Living on the edge of the Atlantic

Thursday 27 March 2014

Living on any of the Hebridean Islands off the west coast of Scotland on the edge of the Atlantic can be a bit of a challenge. That is certainly the case here on the Isle of Coll, which has been my home for the past 18 years, and is a place I hold close to my heart.

You just don't have the certainties that you might have living on the mainland, and you have to be prepared to do without things that most people take for granted on the mainland.

For-instance regularity of services, like refuge collections or postal deliveries, sometimes your groceries fail to arrive or building materials are stuck in a mainland depot as the freight carriers vans were full and you have to wait until the next delivery day.

If your cat or dog needs to see the vet, you either send it on its own in a box, or you take an overnight trip to the mainland or the neighbouring Island of Tiree as there is no vet here on Coll. The same principle applies if we humans need to go on a hospital outpatient's appointment; it's at least a 2 day trip to Oban and more if you have to go to Glasgow.

You have to plan meticulously for every trip, imagine having to take 3 or 4 days away from home with all that entails just for a half hour appointment in Glasgow, maybe just for an x-ray or something.

    • 'Lotti' Arriving At Coll Ferry Terminal
    • "Lotti" Arriving At Coll Ferry Terminal

All the above is just the tip of the iceberg, and that's the reality of living on an Island and all these things are somewhat routine, if a little frustrating at times. However most people take it in their stride and get on with life.There are two ways of getting to and from the mainland, by ferry or by plane, but sometimes it can be a challenge, especially in winter, with gales which can disrupt ferry sailings and low cloud and fog which can disrupt plane flights.

The ferry is by far the most popular way of getting here as sailings are more regular than flight's and, of course the ferry takes vehicles including cars and lorries, which bring almost everything imaginable to the Island.

Just as people use buses and trains on the mainland, people on the Islands use the ferries and plains, “just like busses and trains” and don’t give it a second thought.

However both modes of transport offer a completely different experience. The flight only takes 20 minutes to get to Oban and you're only allowed 20 kilos of luggage and it is great if you need to get there fast. But the ferry takes two and three quarter hours, however you can of course take your car and you can have a meal or a drink in the bar or a coffee in the café or settle down and watch TV or play the fruit machines.

Take a walk round the deck, you never know what you might see, if you are lucky you could see whales, dolphins, sharks and numerous seabirds. Hope I’ve sold that to you as I of course work for the ferry company CalMac, so I'm more than a wee bit bias towards ferry travel!

In my next blog I'll tell you a wee bit more about my life here on the Isle of Coll, here in the Hebrideas.

Speak soon,

    • Terminal One at Coll Airport
    • Terminal One at Coll Airport