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A Wee Wander I Love To Go A Wandering

'I love to go a-wandering, along the coastal track, and as I go, I love to sing, my rucksack on my back.' These adapted words from a song from the distant past could well describe a recent walk at the East End of the Isle of Tiree.

Sign for Ruaig Farm

We drove from Scarinish, passing Gott Bay along the way, and parked the car at Ruaig. The first part of the walk was along the single track road that leads to Caolas. The sun was shining and it was a most pleasant morning to go a wandering.

The open road that leads to Caolas

On the Isle of Tiree you are very aware of the wild life, whether it be the presence of the birds or the wild flowers. The first bird to catch our attention was a heron that took off and soared into the blue sky above. What a magnificent sight.

High above a heron soars in blue skies

At the first crest in the road is Tiree's famous wind turbine known as 'Tilley' and close to it is a lochan. Here we had our first sighting of the many wild fowl we would encounter along our way.

Flight Path

One of the best descriptions regarding the shape of the island is to think of it as a 'lamp chop'. The East End is like the shank of the chop. At this point the island is at its narrowest and is less than a mile wide. There is often a view of so many of the neighbouring islands. To the right are the Treshnish Islands and the Isle of Mull. To the left of the road are the more distant Outer Hebrides. Directly in front is Gunna, Coll, Rum and Eigg. On a clear day distant Mainland mountain peaks can be identified.

Looking across the Gunna Sound to the Isle of Coll

On our walk the sun was so bright that there was a haze obscuring many of the islands. We could certainly make out Gunna and Coll, but Mull was hardly visible. Making her way south down the Passage of Tiree was the MV Clansman heading from Arinagour on Coll to Scarinish, Tiree.

The MV Clansman progressing down the Passage of Tiree

Dropping down from the final crest in the road, on the right is the turn for Milton with its harbour which serves many of the island's fishing boats. Just beyond the turnoff is the croft called 'Coll View' and next to it is a telephone box which has an honesty box for some of the produce from the croft.

Tiree is famous for its white sand beaches. On most Hebridean islands the beaches are on one side of the island - on Tiree the beaches surround the island. Another distinctive feature of the Hebridean isles is the delicate, fragile ecology known as Machair. Just past Coll View we made our way across the Machair and down onto the beach.

Colourful Machair

It was surprising how many small craft were lying at anchor in the Gunna Sound, or dragged up onto the sand above the high water mark. The temptation was to stop and watch the progress of the 'Mighty One' otherwise known as the MV Clansman.

The 'Mighty One'

You could be forgiven for thinking we were on a Mediterranean holiday, such was the colour of the sky and the azure blue water. The main difference was that there were no crowds and no long flight to get to Tiree. A staycation on the Isle of Tiree is certainly no second best - it is the best.

Framed

Here at the Gunna Sound the rocky outcrops that break up the beach are a distinctive feature and on this occasion helped to frame the various views. The beach here at Caolas has a secluded feel to it as opposed to the beaches much frequented by those enjoying water sports.

Striking Rock Formations

Just before climbing off the beach we came across a colourful row of dinghies. This year the Gunna Sound has been particularly quiet, as due to the restriceted timetable, the MV Clansman has not made its weekly pilgrimage to Barra via the Sound.

A touch of colour

Many of the houses surrounding the Sound have stunning views. From here the vista can include Coll, Gunna, Mull, the Small Isles and the Outer Hebrides.

Up and Over

Leaving the beach we struck out across the Machair for Miodar. As we made our way along the track we had a view that took in more or less the whole island. Eleven miles distant was the NATS radar station on top of Ben Hynish.

The view - all ten miles to Ben Hynish

It is easy to forget on a calm sunny day just how exposed Tiree is to the gale-force wind and the crashing waves that can sweep in from the Atlantic Ocean. Lying off the island is a string of skerries which help protect from the full force of the Atlantic.

Miodar

To the side of Miodar house and farm buildings are some sheep pens. Here Jim was keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings as his master sought to separate the lambs from the ewes in preparation for the sale on the Saturday.

Jim On Duty

All over the island crofters and farmers are busy preparing for theĀ 'Sale of Cross bred lambs' at the Rural Centre in Crossapol. It will be a very different sale this year due to coronavirus restrictions.

Separating the Lambs from the Ewes

It is a very different stretch of coastline between Miodar and Salum. Although there are small stretches of sand it is much more rugged. The landscape appears mainly to be a wet, peaty ground called sliabh (pronounced slieve).

A very different coastline

As we wandered towards Salum we encountered some cattle who were rather reluctant to leave the footpath. To our right was a barbed wire fence, not the best to scramble over in an emergency. Thankfully we successfully navigated our way past them.

Along the way came across all kinds of flowers - in fact to name them all would take hours. This year there appears to be even more flowers in the rich tapestry that goes to make up the landscape of Tiree.

So many wild flowers

Frequently throughout the length of our walk we would hear the sound of geese as they took fright and flight. Many geese have made the island their home and they are most destructive. As a consequence most crofters have given up any attempt at producing cereals.

Looking across to Vaul as we approached Salum

One of the first things we noticed, even before making Tiree our home, was the love of flags on the island. Often they are put up to mark a wedding, or a special occasion. However there are appear to be many special occasions!

A Tiree Tradition on display at Salum

Salum has an attractive beach. From it you can cross over to Vaul beach. We have on occasions made a circular walk of the two beaches. Salum was one of the first places we were conscious of the seals that populate the waters around Tiree. It also another great location from which to view the setting sun.

Salum beach with a view of Ben Hynish

At Salum we left the coast and headed inland and on to the other side of the island. It is no great distance, less than a mile, this being about the narrowest point on the island.

The bay at Vaul

There is a very pastoral feel to the landscape between Salum and Ruaig. The sheep quietly grazing complimented the pleasing view.

A pastoral scene at Ruaig.

At Ruaig we gained the road that runs between Gott and Caolas. Turning right we passed Ruaig Farm. Their award winning livestock is butchered off island and some can be bought directly from the farm. It comes highly recommended.

Almost at the end of our wander.

On our way home past Gott Bay there were surfers with kites and sailboards. The scene just added to the joy of our wander at the East end of the island.

Gott Bay

The song concludes, 'Oh, may we go a-wandering until the day we die! - Oh may we always laugh and sing - beneath God's clear blue sky!'

This is Life on Tiree

Click on the link below for a 3D view of our wander.

https://my.viewranger.com/viewranger3d/track/MTU2NTgzNTU=?app=1&units=metric

Credits:

Life-on-Tiree by Alan H Millar