The Inner Hebrides islands of Islay, Jura, Gigha, Oronsay, Colonsay, Scarba and the Garvellachs are situated between the Mull of Kintyre and the Island of Mull.
They vary in character enormously. The community-owned island of Gigha is low and fertile and even has a sub-tropical garden. Islay, the most populous of this group, is famous for its many whisky distilleries, some with their own anchorages, and a large wetland area which attracts migrating birds.
Jura and its northerly neighbour, Scarba, are wild and mountainous with many more deer than people.
Oronsay and Colonsay are only separate islands at high tide. Oronsay has ruins of an early Christian Priory and also plays host to many migrating birds, including the shy Corncrake.
The Garvellachs are a small group of four rocky islands which were also the site of early Christian settlement, including a rare “beehive” cell.
The area is characterised by strong tides, notably in the Sounds of Jura and Islay. The narrow Gulf of Corryvreckan, between Jura and Scarba is particularly notorious, with the fast-flowing tide (up to eight or nine knots) creating whirlpools and standing waves at peak times.
The area demands careful navigation. Tide tables, timing and keeping an eye on the weather are key, but the rewards are worth the effort and hopefully the photographs on this page give a sense of that.
We normally sail the area when on passage between Tobermory or Oban and Troon or vice versa, but on a Firth of Clyde Milebuilder we head round the Mull of Kintyre, taking care to time our passage with the tide. Near the Mull we may stop at the small island of Sanda before continuing to the beautiful Isle of Gigha or across to Port Ellen on Islay.
A week starting at Oban can be spent exploring this beautiful area of contrasts - sub-tropical gardens to wild mountains; sheltered anchorages to rushing tides; historical sites to modern distilleries.
For the sailor, there is every opportunity to improve skills in tidal planning, passage making and complex pilotage.
Mull and its neighbours to the west - the Treshnish islands, Coll and Tiree -are also part of the Innner Hebrides but we treat them as an area in their own right.