Corryvreckan Whirlpool – Scotland - Atlas Obscura

Corryvreckan Whirlpool

Legend says a witch conjured the world's third largest whirlpool to protect Scotland from a nasty pirate. 


A fierce whirlpool churns the waters between the Scottish islands of Jura and Scarba. Said to be the world’s third-largest whirlpool, it’s as legendary as it is impressive.

Legends surround the whirlpool. One says the watery wonder was named after a Norwegian Prince who perished while trying to prove his love to a Scottish princess after her father gave him the risky task of keeping his boat in the whirlpool for three nights.

Another legend tells of a nasty Irish pirate from Ulster who got his just desserts when the local sea witch saw into his heart as his ship sailed past. She conjured the whirlpool to protect Scotland from his nefarious ways and sent him to his doom. 

The real reason for the whirlpool’s existence is less fantastical, though no less interesting. The Gulf of Corryvreckan has giant rock pinnacle under the sea, which rises up to just 95 feet below the surface. It’s this obstruction that causes the whirlpool. Water is forced upward when it hits against the rock, causing huge, swirling waves. Sometimes in particularly stormy weather, the noise the whirlpool makes can be heard from 20 miles away.  

The staggering current that travels over the pinnacle makes it a haven for filter-feeders like coral and sponges, as well as a variety of shellfish. This, in turn, draws larger animals like porpoises, dolphins, and whales to the area.


Know Before You Go

There are several tour operators that offer trips to the whirlpool. It is not recommended to take very small children on some of these outings. It is best to check with the tour operator first. Also weather conditions can lead to sudden cancellations. Although this is disappointing safety is paramount. 

SCUBA dives of the pinnacle are available through a company in Oban and dive master David Ainsley, however, there is an application process and only certified dive masters are considered. Slack tide on the pinnacle is short-lived and mistiming the dive even slightly will make the 200 meter overfall from the pinnacle inescapable

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