Sunday, 23 August 2015


Tiree is a stunning island.  First impressions are muted - it seems very flat and the houses dotted erratically over the landscape, more lowland Scandinavia or the Netherlands than Scotland.  But the drive from the ferry to the campsite is a continuous introduction to wonder.  First of all a man suddenly stopped his car in the middle of the road and tried to shoo a young tern into the grass, all the while being dive bombed by screaming adults.  Then a hare bounded alongside drawing the eye to the glory that is the carpet of machair.

A riot of colour in miniature - small plants have a big punchy presence when you take a ground level view.  Shrink yourself down to a few inches high and talk a walk - you could be wandering through a William Morris print.  Yellows, pinks, whites, purples dot the canvas, the soft background hues provided by the grasses, the bold look-at-me shouty plants provided by the ragworts and bigger orchids.  It is beautiful and no artist could ever design anything as lovely.

And to top it all the birds appear to add a varied musical score.  Wheeling, alarmist flocks of lapwings, chunky, honking flocks of greylag geese, grating corncrakes, highly strung oyster catchers and my favourite of all time - the elegantly gawky curlew.  I've never seen so many curlew. They peer out of the grass, they strut along the fields, they stand lonely as a cloudy curlew on the rocks by the sea.  They crane their necks to see if they should be moving on and then suddenly go, crying and bubbling.   Curlew are  a kit bag of unlikely parts but so adapted to wild, windswept moors, coasts, estuaries and dank fields.  I watched them whenever I could.

On a bike ride a female hen harrier flew very close to the road.  I jammed on my brakes, causing my son to do a front wheel handstand and explode with a stream of choice language.

Grey seals often popped up to check out the action - they look like giant beer bottles bobbing in the sea.  We never saw the illusive otters though, despite being told they are pretty common.

I loved Tiree as a place to think, walk, cycle, run, watch wildlife, practice juggling, fall off windsurfers (me) or shoot the waves (my eldest son) or collapse after off-roading (my youngest son).

I do have a couple of pieces of advice though.  If you plan on camping and decide to spend a lot of money on an extension to a small campervan, make sure the attachment that attaches said extension to said van is the right size.  And if it is blowing a hooley (which it often is) make sure you bag your spot in the campervan first, otherwise you spend the night sleeping in the equivalent of a very loud crisp packet.

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