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North shore, Coll
Map showing Coll in relation to Western Scotland

Area: 7,685 hectares (29.7 sq mi)

Highest elevation: Ben Hogh 106 metres (348 ft)

Population: 195

Pop. density: 2.5 people/km

Main settlement: Arinagour

Coll (Scottish Gaelic: Cola) is an island located west of Mull in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Coll is known for its sandy beaches, which rise to form large sand dunes, for its corncrakes, and for Breachacha Castle. It is in the council area of Argyll and Bute. It has been described as 'a beautiful island with an equitable climate'.<ref>Angus and Patricia Macdonald, The Hebrides, an Arial View of a Cultural Landscape, (Birlinn 2010) 200</ref>


The Gaelic name Cola means "hazel"<ref>Haswell-Smith (2004) 118</ref> but Coll itself is a pre-Celtic name of unknown meaning.<ref> Mac an Tàilleir (2003) 31</ref> Watson (1926) notes that the 7th century abbot of Iona Adomnán referred to the island as in insula Coloso and Colosus. In 1549 Dean Monro wrote of "Coll" that it was "ane mane fertile Ile inhabite and manurit, with an castell and ane paroch kirk in it, gude for fishing and fowlers, with ane utter fine Falcons nest in it".<ref>Munro (1961) 66</ref>

Geography and Geology

Coll is about 13 miles (20.9 km) long by 3 miles (4.8 km) wide and has a population of around 220. Coll's sandy beaches rise to form large sand dunes. The highest point on Coll is Ben Hogh in the mid west of the island, a ridge with two tops running NW/SE, which rises initially to a height of 104 metres (341 ft) with a triangulation pillar, and to 106 metres (348 ft) 450 metres (492 yd) to the southeast.


There are only two main roads on Coll. The main hub of the island is the island's largest settlement—Arinagour. About 1.5 km (1 mi) south of Arinagour is the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry terminal.<ref> (accessed 7th July 2014)</ref>

The ferry travels from Oban to Coll to Tiree; and a return trip from Tiree, to Coll, to Oban.The ferry between Oban and Castlebay on Barra goes via Coll and Tiree once a week.<ref> (accessed 7th July 2014)</ref>

The airport on the island, (IATA: COL) is located between Uig and Arileod. Highland Airways who originally operated the route to Oban went into administration in 2010, but a new operator, Hebridean Air Services now operates the route under a PSO with flights to Oban, Tiree and Colonsay. The aircraft used for the flights are a BN2 Islander (G-HEBS). Hebridean headquarters are at Cumbernauld Airport, North Lanarkshire.<ref> (accessed 7th July 2014)</ref>


The earliest inhabitants to Coll were probably Mesolithic hunter-gatherers followed by Neolithic farmers. Later, Coll became part of the Celtic Kingdom of Dál Riata before coming under Viking rule.<ref> (accessed 7th July 2014)</ref> Like other Hebridean islands, Coll has several crannógs (artificial islands) located in some of its lochs. One such crannog is Dun Anlaimh, which is thought to date to at least the later Middle Ages. Local tradition states that the dun was the fortress of a Norse chieftain who was defeated in battle by the Macleans.

For around 500 years the island was home to a branch of Clan Maclean.<ref> (accessed 7th July 2014)</ref> In 1590 the Macleans of Duart invaded their cousins on Coll with the intention of taking the island for themselves. A battle was fought at Breachacha Castle where the Coll clan overwhelmed the Duarts, chopped off their heads and threw them in the stream which is still known as "the stream of the heads". The Macleans of Coll retained their baronial fief and Castle of Breachacha until 1848.<ref> (accessed 7th July 2014)</ref>

Later Macleans are remembered as relatively benign landowners who introduced 'improvements' such as new housing, but were forced to sell the island due to financial problems incurred by supporting their tenants through the potato famine of the 1840s.<ref>Angus and Patricia Macdonald, The Hebrides, an Arial View of a Cultural Landscape, (Birlinn 2010) 200</ref>During the later nineteenth century many islanders emigrated to escape excessive rent demands.<ref>Angus and Patricia Macdonald, The Hebrides, an Arial View of a Cultural Landscape, (Birlinn 2010) 200</ref>


There is an extensive RSPB reserve towards the west end of the island.<ref> (accessed 7th July 2014)</ref> One of the main attractions is the rare corncrake. Traditional local farming practices have helped this once common British bird survive.

In 2010, a colony of short-necked oil beetles was found on the island. The beetle, thought to be extinct in the UK, is now known only to occur in southern England and Coll. It is parasitic on ground-dwelling bees, and is also flightless, begging the question of how it arrived on the island. It does not appear to be found on neighbouring Tiree, possibly because of a difference in terrain. Modern farming methods had partly caused its demise.


A ruined eighteenth century farmhouse has recently been restored on the island and has won a number of architecture awards.<ref> (accessed 7th July 2014)</ref>