Sailing The West Coast Of Scotland, Part 2

North to Stornoway

Don't miss the slide show at the end of this post

Sailing ‘off-grid’ is all about getting away from the crowds, and the west of Scotland can certainly offer that – during my first fortnight in charge of a charter boat in the Hebrides back in the spring of 1992 we saw one other yacht in two weeks. And in those days there was a kind of gentleman’s agreement that if an anchorage was already occupied by another boat, you moved on to allow them their peace – it was all something of a revelation to me, and saw the start of a life-long love affair.

Things are a bit more busy now, but it’s still quite possible to find your own quiet corner to soak up the atmosphere. There are dozens of anchorages that offer shelter from the prevailing westerlies, and on the occasions that high pressure dominates and easterly winds prevail, there are a whole new range of anchorages on the western shores of the mainland and islands that are normally off limits to explore. Distances to shelter are seldom excessive, the Atlantic swell is diminished by the island chain and by working the tides and taking advantage of the long hours of daylight it’s easy to eat the miles.

A Sense Of Place

There are other elements that are unique – many of Scotland’s famous distilleries are based in the islands and can be visited by sea. Each one of them has its own special character, and no cruise along the west coast is complete without making a pilgrimage to Loch Bracadale on Skye, to meet the people who make the astringent, peppery Talisker, surely the most maritime spirit in the world.

Although there are more boats around these days, and you may well be called upon to share an anchorage, this can also have its compensations. It’s not unknown for local yachts to have a bagpiper aboard, who will announce the end of the day with a medley of tunes, culminating in one of the majestic laments.  Then, when you’re sat in the cockpit with a dram in your hand, surrounded by 360 degrees of loveliness, and that haunting sound drifts around the bay you’ll understand the magic of the place, and congratulate yourself on your wisdom in deciding to come.

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Further Reading

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • DJ January 16, 2011, 10:02 am

    My wife and I spent four days on Skye during our honeymoon. Scotland is a great place to visit. I agree with your assessment of Talisker – still have a bottle from our trip. Your article has me dreaming of going back once we locate and purchase S/V Datsariot.
    Best Regards, DJ

    Reply
  • Matt January 17, 2011, 8:49 am

    I love sailing. I love whisky. For me, it’s hard to think how cruising could get any better than by sailing from distillery to distillery up the west coast of Scotland!

    Thanks for the post and the pictures.

    Reply
  • Jim Patek (S/V Let's Go!) January 17, 2011, 2:13 pm

    Colin

    Thanks very much for some specifics in this post! Is Stornoway a place you would go out of your way to visit after rounding Cape Wrath on the way south or better to take advantage of the numerous anchorages along the northwest coast of the mainland before sailing over to South Harris or North Uist?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • whitney crew January 18, 2011, 2:27 pm

      Hello
      Last July we sailed south from Orkney via Cape Wrath and we elected to sail along the west coast of the mainland first, stopping first in Kinlockbervie. We very much enjoyed the many options along this wild coast and highly recommend that route. About a week or so later we crossed over to Stornoway via the Shiant Islands, and spent almost a week in that area. If you would like more details just let us know.

      Reply
  • Anonymous January 21, 2011, 12:15 pm

    Hi

    Whisky and Scotland are synonymous, and sailing adds the vital third dimension – but perhaps not to be tried at the same time…!

    The mainland is really interesting, and there are some amazing places to visit – well worth it. Stornoway is OK, and good for stores etc, and for visiting the island, but perhaps not the most picturesque place. The Shiants are magical, and one of the most spectacular displays of bird life can be seen there – I’m sure Alfred Hitchcock must have visited there!

    Best wishes

    Colin

    Reply

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