CC BY-NC, © byronv2

Location: Torridon
ships and boats, travel by sea, the natural world, the view from 2020, gaelic language and placenames

Skiff rowing in Wester Ross

The last decade has seen a great growth in the popularity of coastal rowing along the west coast. Decades ago, most households on the west coast owned a traditional rowing boat and eventually many wooden boats were left to rot as more modern vessels took over. From 2009, however, skiff rowing has become popular again following the production of skiff kits that can be built by people with no boat building experience.

Interest in Wester Ross really took hold after the first ‘SkiffieWorlds’ competition was held in Ullapool in 2013. About 15 skiffs have been built in villages here with venues ranging from an old shed to a polytunnel. Those who have completed their boats then often help other villages with advice or resources.

Although all the skiffs are built from the same basic kit design, communities have endowed each with their own identity and story through certain colours of paint, adaptations to the oars, footrest or rudder, or the meaning of boat names. Some skiffs have been given names in Gaelic such as ‘Maighdean Charrainn’ (The Maid of Lochcarron) and ‘Fitheach Dubh’ (The Black Raven). Shieldaig & Torridon opted for the Norse name ‘Sildvik.’ Gairloch called their boat ‘Longa’ after the nearby island whilst Loch Ewe painted their skiff in the colours of the Matheson tartan and called their skiff ‘Kay Matheson’ after one of their local ladies, whose name became well known due to her involvement as a young student with the story of the Stone of Destiny.

In 2020 the community of Kyleakin completed the ‘Saucy Mary’ named after a Norse Princess, whom according to legend stretched a chain across the water between Skye and the mainland and exacted a toll on all passing ships.

As told by Anne MacRae, resident of Torridon

More information on visiting the area can be found here.