When your taxi to the nightclub is a 2.5-hour journey on a 5500-ton CalMac ferry, you know you’re in for an interesting time.
Some 40 miles west of the Scottish town of Oban in the dreamy archipelago of the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Coll is a place for relaxation and exploration, for dodging the crowds and daydreaming by the sea.
Nature supplies the entertainment around here: white-sand beaches, starry skies and golden sunsets; the sound of the waves and the distinctive call of the corncrake; basking sharks, seals and seabirds. Popular with stargazers, island hoppers and wildlife watchers, the unspoiled Isle of Coll seems an unlikely choice for a festive, razzle-dazzle-y night out. Unless you’re visiting on September 22 and 23, that is.
The brainchild of London-based DJ and magazine editor Jonny Ensall, Detour Discotheque calls itself the “world’s most remote disco,” bringing groovy beats and throwback scenes to surprising, specially selected locations on the world map. The mere concept of a one-time, two-night pop-up party is enough to entice and excite – a teasingly temporary, limited-edition opportunity to bust a move on an unfamiliar dance floor. And that’s without the added allure of a far-flung location and adventurous effort to get there.
Iceland’s Westfjords played host to the debut disco in spring 2022, transforming the small village town hall of Þingeyri into a glittering old-school nightclub – and was, from all accounts, a raucously fun-filled affair. Next on the list of unexpected destinations, Coll is a suitable successor. It not only ticks the box for (relative) remoteness: Coll has a unique title that no other Scottish island can claim.
Thanks to its absence of street lights and distance from the well-lit mainland, Coll was awarded “Dark Sky Community” status in 2013, one of only two such places in the whole of Scotland to earn this official designation, granted by the International Dark-Sky Association. The lack of light pollution offers unrivaled stargazing opportunities, with twinkling constellations, the Milky Way and even the northern lights frequently visible to the naked eye. These treasures of the night sky have inspired the theme for this year’s Detour Discotheque, “Journey to the Cosmos.”
The island’s aptly named community center, An Cridhe (Gaelic for “the heart”), is where the party will take place. Since this modern, multi-purpose space typically hosts weekly markets, weddings, sporting events and traditional parties, a New York–in–the–’70s–style disco will certainly be a first.
A mixed crowd of party people is expected, from local residents to international visitors, up to a capacity of 250 – higher than the island’s total population of about 220, yet small and exclusive by city standards. The weekend lineup is equally diverse: international, electronic beats by Auntie Flo, Latin-inspired disco from Puerto Rican DJ Daisybelle, Glasgow sync duo Free Love and the island’s very own Cosmic Ceilidh Band.
When the immersive, intergalactic event draws to a close and whisky-fuelled partygoers spill out into the sleepy village of Arinagour, the clear skies are sure keep the cosmic vibes flowing.
How to make it happen
The first release of tickets for the event has sold out. Sign up for the Detour Discotheque newsletter to be notified when the second release goes on sale.
Eating and drinking on the Isle of Coll
The only pub on the island can be found at Coll Hotel, an award-winning, family-run establishment. Stop in to enjoy drinks with locals, exceptional home-cooked cuisine and seafood caught fresh that day. In addition to the hotel, the friendly Island Cafe serves local produce and freshly baked goods. Alternatively, contact Tigh Na Mara guesthouse for a takeaway picnic or grab self-catering snacks from Coll Stores. The shop also stocks small-batch craft spirits from the local Isle of Coll Distillery.
Exploring the Isle of Coll
Coll boasts no fewer than 30 sandy beaches that range in size, distance from the road and accessibility at high tide. Rent a bike from Isle of Coll Post Office or an eBike from An Cridhe and go find your favorite; Crossapol Bay, Torastan and Sorisdale Bay could be strong contenders. Before you leave, buy a souvenir t-shirt or hoodie from local designer Ross of Coll.
Where to stay on the Isle of Coll
Arinagour is the main settlement and ferry port on Coll – the perfect base, particularly if you’re traveling without a car. Accommodation is limited and should be booked well in advance. Coll Hotel offers sea views, luxurious lodgings and island hospitality, while the community-owned Coll Bunkhouse is a top-notch hostel at a budget price next door to An Cridhe. Try Tigh Na Mara guesthouse for high-end home comforts and a hearty breakfast to fuel your day.
There are two campsites on the island, both roughly five miles from Arinagour: a historic walled garden amid the RSPB Nature Reserve at Garden House Camping, or close to the coast at Toraston Farm. You must pre-book your pitch at either site.