Antipole cruises

West About Mull


With a day and a half of fine weather, we made passage south eastward across The Minch to the island of Coll. We had a rare blue sky, rather light winds and a seven hour run dead down wind with the spinnaker up. Keeping it set in these conditions without it wrapping around the forestay requires constant attention.

The islands of Tiree and Coll are long, thin and low lying. They are fertile and support farming. While they can provide shelter in northerlies from waves, there can be little wind shelter. With the light winds, this was an opportunity to visit. We passed through Gunna Sound that separates the two and into Loch Breachacha – a wide loch with a sandy beach around much of it.

Farmstead, new castle and old castle in Loch Breachacha

Loch Breachacha is dominated by Breachacha Castle, which has a bloody history. However, the Maclean chieftains were an enlightened family. One had an in-house harper and an hereditary piper in the castle. He subsidised a spinning school and the development of linen manufacture. In 1773 the Scot James Boswell enticed his friend Dr Samual Johnson to tour the highlands and western isles and Boswell wrote about their stay at the castle.

The castle did not meet more modern living and in the 19th century a new castle was built nearby. Today the old castle has been reoccupied and both showed lights in the evening, as did the magnificent farmstead nearby.

During our night there the wind turned south and we had to clear out promptly in the morning.

Tobermory again

With bad weather approaching, we sailed back to Tobermory in the Sound of Mull and took a visitors’ buoy to sit out the wind and rain. We were right next to a waterfall into the harbour which notably swelled as the rains poured down. We had water beneath us, rain on top and a wall of water beside us.


After all this, the weather has eased and it looks more settled for a while. We decide to sail west about around Mull. The first passage took us around the north coast and into Loch Tuath and the island of Ulva.

Ulva is separated from Mull by a narrow and rock-strewn sound, which we navigated with the aid of the Antares chart and with our keel half lifted.

Ulva is a fascinating island. Part of it is fertile and wooded. It was owned by the MacQuarries. One MacArthur MacQuarrie was an accomplished piper and founded a renowned piping school on Ulva. In 1773, Boswell and Johnson visited although they were unable to raise the ferryman and nearly had to spend the night on the Mull shore. They were helped across by a visiting vessel and were then entertained by Lachlan MacQuarrie.

By 1845, Ulva was booming and had a population of over 600 but with potato blight and the collapse of the kelp industry this was unsustainable. The island was purchased by the notorious F W Clark who cleared out the tenants – sometimes by setting fire to the thatch of their houses so they did not even have time to gather any possessions.

In 2018 there were just three adults and two children living on the island when there was a buyout by the North West Mull Community. Since then things have gradually improved. The EU funded slipways for the Ulva ferry and pontoons for local boats and visitors. We berthed on the pontoon. The community runs the little ferry, maintains an electric car on the Mull shore for use by those with business on the ‘mainland’.

There are no cars on the island – only quad bikes as the island only has rocky tracks. The quad bikes are to be replaced by electric ones. Work is now under way to restore some the derelict houses to make affordable housing for a growing population. By the ferry, The Boathouse has become an excellent café and we enjoyed coffee and lunch there between walks through the woodlands. The island is an oasis of quiet and has a lovely feel to it.

Walking on Ulva


From Ulva Sound we had an easy passage to the island of Iona, which lies off the western tip of Mull.There is no good harbour or anchorage in the Sound of Mull but some shelter from westerly winds.  So it was rather uncomfortable in the slight swell running up the sound.  It made getting into the dinghy interesting.

Iona is a special place and has a lovely feeling to it.  It has been important in Celtic christianity as a place of pilgrimage since the death of St Columba in 597AD.  Today the ecumenical Iona Community, with its emphasis on peace and reconciliation,  is a worthy successor to the monastic community.  We visited the cathedral in the evening, when it was quiet and we had it all to ourselves.  It was a powerful experience.

The next morning we again dinghied ashore for coffee etc. at the Argyll Hotel.  However, the wind was strengthening to prolonged F5 and we needed to clear out.

Iona Abbey and Celtic Cross

Tinker’s Hole

We made a short (2.7nm) passage to Tinker’s Hole – a renowned anchorage tucked between uninhabited islets. It provides complete shelter from all swell directions and most wind directions. It is very popular and gets crowded and can only accommodate six or so yachts and the pilot guides discuss at length where to go if you cannot fit in. We had it entirely to ourselves and could choose a choice spot out of the tidal stream than runs through it.  This is in early August at the height of the season, which says a lot about the weather this year!

Our anchor dug in well, which was good because the wind was whistling along the anchorage and we were perilously close to rocks had it not held.

To Puilladobhrain

From Tinker’s Hole we sailed along he south coast of Mull. This should be a most spectacular coast with mountains up to 1,300′ (400m) towering over the sea. But they remained mostly hidden in the drizzle save for occasional glimpses of waterfalls tumbling down into the sea.

We crossed the Firth of Lorn and arrived at Puilladobhrain (pronounced ‘Puldohran’) – a large anchorage with excellent shelter. There were eight other boats – we are getting near to civilisation again. Lifting our keel, we were able to slip past all the others and anchor close in-shore.

Oban again

It was an easy sail up the Firth of Lorne and to Oban once again, where we restocked and laundered.

The weather is easing for a while and we will be heading up Loch Linnhe over a couple of days to Corpach, where we will enter the Caledonian Canal.

Tony & Ynskje

Track log here.

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