Scotland’s West Coast - A Sailor’s Paradise

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I have sailed all over the world but some of the most natural and peaceful sailing for me is the west coast of Scotland. When people hear of Scotland, especially the western islands, they often think of rain. Yes, it does rain here, but there is good weather too, long settled spells, and lots of safe sheltered waters in which to sail.

The area is dotted with islands giving the feeling of a protective barrier from the North Atlantic ocean yet it is one of these last outposts that provides probably one of the most scenic and protective beach anchorages in the world, the Isle of Vatersay. However there are so many hidden gems across the 1000’s of km of coastline that it is impossible and unfair to list them all.

What’s more, it is always changing, always different. Whether you are looking to sail to an island to enjoy empty white sandy beaches or a rocky mountainous walk there is always a choice.

The remoteness is often what hits most, there are no sprawling towns, just small clusters of crofts and villages. That is not to say the islands don’t cater for tourism, far from it. With no fewer than 8 islands with their own distillery, countless farm shops selling locally grown products and many honesty stalls (and even an honesty shop) this really is an area where everything you do benefits the local community. 

Sailing is by far the best way to explore this area. It gives you the freedom to choose your own passage, which islands you wish to visit and all under that eco friendly power of the wind. The population recognise what is special on the west coast and so much is geared to greener living. Many of the lives on the west coast depend on living off the land and you can join them by buying, eating and topping up supplies locally.

You can live in the knowledge that your sailing holiday on the west coast was a beautiful and eye opening adventure to the delights of these remote islands, your dinner was caught that day and not packaged and shipped round the world, your water is fresh out the skies and not bottled, your breakfast eggs hatched the day before by chickens living the best life and your gifts for home, handmade by people using natural locally sourced products.

It is not just the scenery that make the west coast of Scotland perfect for sailing. The wildlife is simply amazing too. With resident dolphins and seasonal visitors of many whales and even sharks you have simply not been looking hard enough if you fail to see something. Closer to the mainland you will see seals and porpoise and bottlenose dolphins if you are lucky. As you sail between the islands keep you eyes peeled for bow riding common dolphins, basking sharks and minke whales, and if you are really lucky, one of 8 resident killer whales.

The west coast of Scotland is best explored from April to June, these months being quieter and drier. However it does warm up more into July and through to September but there are often heavier rain showers interspersed with the warmer sunshine spells. Tiree even records the most sunshine in the whole of the UK with 1400 hours a year.

Sailing trips can be booked through a variety of companies but I would recommend hiring a skipper and a bareboat in order to fully tailor your own holiday. I have sailed this area my whole life and work in collaboration with many charter outfits and so have the experience needed to make your sailing holiday one to remember. Check out www.stuartcooksailing.com

Written and pictures by our guest reporter Stuart:

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This article was last updated on December 23, 2020.