Paul Murton sees what it takes to keep the islands in the Orkney archipelago connected and visits the 'Atlantic Twins' of Coll and Tiree.
There are some seventy islands in the Orkney archipelago but just how much of a challenge is it to keep all these islands connected? To find out, Paul Murton is making a grand tour of Outer Orkney and begins his journey at North Ronaldsay. This may be the most northerly of the Orkneys but Paul discovers that it’s actually surprisingly well connected with a regular airline service; in fact it's easier and quicker to get here than to many isolated spots in the Highlands! From here, Paul is island-hopping to Papa Stronsay, which is now populated by an order of monks who have chosen to make this isolated island their home. Paul’s final destination in his exploration of the Orkneys is the island of Stroma in the Pentland Firth, which sadly is no longer inhabited. Paul makes a poignant journey to visit Stroma along with one the last islanders to live here and who remembers what it was like when it was still a thriving community. Leaving Orkney behind, Paul heads to to visit the “Atlantic Twin” Islands of Coll and Tiree. Paul begins his journey on Coll, where he meets the charismatic owner of Breachacha Castle, Nicolas Maclean Bristol, a descendant of the ancient MacLeans of Coll, whose history on the island goes back to the 14th century. Leaving Coll behind, Paul heads for Tiree, which boasts one of the best sunshine records in the UK. It can indeed be beautifully sunny here but it can also be extremely windy. Tiree is one of the stormiest places in Europe and with a gale blowing 160 days of the year, life here is always something of a battle against the elements. But resourceful locals have found interesting ways to harness the island's assets; Tiree is one of the best places in Britain to wind surf and also to sand yacht, a relatively new sport which involves racing up and down the beach in a go-cart with a sail which Paul discovers is an exciting, if slightly alarming experience. To end this final Grand Tour, Paul takes a boat trip out to the dramatic and iconic lighthouse on the rocky outcrop of Skerryvore.