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Tiree Trip Report April 2023

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It was time for another camping / hiking trip to a Scottish Island. The plan was to go out on Good Friday and back on Easter Saturday.

 

I considered both Colonsay (EGEY) and Tiree (EGPU) as possible destinations. Colonsay would be good if I was taking a friend who wasn’t big into camping, as I know the island and we could camp close to the aircraft. So bringing extra gear wouldn’t be an issue. Tiree was the other option, simply because I’d never been there before and would like to try somewhere new.

 

I asked four friends if they were interested in coming along. Two were working over the Easter weekend, one (who initially said they wanted to come) had collage work that he’d left too late to do and needed to do it over the weekend, and one was put off by the camping. So as I was now going to do this trip alone, I decided to do Tiree. I could hike and explore and go wild camping (without knowing where I could find to camp), without the need to be concerned about someone else and their comfort levels.

 

The weather forecast for the trip was very good, with clear skies and no weather. Winds were to be very light on the outbound trip, but (just like my last Scottish trip) very strong headwinds were forecast for the way back.

 

Before going to sleep on Thursday night I did another check of the forecast and the NOTAMs. Much to my surprise a new NOTAM had been issued for Tiree stating that the airport would close from 10:45! Just about when I was planning to land! I was a bit surprised about this because I’d checked the NOTAMs a few times during the day and I’d called earlier in the day for PPR and there was no mention of this! I relaxed a bit after a few seconds when I remembered that NOTAMs are UTC. So that meant that I’d have an hour to spare, but obviously I couldn’t afford any real delays in departure.

 

On the morning of the flight I gave Tiree a quick call, just to be sure that there was no mix up and the times in the NOTAM were indeed UTC. (I’ve seen too many NOTAMs containing a human error and I didn’t want to take any chances!). All was fine!

 

Take-off from my home base of Weston (EIWT) - on the western suburbs of Dublin – was just after 9am local time. On my last trip in this direction, I did it all low level and took photos of many of the sights along the way. So this time I decided to climb to FL65 and fly well above those sights. It would leave me with a water crossing from Northern Ireland to Islay with much less time spent out of the gliding distance of land.

 

My initial request to climb to FL65 into the Dublin CTA was met with the usual “Confirm you’re VFR?”. I suppose they don’t get much VFR traffic doing much above 3K.

 

But before I climb, here is a photo of the Hill of Tara. Anyone who reads my trip reports, will probably know this one well by now. It’s a site going back to the Stone Age, but rose to importance later as being the inauguration place and seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

 

Hill of Tara

Hill of Tara on Wikipedia

 

 

Here is an unusual sight that I’ve never seen before. Maybe others have often seen it, but it was new to me. See the straight dark line across the ground on the left hand side of the photo. Note it’s also a shadow cast ON the clouds! At first I thought it was an artifact on the camera, or a shadow in the cockpit. But when I took off my sunglasses and looked through the window rather than at the camera screen, it was still there! A big long straight shadow, 10’s of miles long across the country side! My first thought “That’s really weird!? – It’s never aliens! There must be a logical explanation! What could possibly make such a shadow and where could it be?” So looking to the other side of the aircraft for the sun, I see the source of this shadow.

 

 

A contrail! It never occurred to me before that contrails cause shadows, but I suppose it’s obvious. Here is the culprit.

 

 

Here is a nice country side photo. Nothing noteworthy of the photo itself, except that it’s of Northern Ireland, on Good Friday 2023. That’s 25 years to the day, after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, that brough peace to Northern Ireland. It’s sad to think that a small group of people would like to see violence return now. But I think that the community has moved on, and violence won’t enjoy the support that it once had. I hope so anyway.

 

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This is Rathlin Island just off the Northern Ireland coast line. I enjoyed a great camping trip there last year (with the friend who had to do collage work this time).

 

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This is Islay, the first of the Scottish Islands that I’ll pass on this trip. They have a lot of distillery tours to partake in, if you ever visit. But you’ll need a hire car. It’s a big island to get around.

 

 

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This is Islay in the foreground and Jura capped with some clouds in the midground.

 

 

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This is Colonsay. I wrote up my last trip there here

Colonsay Trip Report

 

If you look first at the big bay about a third of the way up from the bottom of the visible part of the island. (The part that looks like a big chunk out of the island). Now look up the photo, just over the dark brown hills to the next green patch. In this green patch you can see a grey streak running left right, almost touching the coast. That is Colonsay airport. The other possible destination that I considered for this trip.

 

 

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The sea is beautifully calm today in the light winds.

 

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I’m now descending quickly over the sea, to get a photo of Dubh Artach. It’s a lighthouse that I’d not seen before. It’s 25km from the nearest land. It was built between 1867 and 1872. It was automated in 1971. I can’t imagine manning it was a desirable job. Travel restrictions during Covid were hard enough! Being stuck in a tiny light house for months on end must have been really hard going!

 

Dubh Artach on Wikipedia

 

I couldn’t decide which ONE photo was the best, so I’ve put a few different ones here 😀

 

 

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This is Tiree now coming into view.

 

 

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Aircraft parked up, and time to go exploring. The flight took 1 hour and 40 minutes in the air.

 

 

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Starting my exploring

 

 

Tiree is quite flat. This results in it being quite windy. And indeed it was windy and blustery all the time I was there, though always in lovely sunshine. (It’s one of the sunniest places in the UK). Before I left, I asked the guy in the tower if you ever get used to all the wind. His answer was “You could never get used to all that!”. One very significant upside to the wind, is that midges are virtually non-existent here. They can be a big problem in other parts of Scotland, but they weren’t evident at all here (nor have I seen much of them on the other Scottish islands that I visited which are also pretty windy). 

 

 

Here is some helpful information for anyone planning a visit to Tiree

Isle of Tiree Website

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Here is the beautiful big beach at Balephetrish Bay.

 

 

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This is Tiree’s famous Ringing Stone. One of the highlights of Tiree! Legend has it that it was thrown to Tiree by a giant, and if it’s ever removed from Tiree, then the Island will sink into the sea! It emits a metallic sound when stuck, hence the “ringing”.

 

The Ringing Stone

 

 

Here’s a video of it making the ringing sound

https://vimeo.com/816216687

 

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I hiked a little further north, where I’d already identified a spot on Google Earth that was potentially a good camping spot away from most casual hikers. Not that there were many! I only met 1 couple and one lady out walking and this area was well away from any road.

 

He’s my tent set up for the night. Right behind me is a rock formation which provided great shelter from the wind.

 

 

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Here is my sleeping setup.

 

 

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Here was my water source for making dinner and tea.

 

 

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It was time to go exploring a bit further, now that I’d lost the weight from my back. I continued north through Vaul, Vaul bay and Salum bay (two more fine beaches with nobody on them), then back down past Ruaig and around Gott bay.

 

In the distance you can see the islands of Rum (left) and Eigg (right). Unfortunately neither have an airfield : (

 

 

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This is Dun Mor. (Big Fort). It dates back to around 60AD. According to the sign it was a temporary refuge and occupied by people from southern England who ruled over the local people. They stared early : D

 

 

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I’m no bird watcher, but I had noticed some distinctive birds. This helpful sign allowed me to name them! Of the six birds shown, I had definitely seen multiple counts of four of them. The Oyster Catcher, Ringed Plover, and the two geese.

 

 

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Gott Bay – another magnificent beach. There are loads of great beaches on Tiree.

 

 

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An old red Telephone box. I guess Harry Potter won’t be going through this one.

 

 

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Some cabins available for rent.

 

 

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From Gott bay, I tried to see if I could make it across the wetland / scrub that was between the bay and my campsite. In doing so, I stumbled across this old church and graveyard. It’s known as Kirkapol Chapels (there are two on the site), dating from the late 14 century according to a nearby sign.

 

 

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The track proved too wet to be passable. I struggled on for a while, before I decided that I was likely to sink into a hole, only to be found in a millennium and called “The bog man of Tiree” and put in a museum! Even if I did mange to make it, I’d be thoroughly soaked from the waist down and would have no chance of coming back that way tomorrow with a heavy backpack. My purpose of trying to find a way across was so that in the morning I could use it as an alternative route back to the airport to see a different part of the island. But I gave up and back tracked around much of the way that I’d already come.

 

During the day, I hiked for 24km, 8 with my backpack on. So my legs were tired but I was still looking forward to enjoying a beautiful starscape with Tiree’s dark skies. Unfortunately just as evening came in the sky covered over with some stratocirrus clouds. While some stars were visible, they were blurry and not so many were visible. Same as my last trip to Colonsay last year!

 

I don’t know what temperature it was during the night. My thermomotor was stuck showing 6.8C. I’ve no idea if it got stuck during the night or was stuck like that for weeks. But I did have to vent my sleeping bag by opening some vents on it during the night to avoid sweating : D  I’ve a great sleeping bag!

 

Making some porridge for breakfast and enjoying a cup of tea.

 

 

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The sea around my campsite before I left

 

https://vimeo.com/816231192

 

So I then hiked the 8km back to the airport, packed my stuff away and freshened up before taking out my e-scooter to explore a little more. I used it to ride into Scarinish, then back south to (almost) Balemartine before I decided that I’d run out of time and need to head back to the airport.

 

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Here is the Tiree “Golf Ball”.

Tiree Golf Ball

 

I’m hitting all the big sights of Tiree; )

 

 

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This is Soroby Bay. Another fine, deserted, beach of Tiree

 

 

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Landing fees at Tiree were £26.77 (“light aircraft charge” – provided weight doesn’t exceed 2730kg). Parking was £8.28. I’m not sure how this was calculated.

However the big surprise was that they don’t take card payments! This was a problem, as the only sterling cash that I have, I got a few years ago which was English notes which have now been replaced and I need to get to a bank in the UK (perhaps the central bank) to exchange them. They are no longer legal tender. But Tiree were happy enough to allow me leave and pay by bank transfer when I got home. My bank wanted to charge another €15 on top of that for bank charges because the payment was in Sterling (Euro transfers are free). So I signed up for an account for Transfer Wise and that cost less than a euro to do the payment. I think it’s the first airport that I’ve ever encountered that doesn’t accept card payments.

 

Before I leave Tiree, here are some random photos of the island.

 

 

Tiree is a bit bigger than Colonsay and a bit more populated. But it’s positively cosmopolitan compared to Colonsay. There are lots more houses, lots of passing cars on the roads, lots of settlements and potential places to eat (though most seem to be closed on weekends!) on Tiree compared to Colonsay. I’d say visit Tiree if you want some peace and relaxation while maintaining a sense of civilisation. Go to Colonsay if you want to get away from everything and into the wilds.

 

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Here is Tiree airfield on departure.

 

 

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I was now heading for Oban (EGEO). My GAR form told the police that I would leave from Oban for Ireland. This was because I needed to get some Avgas for the return trip. It would be possible to do the return trip without refuelling, but it would have left me a little uncomfortable if anything went wrong and with the strong headwind I was expecting, I didn’t want to be in that position. Also the decision has to be made the day before to meet the police notification times. So if I decided to go home direct, and when I woke up I found that the headwinds would be even stronger than forecast, I would have had a right problem! Hence the decision to fuel up at Oban.

 

This is the island of Coll, just to the north of Tiree, along with its airfield.

 

 

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A large ship.

 

This is where I first met F70100, a fellow poster on the EuroGA website.

https://www.euroga.org

 

Some of his photos

 

He was heading from Stornoway to Oban, and we were both entering the sound of Mull at around the same time. I have used a Pilot Aware device for many years now, but recently I have upgraded it to include iGrid which basically allows it to download traffic data over the internet to supplement traffic detected by the device itself. EasyVFR now incorporates traffic data from SafeSky too and this was my first time flying with it with the SafeSky data. I also happened to be within range of an PilotAware Atom station at Oban! So it means that I’d four potential different sources of traffic:

 

  1. SkySafe traffic downloaded over the internet directly into EasyVFR4 (At 2K feet over the sea I still had internet data)
  2. PilotAware antennas detecting traffic from their transponders
  3. PilotAware traffic downloaded from the internet via iGrid
  4. PilotAware traffic from the Atom ground station.

 

EasyVFR combines multiple copies of the same traffic into one item to avoid duplicates.

 

I’m not sure which source did the business here, but I could see F70100’s position on EasyVFR long before I could visually acquire him. Traffic detection has come a long way in the past few years even for those of us on a budget.

 

Having spoken to him on the ground at Oban, he mentioned that he had a device in the aircraft that also allowed him to see me too. (I was squawking ADS-B data). Actually I’m not sure if I spoke to F70100 or one of his colleagues.

 

It’s great to see this technology in use, improving safety for all.

 

Here is the Sound of Mull. If you look carefully, just above the sole cumulus cloud in the top left of the photo, you can see F70100’s aircraft. 

 

 

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Glenforsa Airfield

 

 

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Lismore Island approaching Oban

 

 

Oban now has self service fuelling facilities. So I filled up (cost £2.70p per litre) and had a quick snack before heading off.

 

Sincere apologies to both Rob. I’d brought EasyVFR flyers to leave at both Tiree and Oban and forgot on both occasions. Sorry! Next time I'll be sure to leave some!

 

Now on my way from Oban, home to Weston, here is Fladda Lighthouse. It was built in 1860.

Fladda Lighthouse on Wikipedia

 

 

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This is Gigha Island. In the second photo, you can see a long field. I think this is the airfield.

 

 

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I was now getting 36 knots headwind straight on the nose. This would continue for the rest of the flight at all altitudes between 500ft up to 4000ft. Very consistent!

 

 

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Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse. It was originally built in 1788 and rebuilt in the 1820’s.

 

Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse on Wikipedia

 

 

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This is Chaine Tower Memorial. It’s a stone tower lighthouse built in 1888 in memorial to James Chaine, a member of parliament who died in 1885.

Chaine Memorial on Wikipedia

 

 

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Mount Stewart is a 19th century house and Garden in Northern Ireland. It’s now a National Trust property and open to visitors.

 

Mount Stewart on Wikipedia

 

 

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This is Nendrum Monastery. I had to orbit around its location first before I could actually find it! It was built in the fifth century. This was one of the sights that I didn’t manage to find on my trip report to Colonsay last year. Found it now!

Nendrum Monastery on Wikipedia

 

 

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Likewise, on the Colonsay trip last year, I didn’t manage to find Dundrum Castle. Found it this time! It was built in the beginning of the 13th century.

 

Dundrum Castle on Wikipedia

 

 

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A random photo of the Mourne Mountains, a favourite area with hikers. I camped there once too, a few years ago.

 

 

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This is King John’s Castle in Carlingford, sometimes known as Carlingford Castle. I just read that President Biden plans to visit it on his visit to Ireland this week.

 

 

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Now as I near the end of my journey, here is another photo of the Hill of Tara.

 

 

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And finally, this is Carton House. It’s now a five start hotel and golf course (2 courses actually!) The current property was built in 1745, though earlier houses existed on the site.

 

Carton House on Wikipedia

 

 

And that’s all the interesting things that I’ve to report!

 

Flight time on the return journey was 2:05 in the air.

 

Here are my outbound breadcrumbs:

 

 

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And here are my return breadcrumbs.

 

 

All in all, I’d say that Tiree is a very nice place to visit. Don’t expect lots of entertainment and fine dining. But you can expect lots of beautiful deserted beaches and an easy going pace of life. You can see a reasonable bit on foot. It’s mostly quite flat, so cycling might be a good option, though it is very windy. A car would help you see a lot more, but I’m not sure if car hire is available (I didn’t attempt to look into that at all).

 

All photos were taken with my phone, a Samsung Galaxy S22+. It has a 3X optical zoom which I’ve used for some of the photos. But I try not to as the vibration of the aircraft tends to make photos taken with it, a little blurry. Many of the photos have been cropped, and some have been rotated. Other than that, no alternations have been done.

 

I hope you enjoyed reading my trip report. If you made it all the way to the end, then well done!

 

Colm

 


   
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Estimable Member Beta tester
Joined: 5 years ago
Posts: 88
 

Wow. Great trip Colm and so lucky with the weather.


   
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