for all of these providers can be obtained from Wild Diamond Windsurfing.
Although there are no formal camping sites currently available on the island this is another option. Most people base themselves either at the beach by the main supermarket on the island or in front of the Tiree Lodge Hotel in Gott Bay. The Scarinish hotel is one hundred metres or so from the Coop supermarket and both the Scarinish and the Tiree Lodge hotels have open restaurants and public bars. Showers are also available in both hotels for a fee. There are no hard and fast rules about camping elsewhere on the island but it is always best to ask the permission of the nearest croft house before setting up camp.
Hostel accommodation is available at the Millhouse Hostel and Farmhouse at Cornaig and at the Bunkhouse at Balinoe. The Hynish Centre caters for groups.
• List of contact numbers for cottages please contact Wild Diamond Windsurfing or alternatively Tiree Community Business on – 01879 220 520 • Tiree Lodge Hotel – 01879 220 368 • Tiree Scarinish Hotel – 01879 220 308 • Kirkapol Guest House – 01879 220 729 • or try here:


The Maze North End, by Phil Young

As already mentioned both the Scarinish Hotel and the Tiree Lodge Hotel have restaurants. Both are similarly priced and have reasonably varied menus offering local specialties as well as the common favourites. The Elephants End, just to the east of the Tiree Lodge at Gott Bay is more up market and produces some meals that are hard to beat.
For drinks in the evening (or indeed mid afternoon in Scotland!) there are the public bars in the Scarinish and Tiree Lodge Hotels both of which serve a variety of the finest Scottish ales!

There are many other activities available on Tiree and the island is actually fairly developed considering its small (under 700) population. These include kitesurfing, land yachting, surfing, body boarding, golf (a nine hole course), pony trekking, archaeological sites to visit, fishing, shooting and much more besides.

However Tiree is renowned for its peaceful atmosphere and that is what brings the bulk of its visitors back year after year. It is not uncommon to find a two mile long clean, white sandy beach all to yourself even in the middle of the summer.
Tiree is also statistically one of the sunniest locations in the UK and regularly reaches the top of the BBC’s weather reports for sunshine hours.

• Pony Trekking – Jane Issacson on – 01879 220 881 • Kitesurfing – Wild Diamond Windsurfing on – 077 121 59 205 • Fishing permits – Royal Bank of Scotland on – 01879 220 307 • Land Yachting – 01879 220 317

The Maze South End, by Phil Young

Tiree can be reached either travelling with British Airways from Glasgow International Airport or with Caledonian MacBrayne by ferry from their port in Oban. Those wishing to bring their own equipment are obliged to travel with Caledonian MacBrayne since the aircraft which fly to Tiree do not have the baggage capacity to handle windsurfers (kite surfers may sneak through!). Flights typically take around forty minutes while the ferry crossing is around four hours also stopping at the neighbouring island of Coll.

Flights are expensive and you can expect to pay between £100 and £160 return depending on the time of year.
Vehicles less than five metres in length typically pay around £130 return from Oban. Vehicles over five metres in length pay around £230 return and in both instances each individual adult passenger would pay around £22 return.
• Caledonian MacBrayne booking office – 08705 650000 • British Airways booking line – 0845 77 333 77 EXPENSES AND PLANNING

Crossapol, by Phil Young

The currency is in fact the Scottish pound and while being equally acceptable in England many will find it strange trying to work with pound notes as well as pound coins again! The cost of living on Tiree is slightly higher than on the mainland but not as expensive as living in one of the major cities. Typically a pint is around £2 and the supermarket prices only slightly higher due to the freight costs of shipping to the island.

It should be noted that most people are pleasantly surprised on their first visit to Tiree by the range that the Coop supermarket has. It is therefore not essential to bring a selection of your favourite chocolate bars with you!
To look for the Sunday papers on Sunday morning however would be foolhardy and this is where the logistics of living on an island become apparent. There are no ferries, flights, post or deliveries on Sunday for example and shops only began to open on a Sunday a few years ago. Forward planning is at times required but this only adds to the charm and peaceful nature of the island.

The Maze, by Phil Young



Tiree as a high wind location is well worth a visit but it is of course a British location. Autumn, winter and spring months have reasonably reliable wind statistics (check www.tireewaveclassic.com or www.tireewindsurfing.com) but the summer is not the best bet if you want to be out with a 5.0m2 sail and a wave board. Tiree is a great family location with loads to do to keep the kids amused and being so quiet you can simply lock them outside without worrying if you run out of ideas! It is almost impossible to get summertime accommodation unless booking at least a year in advance. The off season is much easier going however and probably a bit cheaper for housing and ferries. The Tiree Wave Classic usually runs in the 2nd/3rd week of October and this year Tiree hosted the last round of the PWA Wave Championship. Why not join in the fun and come and compete with or at worst support some of Britain’s finest!

Scarinish Harbour, by Phil Young.


Tiree Motor Company (car hire) – 01879 220 469
Maclennan Motors (car hire) – 01879 220 555
Island Cabs (taxi service) – 01879 220 344
Shared Taxi Service – 01879 220 419
Doctors Surgery – 01879 220 323
Loganair booking office (tiree flights) – 01879 220 309
Caledonian MacBrayne Tiree booking office – 01879 220 337

Sunset, by Phil Young