In the past club trips have been fairly local, places like Wells, Bridlington etc. This time we decided to be a little more adventurous and to sponsor the trip with a view to getting a big response. We certainly got that, 14 members in total made the journey, the biggest turnout for a long time. The destination was the island with the UK’s biggest reputation……
When looking for a venue for a sponsored trip, very few members of the club knew much about Tiree other than its’ reputation for big winds and even bigger waves. One committee member, Laurence Gardner had been, in the summer months, and vouched for its ‘out of season’ character being less full on but still interestingly windy. He also volunteered to organise the trip, for which ther rest of us were very grateful. We needed a location where we could take beginners and , being an inland club, very few members have had much experience in waves. As Tiree is such a small island its always possible to find a beach with small waves and cross/onshore winds for those that need them. We were very grateful for this Boardseeker guide to the various beaches, giving us confidence to go ahead with the trip. Laurence also had first hand knowledge of the hostel accommodation which was capable of sleeping 16 people in various rooms and dorms. We also decided that, travelling such a long distance, a weekend even adding in a Friday and a Monday for travelling was insufficient so we extended it to Thursday to Wednesday, giving us 5 clear days on the island. We later found out that one other of the members, Andy, had been to Tiree a few times and was confident that we would find conditions to suit all abilities. The group going comprised about 3 competent beginners, 3-4 middling intermediates and the rest were competent freeriders.
The club decided to subsidise the trip, with the club paying for transport costs and members paying for their food and accommodation. Experience had suggested that we should expect 8-10 members wanting to go so had budgeted for one 12 seater minibus and one long wheelbase transit, however very quickly 16 put their names forward (though later 2 dropped out) and we quickly realised that one van to carry all the kit was going to be insufficient and so we decided we should take two vans, one for boards and one for rigs.
The journey was expected to be around 8 hours driving and 4 hours on the ferry, which leaves early in the morning from Oban so necessitating an overnight drive. Each vehicle was to be insured for 4 drivers so we could share the burden and the minibus was upgraded to a 17 seater so it wouldn’t be too cramped with all the luggage.
As the departure date came closer and we polled each member as to how much kit they would want to take, we reckoned on 25-30 booms, the same number of masts, 45-50 sails, and 30 odd boards (including a few surfboards).
This was going to be a problem of organisation each day trying to allow everyone easy access the their kit without having to empty both vans every time so we decided it would be wise to make some racking for the smaller van to keep sails and to hang booms. It was a wise decision, and it meant that very little equipment had to be unloaded for people to get what they needed. Gordon also made a rack to allow for two layers of boards in the big van.
We had a minor hiccup on the afternoon of the Thursday when we went to collect the vans, they had ‘upgraded’ our short wheelbase transit to a long wheelbase. The hire company thought they were doing us a favour but we knew that it would incur an additional charge on the ferry so insisted on a a short wheelbase which had to be got from Leicester, a round trip of 40 miles or so. Members had previously dropped their kit off at various pick up points and once the vans had had their racking fitted we then rendezvoused at Laurence’s house where all the kit was reloaded and readied for the journey. The driving was uneventful if tedious, not helped by the minibus having a limiter fitted which prevented it going above 60mph. The ferry, run by Caledonian MacBrayne, was clean and spacious. The cooked breakfasts were great and some managed to get some sleep on the way there. The journey was about 4 hours, passing Mull and Coll, and with little or no wind or swell, we weren’t troubled by any seasickness.
On arrival we drove straight to Millhouse hostel, unloaded all our baggage and then, as there was very little wind, we went for a drive round the islands beaches. Andy (aka Biggles) has spent quite a bit of time on Tiree it seems and he knew the various beaches well. Tiree is not big, 10 miles by 4 miles approx. quite low lying and very windswept. There are no trees, and most of the island is either grassland or scrubby rock.
The beaches are tremendous, golden sand, gently shelving into turquoise waters, you could be forgiven for thinking you are in the Caribbean, until you turn round and look inland, and the fact that you’ve got a coat on!. All the buildings look like they are built to stand a severe battering, they appear hunkered down as far into the landscape as they could go, with roofs designed to not blow away. There is one hill with a radar tracking dome on it but its never going to cause much of an obstacle to the wind.
Millhouse Hostel is in the north of the island, right next to Bhasapol Loch, where Wild Diamond, the only windsurfing shop on the island, do some windsurfing beginner tuition. The Loch is quite small but I guess that would be reassuring when there’s a force 9 blowing, and we were assured its only very shallow so it would require a quite small fin on a board.
The hostel is in a converted mill building, restored obviously, and to a very good standard with excellent facilities. There are two dorms upstairs with 6 beds in each and two twin bedrooms downstairs. We divided into snoring and non-snoring groups, acknowledged winner of the snoring competition, Pete Davey, though I might have been a contender, though I’ll never know!
Two toilets and showers plus a utility room with washer and drying rack for wetsuits.The kitchen was well able to cope with cooking for 14 people with stacks of pots and pans and utensils etc.
The dining area has a few settees, a tele and of course tables and chairs for eating at. Outside is a small patio area with table and bench seating. A gas barbecue is available for guests to use.
For our 5 nights staying there, two of us had prepared a curry and a spaghetti bolognaise, Andy cooked a chili there, and we had a BBQ. There is a well stocked Co-op in Scarinish if you don’t want to take it all with you. We also went to the Elephants End restaurant for a rather splendid meal one evening. There are very few places to eat out on Tiree, but we would all recommend the Elephants End for the excellent food, but you do have to book, especially for a big group.
With so many beaches to choose from, the Boardseeker guide, Andy’s first hand knowledge and the various online weather forecasts were invaluable. As much as we would have liked to try lots of other beaches, we ended up at just two, Crossapol and Gott Bay.
Click here to see the full panorama image (20,000px wide). You might need to use the Ctrl + and Ctrl – key combos to zoom in and out.
Day by day.
We arrived off the ferry around 9. Unloaded at the Hostel and as there was no wind forecast so we had a tour of the island. The wind got up a little in the afternoon so we all went off to Gott bay.
The wind was building up as the day went on so that by the end we were all having a blast. Almost directly onshore wind and some swell. A few beers in the pub to round off the day and Andy cooked an excellent chilli back at the hostel.
Took all the vans to Crossapol, and rigged up, but even though on the top of the bank it felt quite strong the wind was actually very light, and some of us had trouble getting out through the shorebreak, even though it was minimal.
Moved to Gott Bay in the afternoon and had some wonderful flat water blasting in a decent cross shore wind. Big sails were the order of the day though. Seemed a shame not to as it was so close by, so we went to the pub for a beer after. I cooked the curry (actually 3 curries, rice, naan and chappattis) I had brought frozen and the bastards scoffed the lot. I had to have left over chilli !!!.
Gott Bay again. The wind had swung a bit so it was cross on. A bit of a swell which was nice for gybing off and riding back in. A brilliant day enjoyed by all. Funnily enough we ended up in the pub afterwards. Dave cooked a hearty spaghetti bolognaise.
Very little wind forecast, some guys went for walks, some went seal spotting, some went snorkelling and some had a go at surfing. We went out to the Elephants End for a very enjoyable evening meal.
Today the group split into two, four of us went to Gott Bay and the remainder to Crossapol to try and get the best of what little swell there was about. Neither location had much by way of wind, it was probably better at Gott Bay, though it was very marginal planing weather. A glorious sunny day though, and it really showed in the photos. BBQ at the hostel, far too much food, but thats how a bbq is supposed to be!, Laurence insisted on cooking everything to within an inch of its life. .
Up early to get the ferry. A long uneventful drive back to Nottingham. Managed to get through Glasgow without getting lost this time.
A fantastic trip and a location we only just begun to get to know. Concerns about the suitability for competent beginner level sailors were unfounded, and even if we had had loads more wind we would have been able to find safe waters for them to play in. The accommodation was ideal for a group, could easily cater for a mixed sex group if needed, and we would definitely want to stay there if we went again. A shorter duration trip, as was originally planned, would have meant the travelling becoming a dominant portion of the trip, and in retrospect 5 days on Tiree was ideal.
A big thank you to Laurence for organising. We will definitely be planning another trip to Tiree.