Friday, September 5, 2014

BREATHTAKING TIREE


Soroby Bay with byre for the Highland cattle

Windswept, treeless, quiet, Tiree is the most unspoiled place I've been to in a long, long time. The white sand beaches are empty of people and the sea is turquoise.

I arrived in fog, the air so humid it condensed on my face. The light was terrible and I wondered if I was going to see the island as I had always longed to experience it. Next morning the breeze blew away the fog and the sun shone all day giving me perfect visibility.

Scarinish Hotel and harbour
There are two hotels here and a handful of B&Bs. Mine is the oldest, the Scarinish Hotel on the main harbour, which is tiny. The hotel is tired, but the rooms clean and comfortable. It overlooks the small harbour entrance. This is a workers' hotel — the snug is packed at 5:30pm every day as they stop for a beer on the way home. It's old-fashioned with worn wood and hasn't been painted since the 1950s. it's noisy too. The dining room is clean and serves reasonable dinners, but mediocre breakfasts. Service in the evening is extremely slow — I waited 45 mins from ordering to getting my main course. But there is little choice here. Tonight I tried the Tiree Lodge, and it was terrible. Poor service, chips with everything, and kids running around the resto. However the bar is nice and serves good IPA from Colonsay.

© James S. Ferguson as I was driving!!
I drove around this tiny island taking the odd side trip today and it was nothing short of stunning. There were no tourists, except the odd cyclists and the roads are all single-lane with passing places, which made me happy to be driving a midget car. The houses are mostly converted crofts and stand out  from the grassy landscape as they are white-washed. The islanders farm, sheep and cattle mostly, and the livestock run at liberty all over the place. They are the only cause of traffic jams!

I'd been longing to see some Highland cattle — rust red with huge horns. Not only did I see them, I saw them close, along with one calf and several bigger youngsters. They came right up to the fence for close-ups and one posed for his photo. These had all won awards except the calf. Their owners run the only place I ate a decent meal. Farmhouse CafĂ© is unprepossessing on the outside but is friendly, fun, and serves home-made, delicious dishes with quite a flair. It has a lovely view from the back where the tables are.



Some old churches dot the landscape. Two were still in use, but others have been converted into homes. There are largish farms, but not many, and the occasional modern windmill provides power to homes. Some residences cluster together in tiny villages, but most are widely spread out. Almost all enjoy the spectacular views.

In fact there is a new vista round every corner and they had me stopping so often that I took from 10am to 3:00pm to travel around an island that is 10 miles long and about 6 miles at its widest point. From the west coast, there is no more land until you reach the USA.

Salum Bay on the northwest coast

Images: © Photos by Pharos 2014, except where noted. All rights reserved