Alec Marsh

Scotland is sailing’s best kept secret

  • From Spectator Life
The Paps of Jura, Scotland (iStock)

Among the glorious shores of these islands, there is one of the best-kept secrets of sailing.

It’s a ragged and rocky coastline that is blessed with the sort of idyllic, empty sandy beaches stretching on for miles that would make Tom Hanks’s castaway shake from method acting-induced PTSD. Here the blue waters are scattered with islands rising from the depths with the kind of muscular topography that would have your average geography teacher reaching for their colouring-in pencils.

This, my friends, is the west coast of Scotland.

Forget the Caribbean, wonderful though the punch, the people and the terribly reliable temperature all are. The untouched beaches of the Western Isles are every bit as beautiful, just permanently 15 degrees Celsius colder.

Ignore the Mediterranean, with it barren sandy waters, overfished to within an inch of its life since the Augustine and overrun with Frenchman fighting over marina spaces.

Because here’s the secret. If you head to the West Coast of Scotland, you are surely in for the one of the greatest sailing surprises in your life afloat. From Stranraer in the Dumfries and Galloway to Durness on the north western tip of the Highlands, you arguably have all that you could ever possibly want from a boating life.

Yes, you can probably leave sunblock off the shopping list. Yes, you’ll need decent sailing boots and be advised to take the kind of foul weather gear that Captain Scott would probably think was overdoing it for a winter in the Arctic. And yes, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of messing about in boats because these are deep waters and it can windy. But don’t hold back, because quite simply, you’re in for a majestic, unfathomably good experience.

From the picturesque port of Oban in Argyll and Bute, to the distant shores of Harris (after which I named a character in my novels) in the Outer Hebrides, by way of islets dotting the sea with names like Canna, Tiree or the towering slab of Staffa, famed for its Fingal’s Cave, you will find yourself in a water wonderland that feels positively Jurassic, geologically speaking.

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