It's tough to beat the sheer beauty and stunning scenery of the West Coast of Scotland. Peter Bruce talks through his 10 favourite hidden Scottish destinations

The sheer beauty of the Western Isles and the West Coast of Scotland draws many yachtsmen. Cruising on the west coast of Scotland may have a reputation for being for the brave, but the stunning destination is certainly worth exploring. Here we pick 10 of the best West Coast of Scotland sailing destinations.

The weather dominates every decision. Forecasts up to two weeks ahead are getting increasingly good so it may be possible to time the voyage accordingly. When cruising in the Scottish Western Isles, or Inner and Outer Hebrides, one should hope to have a large area of high pressure centred over the island of Rum, but boat and crew should be prepared for depressions to swing in from the north Atlantic.

A good personal strategy is to have good waterproof clothing, insect repellent, walking boots, thermals, books and an iPad to watch films.

Berths are far more plentiful than they used to be. In addition to Ardfern, Craobh, Kerrera and Dunstaffnage there are now alongside berths at Port Ellen, Oban, Fort William, Corpach, Loch Aline, Salen (Loch Sunart), Tobermory, Ulva, Mallaig, Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin.

In the outer isles there are marinas at Lochboisdale and Stornoway with smaller ones at Barra and Lochmaddy, all of which have water and provide access to shops. Anchoring arrangements should be well constituted as moorings and alongside berths are not always at hand. In the outer isles, where food, water, gas and fuel are not always available, it’s advisable to plan ahead and have plenty of provisions.

Best West Coast of Scotland destinations

The natural Caladh Harbour in the Kyles of Bute on Scotland’s west coast in the early evening light. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

1 Loch Riddon: Caladh, Fearnoch Bay & Eilean Dearg

Loch Riddon in the Kyles of Bute is an extremely picturesque loch lying north of the island of Bute that can make a suitable stopping point on the way to the Crinan Canal. It is a site of Special Scientific Interest and raptors such as eagles and ospreys are often to be seen.

Although well-endowed with moorings and fish farms, there should be room left to anchor either at Caladh, Fearnoch Bay (Rubna na Croiche) or by Eilean Dearg, also known as One Tree Island, not that this name is strictly valid anymore. There are other anchorage areas at the head of the loch or near Tighnabruaich.

Portan Craro looking north. This yacht has put out a line from the stern to the shore. Photo: Peter Bruce

2 Craro Bay, Isle of Gigha

On the southwest side of Gigha lies Portan Craro at Craro Bay, described as a gem by Antares chart-maker, Bob Bradfield. Only a pot-float at Portan Craro gives any sign of life in this beautiful spot. You can put out a shore line to Carraig Mhor if necessary.

The tidal range is small and the bay is open to the south. More swinging room is to be found at two bays to the east and open to the south west, and another to the south east at the sheltered Port a’ Gharaidh.

Camas a Mhor-Fhir, Isle of Lunga, north of Scarba and Mull. Photo: Peter Bruce

3 Camas A Mhòr-Fhir, Isle of Lunga, north of Scarba and Jura

This attractive bay on the south side of Lunga Island is open to the southwest but otherwise affords a very pleasant place to stop, perhaps to wait for slack tide at the nearby Grey Dogs, famous for its strong and turbulent tidal streams.

The Antares chart shows a useful inshore dotted line where the seabed changes from sediment to rock and warns of gusty winds from unexpected directions. There is a hut on the shore and one can land anywhere on the beach but keep clear of the bracken which will be carrying ticks that can cause the worrisome Lyme disease.

Anchored between Eilean Dubh Beag and Dubh Mor. Photo: Peter Bruce

4 Black Isles, between Eilean Dubh Beag and Dubh Mòr

When the wind is from the west, the eastern bay between the two Black Isles makes a delightful overnight stop. The ledge between the islands acts as a wave screen, though it may not be quite so good in a westerly gale.

Both these uninhabited islands are worthy of exploration, however landing places are not that easy. A few of the bays will be found to be entirely composed of smooth white marble. The swinging room is more than it looks and the Royal Highland Yacht Club claims 40 of its members’ vessels managed to anchor there at one time.

Stunning sunset over Kerrera with the Lismore Ferry in the foreground. Photo: Universal Images Group via Getty Images

5 Eilean Nan Gamhna Island, off Kerrera

Not far from Oban, on the west side of Kerrera Island and to the west of Mhor Bay, there is a pleasant sheltered anchorage to be found inside the island of Gamhna. Seals are the sole mammalian inhabitants of this island which is adorned with the wildflower tormentil and daisies in summer.

There is a beach on the Kerrera side from which tracks can generally be taken to walk around the island, giving terrific views. The anchorage has good holding but it is open to the north-east. There are two covering isolated rocks in the approach to watch out for.

Port Ramsay appearing in the distance during the lovely walk round the north-east end of Lismore. Photo: Peter Bruce

6 Port Ramsay, Lismore Island

Port Ramsay on the north-east end of the fertile Lismore Island is a big, pleasing sheltered anchorage with mud holding from where vessels carrying lime used to operate. Some buoys have been laid in the bay.

There are many splendid walks from this anchorage, the nearest of which is in parts a scramble around the north-eastern end of the island. As much of the harbour dries out, if you decide to venture out on this walk, land your dinghy near the phone box at the village an hour or two before high tide, which will bring about plenty of water depth when you return back to the boat around three hours later.

Sandaig Bay inspired Gavin Maxwell’s Ring of Bright Water. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

7 Sandaig Bay, Loch Hourn

While waiting for a fair tide through Kyle Rhea, anchor at either of the two Sandaig Bays. One is on the north side of Loch Nevis and the other on the north side of the lovely Loch Hourn.

This latter bay is the prettiest and has been made famous by the naturalist Gavin Maxwell, who wrote his best-selling book Ring of Bright Water here. His dwelling, sadly burnt down in 1968, used to be a house on the shore where his memorial and ashes lie. The beach is good for bathing. Be aware of the 1.1m rock on the south side of the islands which noted in the Antares chart.

Approaching Loch Scavaig on the southern coast of the Isle of Skye. Photo: Peter Bruce

8 Loch Scavaig, Isle of Skye

Loch Scavaig is sometimes described as the most beautiful sea loch in Scotland: it is certainly the most dramatic. The shallow, sometimes squally and congested inner pool of Na Cuilce, closely bounded by the Cuillin mountains, is quite spectacular. Watch out for the 2.8m rock at the entrance and expect the anchor to collect kelp.

The seabed is thick mud. An alternative anchorage is north of the Reamhar promontory on the west of the loch. Another appealing spot is off the sandy beach to the east of the Na Cuilce islands where Loch Coruisk flows into the sea.

Neist Point lighthouse, Isle of Skye. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

9 Poll Domhain, Inner Sound, Skye

When passing through the Inner Sound of Skye between the mainland and Raasay the pleasant wooded Poll Domhain is a good place to stop. Anchor at the top of the bay clear of the mooring buoy, the holding being satisfactory. If landing for a walk on the Ardban peninsula there are two adjoining holiday cottages and a beautiful sandy beach on the west side of the promontory.

Look out for greylag geese, wheatears and otters. Though there are no close-by facilities, when tucked up at the pretty south end, this anchorage will be very comfortable, except in a fresh north westerly.

View over Loch Torridon towards Ben Dàmph, in the Scottish Highlands. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

10 Eilean Mòr, Loch Torridon

The anchorage inside Eilean Mòr at Loch Torridon is completely sheltered from the prevailing westerlies. This beautiful spot in grand scenery is made even better when cormorants swoop up to their nests on the island. The Antares chart denotes where the seabed is best holding, but the anchor may still pick up weed.

From the diminutive pier there is a walk up the road to the crest of the hill. There may be no phone signal and you’ll need to head to Shieldaig for shopping, but you’ll still be surrounded by the magnificent scenery.

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