Tiree is statistically the windiest & sunniest place in the British Isles! As the most westerly island in the Inner Hebrides is also picks up a lot of Atlantic swell. It has nine windsurfable beaches where you can sail in down-the-line, perfectly flat water or cross-on mush all on the same day! No surprise then that it hosts the biggest wave event in the UK: the Tiree Wave Classic. Adam Cropper visited the island just before this event to see whether it lived up to the hype.
How To Get There
It’s fair to say, getting to Tiree is a mission, but that’s what makes it special. You need to get yourself + car/van to Oban which is on the west coast of Scotland; about two hours drive north of Glasgow. From there you get a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry for the 4 hour trip through the Sound of Mull, out to the Island of Coll and finally landing on Tiree. The summer timetable (April to mid-October) sees ferries run every day. Come the winter schedule they only go on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. A return ticket for 2 persons & a less than 5m vehicle costs just over £200 on the summer timetable and £165 in the winter.
Yes, you can fly to Tiree with a daily flight from Glasgow International Airport except on Sundays. However, the plane is a small one and the captain won’t be able to squeeze on your bags of windsurfing kit. But if you have a very good friend that will drive your van/kit up there, it is the pimpest way to arrive in Tiree! The one flight a day is operated by British Airways/Logan Air and will cost you £95 return.
Driving on the Island
You can seriously clock up the miles on Tiree. We did 500 miles during our two week visit! Fuel is expensive on the island (111p per litre in Oct 2006)so fill up at the petrol station just before Oban on the mainland. The roads are all single lane with passing places. The locals either drive incredibly slow or stupidly fast. It’s best if you drive very sensibly and give way to tractors, school buses and Wily Angus on his way to the beach!
How the wind works
Tiree is subject to the same weather systems as the rest of the UK but because of its position it does tend to get most of the Atlantic lows and with it decent swell. Therefore you would calculate that spring & autumn are the best times to go. However, August Bank Holiday has been known to go off and you can spend a week in October with no wind. To guarantee a gale of a time go in January. The Gulf Stream keeps the water warmer than you would think but you will still need as much neoprene as money can buy!
The beauty of Tiree is that it can provide bolt flat water and down-the-line sailing at the same time – you just have to pick your beach. For example, in a typical south-westerly blow you would get down-the-line sailing at Balevullin, port cross onshore at The Maze, starboard cross onshore at Crossapol and flat water at Gott Bay.