Stopping Places: The Western Isles

Be sure to check out Reeds  and / or the appropriate pilots (Clyde Cruise Club sailing directions) for more detailed information and some alternates, this is just an overview of ones I have been to. 

For anchorages in this area the Antares Charts covering almost 600 anchorages are invaluable and for some indispensable. At £15 they don't break the bank and as well as the chart you get a very good summary of each, most if not all of the anchorages below are covered.

Sequenced approximately south to north. Links open in a new window and most point to the trip towards the anchorage, the following linked post may have more information.

To see my recent visits to each anchorage check out the "Labels" towards the bottom of the right hand panel.

Phone service is at best patchy through the whole area, local's say that Tesco Mobile is best, at least in 2023 they used O2 as their carrier, I have O2 and generally only had a signal near ferry terminals and it was only marginally better than iPad's Vodafone data only service.

Updated during a boring winter 2023/4 to include some information on access to and from marinas. See my page Marina notes (opens in a new window) for some general tips and the context (handling of my boat) in which I comment.

Anchorages = redmarinas = blue

Vatersay Bay

A nice anchorage but no protection from the east, smaller than it looks in the pilot and with more moorings taking up space, especially at the southern end, but there is still with plenty of room. Great looking beach, reckoned to be the best in the Western Isles, no facilities or phone signal (O2 or Vodaphone).

It is 8 NM round to the north side of Vatersay or to Castlebay unless you brave the narrow Fisherman's Passage which is about 3 NM.

Visited 2023

2023 Fisherman's Passage
Fisherman's Passage, it is only 35 years wide at one point with limited visual clues.

Cornaig Bay, Vatersay

A nice well sheltered anchorage on the north side of Vatersay, an alternate to Castle bay with much better shelter with winds that have south in them. The channel and shallows have moved since the last official survey so don't try taking a short cut across the shallows except at HW, see the later Antares chart. No O2 or Vodafone service.

Looking west from the anchorage.

Visited 2023.

Castle Bay, Barra

A must visit if only to see the Castle and to restock at an excellent CO-OP, perhaps with the one at Kyle of Lochalsh, the best I have come across (In 2023 late opening on Sunday from 14:00). The relatively new pontoons and facilities had been neglected but came under new management early in 2023 so hopefully the showers will by now have hot water for more than one person every few hours, electricity will be restored to the outer pontoon and possibly wi-fi. The friendly staff were getting a little frustrated by slow deliver of parts, a common problem in the Outer Hebrides. Vodafone and O2 signals OK.

Access to the visitors berths on the outer pontoon is straight forward.

Sancerre lonely as the only visitor but others arrived before I left.
Visited 2023

Loch Boisdale

A new marina with easy access but watch out for the ferry. Once inside the berths directly ahead that I have used are straightforward, those around the corner a bit more restricted but should not be a problem.

Showers, Laundry and waste disposal near the marina office, hotel and some tourist shops in the village around the ferry terminal but grocery shopping is 2 or 3 miles away.

Diesel is available at a fuel berth from a VERY high jetty, better to use cans, a trolley is available. No phone signal in the marina but a marginal O2 signal from the causeway and facilities. WiFi OK from the facilities but very iffy from the boat unless you have a wi-fi extender with external antenna etc. one of the few times I have used it now I have unlimited data on the iPad (Vodaphone).

Loch Boisdale, May 2022 from the Hotel next to the ferry
terminal (near right), the entranced to the marina is in line
with the cannon.
Visited in 2022 and 2023.

Kettle Pool, Loch Skiport, S. Uist.

Sheltered, but holding not great in places, partly due to down slopes and a strong swirling wind when I was there, probably best to bite the bullet and anchor in the deepest section and well clear of the shallow areas. The northern section may be better (the Admiralty chart identifies this as the anchorage) but when I was there that was a lee shore so I went to the southern side. No O2 or Vodafone service.

Visited 2022

Wizard Pool, Loch Skiport, S. Uist.

A better anchorage in my view than the Kettle Pool but it can get crowded, 3 boats was no problem on the 24th May (another 2 went in in the next day) but later in the season it could fill up. No O2 or Vodafone service.

Looking out through the entrance to the Wizard Pool
Wizard Island.

Loch Keiavagh, Benbecula.

Very narrow going in and not that wide inside, featureless and when I went in the wind was funnelling down it so I did not stay and went on to Lochmaddy.

There is less room inside than the picture implies unless you
are happy to anchor in 14 - 15 metres at HW.

Lochmaddy, N. Uist,

Limited space and a couple of berths could be problematic to get in or out of in adverse conditions depending on where other boars parked. When I visited early in the season there were buoys with floating lines attached that were a potential hazard, these marked the anchors for the marina that had just been inspected and were due to be removed so not normally a problem.

In early 2023 there were limited facilities, hopefully the shower is now fixed and will take £1 coins. A friendly welcome. Limited shopping, fuel by porterage from the lone shop but quite a walk. 

Good food in the nearby Hotel that has a restaurant and a less formal "Lounge bar" which is actually laid out like a restaurant. Café in the visitors centre but mainly tea and cake and I did not try it.

Poor Vodaphone service, I can't remember about O2. Wi-Fi was only available through the insecure CalMac service but marina wi-fi was due for installation the week after I was there.

Update Oct 2023: A dredger pulled out one or more of the pontoon anchors in Sept 2023 closing the marina, perhaps they should have left the marker buoys! Check before going. Lochmaddy Marina – Gateway to the Western Isles and beyond

The long section is largely for local boats.

Visited 2023.

Opsay Basin, Sound of Harris.

A cracking anchorage but limited room (one or two boats only) and  you really need the Antares chart. No O2 or Vodafone service.

Visited 2023

Ensay (off Ensay House)

Noted as an anchorage in the pilot but it has very limited room and did not look comfortable when I went there so I went on to Taransay.

Loch Na Huidhe, Taransay.

A very good anchorage in the right conditions and a good stopping off place to or from St Kilda. IIRC Vodafone was available, don't know about O2.

Visited in 2023

Village Bay, St Kilda.

An iconic anchorage with spectacular views but you need the right conditions and it took me 3 attempts over three years to get there and several weeks of waiting, mainly in 2022. No O2 or Vodafone service.

Visited 2023

Loch Finsbay, Harris.

A nice anchorage well sheltered from most directions. The Antares charts will reduce stress entering and leaving. 

Sancerre Drone High res

Drone footage of Sancerre in Lock Finsbay by Ann from the yacht "Slipstream"  also shown. A very wide angle lens makes the lock look much bigger than it is, also the North western section is quite shallow. The video is a large file hosted on Flicr as it is too big for Blogger, a lower res version is available from the linked page. IIRC no O2 or Vodafone service.

Visited 2023.


Good marina near the centre of town, avenues tight but OK. 

Poor and very dirty showers (but it was early season during the 2021 lock down), good shopping but, at least in 2021, all closed on Sunday, post lockdown they may open Sunday afternoon. Good selection of take-always and places to eat.

Anchorages, marinas and harbours:

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