Corryvreckan Whirlpool

Corryvreckan Whirlpool

Nestled in between an island chain, is the third-largest whirlpool in the world. Prepare to get swept away in this swirling mass (not literally) as we discuss noteworthy aspects of the circulating Corryvreckan whirlpool.

The Gulf of Corryvreckan | Marvel of the West Coast

If you’re asking yourself, “Where is the Corryvreckan whirlpool?” we can gladly provide some guidance.

The Gulf of Corryvreckan is located off the west coast of main Scotland. More specifically, this narrow strait is situated between the islands of Jura and Scarba, in Argyll and Bute.

The Gulf has famously strong tidal currents and standing waves. It’s also known for hosting the whirlpool that almost unalived George Orwell and denied the literary world of his renowned novel, “1984”.

Diving into the etymology of Corryvreckan shows that it is derived from the Gaelic Coire Bhreacain, roughly translating to “cauldron of the speckled seas” or “cauldron of the plaid”.

This is fitting since the chaos of the churning waters in the gulf houses the fierce Corryvreckan whirlpool. Carry on reading to find out more.

How Are Whirlpools Formed?

The sun and moon have a gravitational effect on the world’s waters that allows the tides to flow. These swirling vortexes occur when fast-flowing currents moving in different directions come into contact. The contact forces the currents to turn and swirl around each other.

You can find whirlpools in the ocean and in just about any flowing body of water in the world. Strong winds can also cause whirlpools.

Now that we’ve shed some light on the query “How do whirlpools form?” let’s head into some head-spinning Corryvreckan whirlpool facts.

The Inner Workings of the Whirlpool of Corryvreckan

So, what causes the Corryvreckan whirlpool? In 2012, the Scottish Association for Marine Science entered the Gulf of Corryvreckan and made interesting observations. As the tidal flow enters the narrow strait, i.e. the Sound of Jura, it encounters a range of unusual underwater topography. These complex seabed features cause obstructions that can affect the state of the water.

The tidal flow first passes a deep hole around 200m and then a large basalt rock pinnacle about 130m high. As the ocean water interacts with these obstructions, they give rise to large standing waves and whirlpools just above the pinnacle.

These conditions can be dangerous in extreme weather conditions. On that note, a flood tide can make the area too risky to navigate. However, it becomes easier for professionals to navigate under safer conditions and in the right boat.

The Corryvreckan whirlpool is located on the north side of the gulf. It is said that the combination of the spring tide and the western outflow to the First of Lorne give rise to waves higher than 9m. As these immense waves crash, their sound can be heard from up to 16km away.

Now that we’ve discussed the intricate science behind the churning Corryvreckan whirlpool let’s dig into the more fantastical explanations for this iconic whirlpool in Scotland.

Legends Surrounding the Corryvreckan Whirlpool 

Interesting natural phenomena always give rise to even more interesting and impressive legends and folklore that present equally fascinating explanations of their origins. This famous whirlpool in Scotland has allowed the following intriguing stories to spring forth.

The Legend of the Scandinavian Prince

As with any tale, there are many variations, but one very famous Corryvreckan whirlpool myth centres around either a Scandinavian or Nordic prince, Breakan. The prince needed to prove his mettle in order to marry the island princess.

The king of the island issued the brave prince with a daunting challenge: for his boat to withstand the dangerous Corryvreckan whirlpool for three nights. Breakan accepted.

The prince fashioned three ropes of hemp, wool, and some maidens’ hair (given willingly). Legend says that the hemp and wool ropes broke on nights one and two, respectively.

However, the purity and innocence of the maidens — who provided their hair for the last rope — held the boat steadfast for the third day. Unfortunately, the prince was lulled into a false sense of security, and the maiden-hair rope snapped just like the others.

The boat was sucked into the whirling currents. Luckily, a few of Breakan’s party and his dog survived. Sadly, the prince’s intent to marry the island princess died with him.

The Cailleach or Hag Goddess of Winter 

This myth aims to explain seasonal changes by representing old hags as imposing their elemental powers. It’s suggested that winter starts on the west coast of Scotland when the Cailleach washes her great plaid or kilt in the Gulf of Corryvreckan (very hygienic).

This process supposedly kickstarts the maelstrom and lasts for three days, during which the roar of the wind can be heard for many miles. The snow that covers the land during the winter months is apparently her now thoroughly cleaned, pure-white plaid.

The Protective Sea Witch 

Another Scottish legend has it that a dangerous Irish pirate was passing by where the whirlpool is now located. A local sea witch looked into his heart and saw his nasty tendencies and his heinous plans.

In an attempt to protect Scotland, she conjured up the famous whirlpool of Corryvreckan. Voila, here we are today!

Now, let’s venture back to reality and discuss how you can actually explore the surrounding islands and witness their distinctive wildlife with different tour services.

Exploring the Rotating Corryvreckan Whirlpool | Boat Trips

Those of you brave enough to visit Corryvreckan to experience the surrounding islands and sea whirlpools via a boat trip will be pleased to know that there are tour boats available.

The experienced Scotland whirlpool guides can help curate an exciting and informative experience while exploring the turbulent waters in the Gulf of Corryvreckan during the operating season.

There’s a small port in Crinan on the sound of Jura, which is one of the main departure points for boat trips. This port is where you can kickstart your journey and witness the twisting Corryvreckan whirlpool.

Tour operators like Corryvreckan Oban Sea Tours and Venture West offer visitors an unforgettable experience. Adventurers can explore the mystical waters of the Gulf of Corryvreckan and the surrounding islands. Visitors coming to this Scottish whirlpool are privy to watching peaceful whales and spotting some dolphins.

Additionally, guests on private Corryvreckan whirlpool trips with Venture West can interact with various wildlife and bird species. You might see golden eagles, otters, sea eagles, sharks, and much more during your visit.

With Islay Sea Adventures, their trips coincide with the spring tides. Ensuring that when the tidal range is the greatest, their guests have the full experience. However, this does mean that the tour only runs on certain days and at specific times.

The strait between Jura and Scarba has rich ties to Scottish folklore and culture. This whirlpool site is not only a natural phenomenon but a scientific marvel, too, offering a fulfilling and awe-inspiring experience for any kind of traveller.

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