This stretch of water is one of the most interesting around the Scottish coastline. The imposing island of Jura, with its towering Paps, sweeps north from the Sound of Islay and forms the western shore of the Sound of Jura, a three miles wide channel which is well over 100 metres deep for much of its length. At the north end of Jura, in the narrow channel between Jura and Scarba, lies the Gulf of Corryvreckan – 209 metres deep at one point – and its famous whirlpool – the third largest in the world. Indeed, this entire area has more whirlpools, overfalls and tidal races than any other area in Scotland. The Dorus Mor at the entrance to Loch Craignish regularly has tidal streams of more than six knots. The Sound of Luing, Cuan Sound and Little Corryvreckan, between Scarba and Lunga, provide some of the most exciting drift dives anywhere.
North into the Firth of Lorne the towering cliffs of the south coast of Mull come into view. If you’re lucky you could catch sight of a golden eagle here or perhaps a porpoise or two. The firth was a major staging point for convoys en route to America during World War Two. The little island of Kerrera guards the entrance to the main town in the region – Oban. The bustling coastal town with its busy harbour is the departure point for ferries to most of the Western Isles. It is also the diving capital of the west coast. North of Oban, past the raging Falls of Lora – another natural wonder as the falls reverse as the tide changes – the Firth of Lorne narrows, with Lismore and its lighthouse showing the entrance to the Sound of Mull, to the west and enters the southern reaches of Loch Linnhe which stretches to the foot of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain.
This section of coastline is less densely populated with shipwrecks than its predecessors. This is mainly because the area is less exposed to the open Atlantic and because of its narrow channels and fast flowing tidal streams, it is therefore less heavily used by larger vessels. The southern section of this area is populated with wrecks of smaller vessels and it is not until you reach Belnahua and the wreck of the Helena Faulbaums that larger more intact wrecks can be found. Another large and intact shipwreck in the area is that of the Breda, probably Scotland’s most dived shipwreck, which lies in reasonably sheltered waters north of Oban. Sites south of the island of Kerrera tend to be clear in terms of water clarity with strong tidal streams quickly clearing away and disturbed silt. Once you move up into lower Loch Linnhe and around Oban while visibility is generally good, care must be taken when diving shipwrecks as they tend to be covered with silt which will reduce visibility locally when disturbed.
As noted above, Oban is the main centre for sport diving on the west coast, and attracts divers from all over the world. There are also operators working out of Tobermory, Lochaline, Dunstaffnage and Balvicar.