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Scottish Gaelic nameTiriodh
Pronunciation [ˈtʲʰiɾʲəɣ] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )
Old Norse nameTyrvist
Meaning of nameGaelic for 'land of corn'
Tiree Island Flag.svg
Sun of Barley flag adopted in 2018
Argyll and Bute UK relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Tiree shown within Argyll and Bute
OS grid reference NL999458
Coordinates 56°30′N6°53′W / 56.5°N 6.88°W / 56.5; -6.88
Physical geography
Island group Mull
Area7,834 ha (30+14 sq mi)
Area rank17 [1]
Highest elevationBen Hynish 141 m (463 ft)
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country Scotland
Council area Argyll and Bute
Population653 [2]
Population rank18 [1]
Population density8.3/km2 (21/sq mi) [2] [3]
Largest settlement Scarinish
References [3] [4] [5]

Tiree ( /tˈr/ ; Scottish Gaelic : Tiriodh, pronounced  [ˈtʲʰiɾʲəɣ] ) is the most westerly island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. The low-lying island, southwest of Coll, has an area of 7,834 hectares (30+14 square miles) and a population of around 650.


The land is highly fertile, and crofting, alongside tourism, and fishing are the main sources of employment for the islanders. Tiree, along with Colonsay, enjoys a relatively high number of total hours of sunshine during the late spring and early summer compared to the average for the United Kingdom. [6] Tiree is a popular windsurfing venue; it is sometimes referred to as "Hawaii of the north". [7] In most years, the Tiree World Classic surfing event is held here. [8] People native to the island are known as Tirisdich.


The Ringing Stone - a Cup and ring mark stone in 1892. Tiree ringing stone.jpg
The Ringing Stone – a Cup and ring mark stone in 1892.
Map of Tiree (bottom, southwest) and Coll (top, northeast), 1899. Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (1899) (14598330869).jpg
Map of Tiree (bottom, southwest) and Coll (top, northeast), 1899.

Tiree is known for the 1st-century-AD Dùn Mòr broch, for the prehistoric carved Ringing Stone and for the birds of the Ceann a' Mhara headland.

Adomnán , abbot of Iona Abbey 679–704, recorded several stories relating to St Columba and the island of Tiree.

In one story, Columba warned a monk called Berach not to sail directly from Iona to Tiree, and instead to take a different route, and the monk went against his advice and sailed directly, but along the way, a huge whale came out of the sea and almost destroyed their boat. Columba gave the same warning to Baithéne mac Brénaind who replied that both he and the whale were in God's hands, and Columba told him to go because his faith would save him. And Baithene set off for Tiree, and when the whale appeared, he raised his hands and blessed it and it went back down into the ocean.

In another story, Adomnán claimed there to be a monastery on the island of Tiree that was called Artchain. The monastery had been founded by a priest called Findchan, who was very closely attached "in a carnal way" to Áed Dub mac Suibni . Columba took issue at Aed Dub's ordination because he had previously killed a number of men, and prophesied that Aed Dub would ultimately leave the priesthood and return to his sinful life as a murderer, only to be killed violently himself. [10] [11]

In another story, Adomnán claimed that Baithéne mac Brénaind asked Columba to pray for a good wind to get him to Tiree, and it was given to him, and he crossed the sea from Iona to Tiree with full sail. In another story, Columba instructed a particular monk to go to the monastery on Tiree and do penance for seven years. In another story, Columba banished some demons from Iona who then went to the island of Tiree to afflict the monks there instead. Adomnán also records there being more than one monastery on Tiree in that time period, and that Baithéne mac Brénaind had been abbot of one of these monasteries. [12]

Writing in 1549, Donald Munro, High Dean of the Isles wrote of "Thiridh" that it was: "ane mane laich fertile fruitful cuntrie... All inhabite and manurit with twa paroche kirkis in it, ane fresh water loch with an auld castell. Na cuntrie may be mair fertile of corn and very gude for wild fowls and for fishe, with ane gude heavin for heiland galayis". [Note 1]

In 1770, half of the island was held by fourteen farmers who had drained land for hay and pasture. Instead of exporting live cattle (which were often exhausted by the long journey to market and so fetched low prices), they began to export salt beef in barrels to get better prices. The rest of the island was let to 45 groups of tenants on co-operative joint farms: agricultural organisations probably dating from clan times. Field strips were allocated by annual ballot. Sowing and harvesting dates were decided communally. It is reported that in 1774, Tiresians were 'well-clothed and well-fed, having an abundance of corn and cattle'.

Its name derives from Tìr Iodh, 'land of the corn', from the days of the 6th century Celtic missionary and abbot St Columba (d. 597). Tiree provided the monastic community on the island of Iona, southeast of the island, with grain. A number of early monasteries once existed on Tiree itself, and several sites have stone cross-slabs from this period, such as St Patrick's Chapel, Ceann a' Mhara (NL 938 401) and Soroby (NL 984 416).

Skerryvore lighthouse, 12 miles (19 kilometres) south west of Tiree, was built with some difficulty between 1838 and 1844 by Alan Stevenson.

A large Royal Air Force station was built on Tiree during World War II The weather observations from squadron 518 collected helped inform Group Captain James Martin Stagg's recommendation to General Dwight D. Eisenhower to delay the launching of the D-Day invasion of Normandy from 5 June to 6 June 1944. [14] The airfield became Tiree Airport in 1947. [15] There was also an RAF Chain Home radar station at Kilkenneth and an RAF Chain Home Low radar station at Beinn Hough. These were preceded by a temporary RAF Advanced Chain Home radar station at Port Mor and an RAF Chain Home Beam radar station at Barrapol. Post-war there was RAF Scarinish ROTOR radar station at Beinn Ghott.

Looking west to Balephuil Bay, across the famous Hebridean Machair Tiree, Balephuil Bay.jpg
Looking west to Balephuil Bay, across the famous Hebridean Machair


Tiree is formed largely from gneiss forming the Lewisian complex, a suite of metamorphic rocks of Archaean to early Proterozoic age. Granite of Archaean age is found locally. Igneous intrusions of dolerite, felsite, lamprophyre and diorite of Palaeozoic age are encountered in places. [16] The eastern part of the island is traversed by numerous normal faults most of which run broadly northwest–southeast. Quaternary sediments include raised beach deposits which are extensive across the island and incorporate areas of alluvium locally. There are considerable areas of blown sand in the west and behind the major bays elsewhere. [17]


The main village on Tiree is Scarinish.

The highest point on Tiree is Ben Hynish, to the south of the island, which rises to 141 metres (463 feet).


OS settlements

Places classified as settlements [18] by the Ordnance Survey include:

Not OS settlements

These places aren't classified as settlements by the Ordnance Survey but are shown on the A-Z Great Britain Road atlas 2022 [19]


Caledonian MacBrayne operate a ferry to Scarinish. The daily crossing from Oban on the mainland takes four hours. [20] A call is made at Arinagour on Coll and once a week the ferry crosses to Castlebay on Barra. More limited services operate in Winter.

Tiree Airport is located at Crossapol. Loganair provide daily flights to Glasgow International and Hebridean Air Services fly to Coll and Oban. [21]

Roads on Tiree, in common with many other small islands, are nearly all single-track roads. There are passing places, locally called 'pockets', where cars must wait to enable oncoming traffic to pass or overtake.

Preceding station  Ferry  Following station
Coll   Caledonian MacBrayne
Coll   Caledonian MacBrayne
Ferry (limited service, summer only)


Climate diagram of Tiree Klimadiagramm-metrisch-deutsch-Tiree (Hebriden)-GB.png
Climate diagram of Tiree

As with the rest of western Scotland, Tiree experiences a maritime climate (Cfb) with cool summers and mild winters. Despite its being on the same latitude as Labrador on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean, snow and frost are rare, and short-lived when they occur. Weather data is collected at the island's airport. The lowest temperature to occur in recent years was −5.8 °C (21.6 °F) during the cold spell of December 2010. [22] The extreme maritime moderation contributes to summer temperatures that are far below even coastal locations in continental Europe on similar latitudes. Winter temperatures are similar to those of coastal southern England.

Climate data for Tiree, 9m asl, 1981–2010, Extremes 1951–
Record high °C (°F)12.3
Average high °C (°F)7.8
Average low °C (°F)3.4
Record low °C (°F)−6.4
Average rainfall mm (inches)137.8
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm)
Mean monthly sunshine hours 39.069.9111.1175.2238.8205.5174.4163.3128.288.446.836.01,476.6
Source 1: Met Office [23]
Source 2: Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute/KNMI [24]
A restored 'spotted house'. Tiree, spotted house.jpg
A restored 'spotted house'.
Satellite image of Tiree. Tiree Satellite Photo.png
Satellite image of Tiree.


The Southern Hebrides agency states that "while farming and, to a lesser extent, fishing, continue to provide most of the income of Tiree, tourism plays an increasing part in the island’s economy". [25] The fertile machair lands of the island provide for good quality farming and crofting

Tiree Community Development Trust owns and operates a 950 kW community-owned wind turbine project known as Tilley. This was the fourth such large-scale project in Scotland. [26] The first three projects were on Gigha and Westray and at Findhorn Ecovillage. The Argyll Array, an offshore wind farm development was proposed for development around Skerryvore but was subsequently abandoned. [27]

The island is a popular destination for family holidays. Tourists are attracted by the beaches, its many crofts, "traditional blackhouses and white houses, many retaining their charming thatched roofs, as well as unique ‘pudding houses’ where white mortar contrasts with dark stone". [28] A full dozen blackhouses, thatched with local marram grass, can still be found on Tiree. [25]

Tiree is popular for windsurfing. The island regularly hosts the Tiree Wave Classic [29] and was the venue for the Corona Extra PWA World Cup Finals in 2007. [30] It is visited regularly by surfing clubs, including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow university clubs. [31] There is a radar station which tracks civil aircraft.

The island's population was 653 as recorded by the 2011 census [2] a drop of over 15% since 2001, when there were 770 usual residents. [32] During the same period Scottish island populations as a whole grew by 4% to 103,702. [33]

Tiree has a rich distilling history and is home to a distillery, which was set up to re-establish the island's whisky heritage and, as of 2019, is producing Tyree Gin. [34] The distillery has plans to make Scotch Whisky.[ citation needed ] An April 2020 article about the Tiree Whisky Company, producers of Tyree Gin, states that it began making gin on the island again in 2019 but does not mention a plan to make whisky on the island. [35] The company is said to be the first legal distillery on the island in over 200 years; distilling had been banned in 1802. In 2020, the company was marketing a Speyside whisky, The Cairnsmuir, but not made on Tiree. [36]

Culture and media

The island is known for its vernacular architecture, including a 'blackhouse' and 'white houses', many retaining their traditional thatched roofs, and for its unique 'pudding houses' or 'spotted houses' where only the mortar is painted white.

Tiree has a declining but still considerable percentage of Gaelic speakers. [37] In 2001, 368 residents (47.8%) spoke Gaelic. By 2011 the figure had decreased to 240 (38.3%), still the highest percentage of speakers in the Inner Hebrides. [38] [39]

Since 2010, the island has hosted the annual Tiree Music Festival, held in Crossapol in the fields beside the community hall 'An Talla'. [40] In 2012, when Tiree appeared in the BBC Programme Coast for a second time, the actions of RAF weather forecasters, flying hazardous missions far out into the storms of the Atlantic during World War II, were discussed.

Tiree is mentioned in the traditional Scottish song titled "Dark Island", which tells a tale of a ship leaving Oban and passing the "isle of my childhood", Tiree. [41] Tiree is mentioned in Enya's 1988 single "Orinoco Flow". Tiree is also referenced in the song "Western Ocean" by Skipinnish, a traditional Scottish band co-founded by local Tirisdeach (Tiresian) Angus MacPhail. [42]

The Tiree Songbook is an album of songs from Na Bàird Thirisdeach, a 20th-century book collecting songs from Tiree, and new compositions about the island. [43] The album won the Community Project of the Year award at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2017.

People connected to Tiree

See also


  1. English translation from Lowland Scots: "a low-lying fertile fruitful country... Its entirety is inhabited and manured and there are two parish churches and a freshwater lake with an old castle. Nowhere is more fertile for corn and it is good for wild fowl and fish, with a good harbour for Highland galleys." [13]

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  1. 1 2 Area and population ranks: there are c.300 islands over 20ha in extent and 93 permanently inhabited islands were listed in the 2011 census.
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  8. The perfect way to go island hopping in the Hebrides
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  35. A New Chapter in Scottish Gin
  36. The story behind the Isle of Tiree’s first legal distillery in over 200 years
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  42. About Page for Skipinnish
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Further reading

56°31′N6°49′W / 56.517°N 6.817°W / 56.517; -6.817