Additional information to our May feature
There are so many reasons to sail in Scotland, we were unable to squeeze them all in to our 10-page feature in the May edition of Yachting Monthly. So here is some additional information.
Scotland has some of the loneliest anchorages in Europe. Magnificent bays and straits that you can have to yourself even in the height of summer. There are hundreds to choose from. Here are some of our favourites:
One of the most popular anchorages on the West Coast, at the south end of the Sound of Iona. In places it is only a few yards wide and is famous for its pink granite. It was here that Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, came when he visited his uncle’s Dubh Artach lighthouse. Then it was known as Fiddler’s Hole.
In the simple Scots kirk overlooking the anchorage the collection box is an RNLI tin: a reasonable alliance – the Almighty and the All-weather lifeboat. Surreal rubber tubes of kelp, blankets of sea lettuce and spikey brown garlands festoon the bottom here.
Loch Bay, Skye
The dramatic beauty of Skye dominates Loch Bay and the Stein Inn, the oldest pub on Skye, serves 90 malt whiskies. A walk to the top of the 324m Groban na Sgeire is a sure way of blowing away the cobwebs after one too many drams. Up through waist-high ferns to a meadow of buttercups, wild roses and fox gloves, a sheer rock cliff wall soars out of the tree line like the lost temple of Angkor Wat. Lichen-covered oaks – grow sideways out of the rock face. The flat top bristling with fluffy buds of cotton grass looks down at Loch Dunvegan on the far side.
Tarbet, Outer Hebrides
At East Loch Tarbet you can anchor off the town of Tarbet itself and walk across the 300yard isthmus to West Loch Tarbet to paddle in the Atlantic. At the Harris Hotel J. M. Barrie’s initials are scratched in a window pane. It was here he wrote Peter Pan.
The Shiant Islands
The Shiant Islands are an uninhabited scattering of boggy and moss-strewn rocks in the North Minch, famed for their puffins. The author and politician Compton MacKenzie owned the islands from 1925 until 1937 when they were acquired by Nigel Nicolson who like MacKenzie was later a politician writer and publisher and politician. They remain in the Nicolson family. Sheep belonging to a Lewis crofter graze all three islands. The restored bothy on Eilean an Taighe is currently the only habitable structure on the islands.
The hidden anchorage of Acairseid Mhor (Big Harbour) is a case of the riddle of the rocks, tucked away as it is between the bald-headed boulders of ancient glaciated gneiss – among the oldest in Europe. This natural harbour is ringed with geology reminiscent of Ayres Rock.
A narrow rock alleyway forms the harbour of the Crowlin Islands, where seals sunbathe and the shadows of gulls dart across the gorse as they wheel overhead in the breeze.
Bishop’s Bay, Loch Leven
Bishop’s Bay, or Poll an Dunain, graces the YM cover this month. It is near the mouth of Loch Leven, where Glen Coe meets the sea. With the peaks of the Beinn a Bheitir mountains serving as a backdrop, this anchorage is one of the most dramatic in Scotland.
The often turbulent history of Scotland has left a legacy of castles and fortified houses in many parts of the country. Some of the most beautiful are on the coast and Scotland’s many islands. Inevitably, many have been reduced to ruins but what is perhaps surprising is that so many of them still survive as tourist attractions or as hotels or family homes. Many will be familiar from the starring roles they take in films. Here are some of our favourites.
Duart Castle on the island of Mull, is the ancestral home of the Clan Maclean dating back the 13th century. The castle was used as a location in the 1999 film Entrapment, starring Sean Connery (who has MacLean ancestry on his mother’s side) and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It also features in the 1971 film When Eight Bells Toll, starring Anthony Hopkins.
Eilean Donan (Island of Donan), in Loch Duich takes its name from St Donan, a Celtic saint martyred in the Dark Ages. The island is connected to the mainland by a footbridge and lies about half a mile from the village of Dornie. The castle, built, in 1220, is now one of the most photographed monuments in Scotland and has appeared in such films as Highlander (1985), The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007).
Castle Stalker is a four-story tower house on an islet in Loch Laich, an inlet off Loch Linnhe. The name comes from the Gaelic ‘stalcaire’ meaning hunter or falconer. In recent times the castle was brought to fame by the Monty Python team, appearing in their film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Lochranza Castle sits on a promontory in the middle of Lochranza, on the north of the Isle of Arran. Most of the castle dates to the 16th century, though the original building was constructed 13th century, when it was owned by the MacSweens. It is said that the building is the inspiration for the castle in the Tintin adventure The Black Island.
Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye is the seat of the Macleod of MacLeod, chief of the Clan MacLeod. It is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and has been the stronghold of the Chiefs of MacLeod for nearly 800 years. It houses a number of important clan relics; chief among them is the Fairie Flag of Dunvegan and the Dunvegan Cup. Over the years, Dunvegan Castle has been visited by Sir Walter Scott, Dr Johnson, Queen Elizabeth II and the Japanese Emperor Akihito.
Whisky and distilleries
You can’t visit Scotland without a wee dram of the water of life. Many of the distilleries have their own moorings offshore. Islay has seven distilleries on one island and charter guests have been known to spend an entire week sampling the produce.
Ardbeg: This distillery on Islay reopened in the mid-90s under the same ownership as Glenmorangie. A 10-year-old is the standard whisky currently available, and it is an elegant dram though made in a less smoky style than old hands on Islay remember from mid-century.
Caol Ila: Considered a sister distillery to Lagavullin on the other side of the island, this distillery’s name, means Sound of Islay, which is exactly where it is situated. Overlooking the water in a cove near Port Askaig, as remote as a distillery can be, Caol Ila is particularly welcoming to the sailor.
Glenmorangie: Most commonly found as a 10-year-old, but the 18-year-old is also widely available. Medium body and fruity, Glenmorangie is a good place to start for the newcomer to malt. Distilled on the East Coast at Tain, Ross-shire.
Highland Park: Unusual for malting its own barley, Highland Park in Kirkwall, on Orkney, is one of the most elegant and appealing of whiskies – moderately smoky with an impression of honey and heather, it is wonderfully smooth.
Lagavulin: Yet another Islay whisky, and considered the most heavily peated and smokiest of The Classic Malts, Lagavulin only shows its charm over time. Once one gets past the smokiness, there is a beguiling fruitiness and smoothness to the whisky.
Oban: The town of Oban is a main center of ferry traffic to outlying islands, making this distillery quite accessible. The single malt is widely available as a 14-year-old that has the elegance of Highland malts, but also with some of the sweetness and a hint of peatiness that speaks of the Islands. A terrific, all-around malt, it is perhaps the most widely appreciated of the six Classic Malts.
Talisker: The only distillery on the Isle of Skye and ringed by mountains, Talisker has one of the most attractive locations of any distillery in Scotland. Fortunately, the 10-year-old is as good as the view: Well peated and quite powerful, it is notable for its silky texture as well.
Old Poultney in Wick on the NE coast, where there is also a new marina
About 30 distilleries were operating in the Campbeltown area not so long ago, and fortunately the area could preserve a limited production for the Glen Scotia distillery. The 14 y.o. version is really an amazing whisky, combining sweetness and spices to a pleasant medicinal aftertaste. Iodine is also a characteristic of the smell of this remarkable single malt.
Isle of Jurra: The Isle of Jura has less than 300 inhabitants and is famous for its deers and its mountains, the Jura Paps. According to some sources, Isle of Jura could be the oldest scottish distillery. The first traces of distillation are found as soon as the 16th century. After having been closed for about 40 years between 1914 and 1958, the distillery has been completely rebuild with the financial aid of the Scottish & Newcastle Breweries.
A host of Scottish charter companies offer a wide choice of boats from classic wooden yachts to modern GRP cruisers and sea kayaks. The majority of bareboat charter companies are based in the Clyde or on the Argyll coast, but you can charter off the beaten track with companies based as far north as Orkney or west as the Isle of Skye. Some companies also offer the services of a skipper, for those still learning the ropes or for competent sailors new to Scottish waters. If you want to sign up as crew, rather than skipper, the 60-year-old 60ft gaff cutter Eda Frandsen offers a unique experience. For a complete list of charter companies operating in Scotland visit the Sail Scotland website and search its database.
For more information on the pilot cutterLizzie Mayvisit the Clyde Classic Sailing website .