Isle of Coll
One of Scotland's Inner Hebrides, the island of Coll, 13 miles long and 3 miles wide in parts, is nowadays home to some 150 people.
Located to the north-west of the Isle of Mull, it is just north of neighbouring Tiree. Coll is rockier than Tiree and has more acid moorland. Whether you want to walk on deserted beaches, go bird-watching, cycling, camping or simply gaze upon the sea, Coll is an island where you get close to nature again.
The island was once home to Mairi Hedderwick, author of the children's books, Katie Morag. The fictional island of Struay is based on her experiences of living on Coll.
Coll is a Dark Sky Island thanks to little light pollution and no street lighting.
The ferry service runs from Oban Monday to Saturday (except Thursdays) to Coll and Tiree. Crossing time from Oban to Coll is 2 hours 45 minutes. Bikes are carried for a small charge.
The official Caledonian Macbrayne website lists all the current ferry timetables in detail. Winter timetables may have few sailings. Vehicle reservation required - telephone 08705 650000.
CalMac also operates a day cruise from Oban to Coll in association with a local driver-guide. This package is available Sundays and Wednesdays during the summer, and includes the ferry and a guided tour of the island. Visit the CalMac ferry web site for details. Non-landing cruises and evening dinner cruises from Oban are also available.
You can fly from Glasgow to the neighbouring island of Tiree most days via Flybe. After that, you need to get the ferry over to Coll (about an hour from Tiree).
Hebridean Air Services operates local flights between Oban, Tiree, Coll and Colonsay.
Coll of the Wild offers a range of wildlife tours and holidays on Tiree and Coll. Day tours, short breaks and holidays available. Contact Simon - tel: 01879 230281.
Island tours are available on Tuesdays at 10am and Fridays at 10.30am with a local guide. Tours last 2 hours and visit the scenic beauty spots on Coll in a 4x4 vehicle. Booking is advisable by phoning 01879 230520.
Kayak hire is available from Carol Flett. Tel: 01879 230436.
Bike hire is available from the Post Office (9am - 1pm Monday to Saturday). Booking advisable - tel: 01879 230395.
My travellers' tips file may also be useful if you are planning a trip to Scotland. It covers airlines, national car hire, train information, accommodation web sites, etc.
Produced by the Ordnance Survey at a scale of 1.25 inches to the mile (2 km to 1 cm) is the detailed map of Coll & Tiree available to purchase from Amazon UK.
What to see on Coll
The main township is Arinagour where the ferry arrives. There is a general store selling a variety of produce (01879 230484) plus a craft/gift shop (called An Acarsaid) combined with a post office where you can also hire bikes (tel: 01879 230395).
The Island Cafe (tel: 01879 230 262) offers a good variety of homemade food.
An Cridhe is the island's community centre and hosts numerous concerts and other events.
The Coll taxi service is operated by the Barritts (tel: 01879 230402).
For a good view of the island and its neighbours, walk up the highest hill - Ben Hogh (340 feet) - it has a boulder perched on top which was probably left there from the Ice Age.
In the southern part of the island is Breachacha, a medieval castle with a square keep. In the 15th century this was the stronghold of the Macleans. It was bought by Major MacLean Bristol in 1965 and restored.
The famous 18th century travellers Johnson and Boswell were stranded on Coll for 10 days because of storms. They sheltered in the New Castle built in 1750 for Hector Maclean. Many additions were made in the 19th century by the then Stewart owners.
Archaeological sites on Coll include a cairn at Arinagour, a souterrain at the Arnabost crossroads and Iron Age forts such as the ones at Dun an Achaidh and Feall Bay. There are over a dozen crannogs (ancient loch dwellings).
Two standing stones can be found in the west at Totronald. These are called Na Sgeulachan in Gaelic ('teller of tales' in English) and may have been used for astronomical purposes or they could have belonged to a temple.
On the north-west coast, at Killunaig on the road to Sorisdale is a ruined medieval church and cemetery.
Info on Katie Morag books for Schools:
Clare van Schijndel from Knypersley First School (Staffordshire) has created a PowerPoint presentation about Coll and the Katie Morag books - to download the presentation - click here and you'll find it about halfway down the page.
- The Coll Magazine (archive)
- Coll of the Wild - wildlife holidays
- The island's general store
- Coll calendars for sale
- Isle of Coll Genealogy
- Isle of Coll - Wikipedia page
Accommodation on the island includes:
- Coll Campsite at Garden House - contact Pat Graham - tel: 01879 230374.
- Tigh na Mara B&B at Arinagour. Contact Paula Smalley. Tel: 01879 230354.
- Coll Bunkhouse - hostel with with 2 dorms of 6 beds, plus a 4-bed dorm (tel: 01879 230217)
- Coll Hotel
- Self catering - full list of properties on Coll (Visitcoll.co.uk)
- Lonban Cottage (self catering)