Tiree (Scottish Gaelic: Tiriodh) is an island in the Scottish Inner Hebrides southwest of Coll. It has an area of 30 square miles and a population of around 800 people. The low-lying island is highly fertile, and crofting and tourism are the main sources of income for the island.
The island is also known by the picturesque name of ’The Land below the Waves‘. It is low lying and relatively flat and much of the land is covered by rich machair pasture which is a riot of wildflowers in Spring and Summer. Traditional ‘spotty’ houses with only the mortar painted white can still be seen in many communities, and a dozen thatched houses still remain on the island.
Out in the Gulf stream with no hills to form clouds, the island is one of the sunniest places in the UK. Combine this with the dazzling white sand beaches, the flower-strewn machair and the wide open skies and you have a very special place indeed.
Summers are warm by Scottish standards with long light evenings while winters, though windy, are warmer than those on the mainland. The combination of the wind, the unbroken Atlantic swell and the perfect beaches make the island a windsurfing paradise, and a major tournament, the Tiree Classic Wave, is held here every October.
Tiree is famous for its birdlife and there is an RSPB warden on the island – see the separate page on this website. Offshore the seas around the island teem with life. Seals can be seen basking on the rocks around the coast and if you are lucky you may glimpse an otter. Wildlife watching boat trips are available from Scarinish.
Cattle are an important component in the economy of Tiree and are essential in maintaining the unique island environment and associated biodiversity. Tiree cattle can be seen grazing on the beaches, and regularly win prizes at the major agricultural shows.
Tiree is known for the first century BC Dùn Mòr broch and for the prehistoric carved Ringing Stone. 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 forty-five 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 Tir 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, south-east of the island, with grain. A number of early Christian monasteries once existed on Tiree itself, and several sites have stone cross-slabs from this period, e.g. St Patrick’s Chapel and Ceann a’ Mhara .
As a source of further information about Tiree the excellent Community Website cannot be too highly recommended