Yachting Monthly

A charming anchorage off the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Tidal calculatio­ns are essential for visiting this secluded anchorage between these charming islands off Skye, says Jonty Pearce


Tucked into the sheltered space between the Isle of Skye and the Scottish mainland lies the stretch of sea known as the Inner Sound, whose 324m maximum depth makes it the deepest territoria­l water in the UK. Bounded to the west by the islands of Rona and Raasay and to the east by the Applecross Peninsula, the Inner Sound’s southeaste­rn margin is formed by the Crowlin Islands. This uninhabite­d tightknit group of three isles is home to one of my favourite anchorages.

The Crowlin’s two main islands are split by a narrow channel creating a fairly shallow landlocked pool enjoying impressive shelter. This creek is entered from the north end by passing over a bar whose least charted depth is 0.0m. While I have never seen it actually dry, careful tidal calculatio­ns for arrival and departure are imperative. A 2m draft usually limits access to approximat­ely HW +/-2hrs depending on the spring/ neap range. The impassable southern end dries at 3.1m, resulting in a perfectly sheltered pond bordered to the east and west by land and to the north and south by a narrow shallow or drying barrier; swell is not a problem here, though the tide does run through when the south end is covered. The bottom is clean sand with good holding.

The approach must be made from the north, having passed the Crowlin Islands if coming from Plockton or the Skye Bridge to the south, or directly towards the island group when sailing southward through the Inner Sound past Rona, Raasay, and Applecross. It is worth noting that the Inner Sound is used for submarine exercises and weapons testing; details are broadcast on VHF Ch. 8 at 0800 and 1800. When the area is operative safety vessels will request yachts to stay clear.

When closing the northernmo­st island of Eilean Beag, give a good offing to the drying rocks off its north end as well as to the reef extending eastwards halfway down; similarly, when rounding Eilean Mor from the east keep well clear of its northern point. The area north of the bar is otherwise clear, and the anchor can be dropped once between the arms of the main islands. Tidal height permitting, I prefer to continue south over the bar into the main pool, noting a reef that extends from Eilean Mor’s west shore at the pool’s entrance. Bob Bradfield’s Antares Charts usefully cover the anchorage and indicate 4.9m depth in the centre of the pool.

The very absence of any facilities is one of this anchorage’s charms – If there are no other visitors, the only company will be the wildlife. Once the tender is launched, Eilean Mhor can be explored; bare of trees and providing sustenance for only grazing sheep, its peak of 114m and the small Loch nan Leac prove the main features.

This is a peaceful spot devoid of the bustle and noise of humanity; the evenings are frequently enhanced by clear skies and, if it is warm enough to sit in the cockpit, it is a delight to nurse a postprandi­al whisky whilst watching the bright stars until the light and warmth of the cabin beckon.

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