North West Scotland – The Region

Kyle of Lochalsh and Skye Bridge

Rounding Ardnamurchan Point and making for more northern waters opens a new and dramatic chapter in any west coast cruise, which include visiting the Small Isles and then deciding whether to sail northward outside or inside Skye. The former course, perhaps via Canna to Loch Harport or Loch Dunvegan, is overlooked by the magnificent Cuillin, whilst the latter offers the diversions of the Knoydart lochs and the tidal challenges of Kyle Rhea before reaching the Sound of Raasay and the Inner Sound.

As one voyages northward beyond Skye, the mainland mountains of Torridon and Assynt become progressively more majestic. The land finally stops at Cape Wrath where the Minch becomes the Atlantic. En route, Portree, Raasay, Loch Torridon, Gairloch, Ullapool on Loch Broom, Lochinver and Kinlocbervie all offer secure mooring.


The Long Isle, to give it its romantic name, stretches like a breakwater for one hundred miles from Barra Head to the Butt of Lewis, sheltering the mainland west coast and islands from Ardnamurchan almost to Cape Wrath. This shelter has made the Sea of the Hebrides and the Minches a fine cruising ground.

The islands themselves offer contrasting attractions. From the south, the islands of Berneray (Barra Head) to South Uist vary from now uninhabited and wilderness places like Mingulay, to the busy islands of Vatersay and Barra, and the navigational complexities of the Sound of Barra.

The Uists have two very different faces. To the west is an uncompromising thirty mile strand with no anchorages or refuges, whilst the east coast is indented with many lochs and havens, a fine setting for the cruising sailor, who can use the harbours at Lochboisdale and Lochmaddy for fuel, water, and stores.

Next is the Sound of Harris, the route to the Atlantic and to the delightful island of Berneray. The newly buoyed Stanton Channel along the Harris shore is an easy route to the west, whether to explore the Atlantic coasts of Harris and Lewis, or to visit St Kilda, the ultimate destination for many yachtsmen.

The east coast of Harris and Lewis has harbours at Rodel, Tarbert, Scalpay and Stornoway, as well as dozens of remote anchorages. Unless one is bound northabout past the Butt of Lewis or to the Faroes, Stornoway generally marks the limit of cruising endeavour.

Lochinver Harbour