One of the Inner Hebrides, Tiree is twenty-two miles west of the nearest point on the Scottish mainland, Ardnamurchan. At the same latitude as southern Alaska and the same longitude as the Spanish/Portuguese border, Tiree is Britain’s 20th largest island at just over ten miles at its longest, five miles at its widest, and a little over half a mile at its narrowest.
Tiree is divided into 286 crofts and five farms although there are today probably fewer than a hundred active crofters. The land is split into thirty one crofting townships, each controlled by a grazing committee. It is the most fertile island of the Hebrides.
Tiree is officially one of the sunniest places in the UK with the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream ensuring that frost is rare and summer evenings are warm and balmy. On Tiree, the sky and sea stretch from horizon to horizon and with no woodland and only three sizeable hills on an otherwise flat landscape, there is nothing to obscure the stunning views. Tiree has been described as 'a raised beach' and (more romantically), 'the land beneath the waves'.
Tiree’s famous white beaches are made of crushed shells. This blows inland to form the basis of the fertile machair, flower-rich grassland which tends to dry out and become ‘burnt’ in the summer.
Tiree has an outer ring of machair, a middle section of dark, rich, cultivatable earth, and a centre of wet, peaty ground called sliabh (pronounced slieve). Most crofting townships are divided so as to have a ‘slice’ of each type of ground. The hill grazing and sliabh which keep their moisture are for summer grazing, the field land is cropped and the machair provides grazing at the wetter times of the year.
The island has no street lights, is sparsely populated, has few cars and no other man made light sources so provides ideal conditions for viewing the night sky.
There are still some twelve traditional thatched buildings on Tiree, the highest concentration in Scotland. Their design and style of thatching is unique with the distinctive ‘spotty’ two storey stone houses.
The traditional house is built from partly dressed stones laid without mortar in a double wall. Between the two skins is a layer of sand. Walls are commonly six feet thick with deep inset windows and one doorway. The roof trusses are set onto the inside wall and water runs off the roof and down between the two layers of stone.
The usual material for thatching is muran (grass) which grows on the beach dunes.
The muran is laid on loose, and new thatch applied over the old every few years. Traditionally held down with an eleborate design of rope and stone weights, chicken wire or fishing nets are now used instead.
Skerryvore (from the Gaelic An Sgeir Mhòr meaning "The Great Skerry") is the name of the island that lies off the west coast of Scotland, 12 miles south-west of the Tiree.
The Lighthouse built upon it in from 1838-1843 is Scotland’s tallest and marks a very extensive and treacherous reef of rocks lying off the Hebrides.