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Scottish anchorages

Sailing Directions

No, you can't get by with your iphone and a navionics app, well not quite yet. You have to have on board:


Clyde Cruising Club Sailing Directions and Anchorages, published by Clyde Cruising Club Publications Ltd, are based on the original Clyde Cruising Club Directions which go back to the first edition in 1923. It is interesting, and confusing, to realise how much the spelling of place names has changed over the last 100 or so years. The directions are regularly updated, and are spiral bound these days which is very handy. The ones relevant to this area are: Kintyre to Ardnamurchan (2018), and Ardnamurchan to Cape Wrath (2017). You can download the amendments from the Clyde Cruising Club website.


Martin Lawrence started publishing his Sailing Directions in the late 1980s, really as a one-man band. They overlapped quite considerably with the Clyde Cruising Club Sailing Directions. Nowadays it is not really worth having both because in 2012 these two sets of publications merged.


Some may wonder why these sailing directions don't already contain the sort of information this website provides, or indeed that can be found in some of the glossy books describing the anchorages around the English coast. In my no doubt biased view, this is all for the best. To enter the anchorages you need a water-resistant easy-to-fold-out book wedged under a winch handle in the cockpit telling you succinctly how to get there safely. You do not want it cluttered up with the sort of stuff I have on this website — which comes in useful only when you are safely anchored, kettle on the boil or drink in hand, thinking about going ashore.


 Welcome Anchorages and the Sail Scotland official guide are not sailing directions, but both are free and useful guides, updated every year, and you can pick them up in chandleries and marinas, or download them.

Please let me know if there is anything wrong or out of date on this page, or if there is anything I should add - by clicking HERE

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"There is nothing like an eight-knot tide for gettng a fellow from his bunk in the morning. We had an important appointment to keep at 10am with the tide at Kylerhea". John McClintock 1938

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The very first 'Sailing Directions' must surely be those published by Murdoch Mackenzie in 1776. He was an Orcadian cartographer and hydrographer, and the first to produce recognisable charts of the seas around the British Isles while working for the Admiralty. You can find the book on line, and also many of the charts on line at the National Library of Scotland. Mind you, some of his measurments for distance would strike one as quaint. For example, the rock in Canna Harbour now incorporated into the pier he described as being "about a pistol shot from the shore".


Then, in 1896, came Part 5 — the west Coasts of Scotland, the Orkneys, and the west coast of the North Sea — of Frank Cowper's detailed Sailing Tours: the yachtsman's guide to the cruising waters of the English and adjacent coasts, Upcott Gill. There is more here than just sailing directions, but little information about what there was ashore, and he did not much describe many human interactions. But his descriptions of sailing with no engine in strong tidal streams are pretty hair raising, particularly bearing in mind he was often single-handed. A lot of the pilotage information could be used today. His obituarist in Yachting Monthly wrote in 1930: "From his earliest days Mr. Cowper took cruising to heart and probably did more to popularize this particular way of life than any man of his day. It is almost inconceivable to us now the prejudice which then existed in the public mind against the man who did not employ hands aboard his yacht. But it was through this veteran singlehanded sailor's adventures and writings that the public began to recognize small yacht cruising as a sane man's pastime".

"...many years experience had taught us to discount heavily the pessimistic tone of those invaluable books."


Henry Reynolds. Coastwise Cross-Seas 1921


Up to a point still true, but it is still a good idea to pay attention to Sailing Directions, we would be lost without them.