In 2017 when we sailed across the Atlantic from the Caribbean to Ireland and UK, Scotland was just a little too far north to see everything in a few weeks. By all accounts, Scotland’s waters are considered the world’s best sailing grounds, This year, 2019, Blue Heeler and crew are giving Scotland our full attention.
Sailing around Scotland in summer offers stunning landscapes, historic castles, Neolithic and Monolithic sites, an abundance of birdlife and sealife, and for the sailor, strong winds and currents, and even a few sunny days to remind you it is actually summer. Sou’westers roll in regularly from the Atlantic, taking a break before returning with a fury to test your sailing skills, your patience and your diesel heater. There are plenty of anchorages to hole up for a few days and day hopping is fairly easy. Sailors from warmer climes will use their wet-weather gear and sea-boots more than they may have done and possibly stow their swimming togs, for now at least.
By the time of the summer solstice, daylight extends to over twenty hours giving sailors plenty of daylight to make good distance before darkness. Nowadays there are few places where a 4G signal does not penetrate – Many anchorages have little to no coverage, although weather is announced every three hours from 0710am on VHF16. The modern sailor may find this isolation alarming!
In the north there are fewer marinas than you’d expect and some harbours have visitor moorings, usually for a small fee payable into an ‘honesty box’. Either way the locals will offer a friendly welcome when you visit their village. Anchoring is typically good on a muddy or sandy seabed, once your anchor sinks beneath the thick carpet of kelp. In the larger towns diesel is available from a fishing wharf, but you might find yourself lugging 20 litre containers to fill your tanks. It’s a good idea to carry cash, including a stash of £1 coins, in some cases there is no card machine to pay for fuel. Likewise with laundrettes which may not be so easy to locate. There’s usually a supermarket in a larger town, but provision well, as you may be on anchor for some time.
Tourist towns are bustling in summer and the unique drone of bagpipes is never out of earshot. Despite the crowds, there’s always a seat at a pub for a plate of haggis, neeps and tatties washed down with a local ale. Alternatively your nose will identify the frying smells of a nearby fish and chip shop. Souvenir stores peddle toy puffins, shortbread, tartan, a Celtic quaich, the famous Harris tweed, as well as sweet tablet, jams, gins, and of course, whisky. Summer accommodation is at a premium so living aboard a boat is a great way to travel around. For the sailor, there are hundreds of miles of remote coastline to explore. For the landlubber, there are thousands of miles of hikes and boating day-trips to enjoy too.
The next few posts follow our journey from the northern isles of Shetland and Orkney, then down the western coast of mainland Scotland, the Inner Hebrides islands of Skye and the Small Isles then across to the Outer Hebrides. Along the way my DSLR absorbs much of this enchanting country and I had a hard time choosing my favourite pics!
There IS something about Scotland: it’s simply magical.
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