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Sun, Sea and Serenity in Coll & Tiree

If you’re looking for a Scottish island escape then I would suggest looking no further than Coll & Tiree. This tiny pair of islands are often overlooked in favour of their larger, more famous neighbours such as Skye & Mull, but read on to find out why I think they’re the best places to experience real island life in Scotland …

Community

People make Scotland, and few places is this more true than Coll & Tiree. With a combined population of less than one thousand people, these islands punch well above their weight in terms of culture. Tiree has produced a whole host of traditional Scottish folk musicians such as Skerryvore and Skippinish, and the island hosts the annual community-run Tiree Music Festival - regularly voted Scotland’s best small event.

Tied in with the strong musical heritage, this is one of the best places to hear one of Scotland’s ancient languages being spoken day to day, as Gaelic is spoken by over a third of the population.

The Quiet Life

Coll & Tiree are accessed by the daily ferry from Oban. Where better to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life than on an island which is only visited by the outside world once a day? Coll - the smaller of the two isles - has just one shop, one hotel, and one school, and most of the island is completely undeveloped, allowing for endless space for ‘doing nothing’ and getting back to nature.

The community on Coll has taken the decision not to install a single street light on the island. This leaves the island almost completely devoid of light pollution, allowing absolute immersion in the spectacular night sky. For this reason, Coll was awarded Dark Sky Status in 2013.

Beaches

Both islands boast some of the most stunning beaches in the Hebrides. Dozens of pristine, sandy expanses overlooking crystal-clear blue waters are dotted along the shorelines. The only problem is that there are too many to choose from! And given how few people there are on the islands, it’s common to have the entire beach to yourself.

Weather

It may come as a surprise, but due to its position in the Gulf Stream, Tiree boasts some of the highest levels of sunshine hours recorded anywhere in the British Isles, earning it the nickname 'The Sunshine Isle'. Warm and pleasant summers make this a wonderful place to wile away the hours on your own private beach.

Their exposed position also makes Coll & Tiree two of the windiest places in the British Isles, which has two wonderful side effects. The curse of many a Scottish holiday - the dreaded midge - is kept at bay, and is almost non-existent on the isles.

The conditions have also given rise to Tiree’s annual Wave Classic event, the longest running professional windsurfing event in the world, when some of the worlds' best windsurfers descend on Tiree to take advantage of the sun, sea and surf.

True Wilderness

Large areas of undeveloped land on both islands make them brilliant locations for wildlife spotting. The beautiful 'Machair' (coastal grassland, usually carpeted with wildflowers in the summer) provide a perfect habitat for many of Scotlands' endangered birds such as corncrakes, skylarks and lapwings.

The unspoilt and empty beaches also provide fantastic viewpoints from which to spot a variety of sea life. Dolphins, seals and otters are regularly spotted, whilst Coll is now recognised as one of the best places in the UK to spot basking sharks.

Tempted? Check out our self-drive itinerary - Coll & Tiree: A Hebridean Escape, and discover the tranquility of Hebridean life for yourself.

James Fathers

Absolute Escapes Coll & Tiree

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