A Travellerspoint blog

Colonsay - Some More

all seasons in one day 15 °C
View Colonsay on IainT's travel map.

I had 2 nights on Colonsay and almost 2 days there. It’s not big, so unless you have a particular interest in staying longer, 2 or 3 days is enough.

Away from it All

Away from it All

It’s the perfect place for the “get away from it all” holiday, so long as you’re flexible in your attitude to the weather! Most accommodation is self catering - holiday cottages. Mine was self catering - but a 1 bedroom apartment at Colonsay House. It was very comfortable and relaxing.

The House is the home of the island’s owner - Donald Howard, 4th Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, and is currently occupied by his eldest son. The servants’ quarters have been converted into self catering units.

Colonsay House

Colonsay House

Other options are a couple of bed and breakfast places, a backpackers’ hostel and the Colonsay Hotel.

I ate at the Hotel once - it was superb. I had oysters from the farm on the island and beef (for a burger) also from an island farm.

Local Oysters

Local Oysters

I also ate at the cafe at Colonsay House Gardens - much less grand, but excellent too.

You can buy food (and lots of other stuff) at Colonsay General Store. Their fresh croissants perked me up in the mornings. They modestly announce themselves as the “ Best Wee Shop in the Hebrides”. They’ll also deliver (free) to your self catering place and will even fill the fridge and cupboard before you arrive.

That makes a lot of sense and is smart marketing even in a normal environment, but with Colonsay the ferry often arrives at 18:45 and the shop shuts at 17:30.

You can buy lobster and crab from a local fisherman.

I rented a bike from Archie’s enterprises for £10 per day. He was helpful by dropping it at the apartment for me before I arrived and then collecting it from the ferry terminal when I left. If the weather co-operates, walking and cycling are the way to get around.

Kiloran Bay

Kiloran Bay

Even if the weather turns “Scottish” it’s no big deal. When I turned up for dinner at the hotel looking like I’d been through a hedge backwards and landed in a muddy puddle, no-one looked twice. This is not unusual.

Surf City

Surf City

If you need to buy presents or souvenirs to take home, there’s the beer, gin and honey produced on the island. I went for the honey. The bees feed on the machair and it is claimed to give the honey a special flavour. I haven’t tried my jar yet but I gave a jar to a friend and she reckons it’s great.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

The Calmac ferry back to the mainland (at Oban mostly, but a couple of sailings take you to Kennacraig) takes 2.5 hours. That’s plenty time for a leisurely lunch or dinner on board, and then a nap. The food is good too! The ferry journey cost £7.15 for a single.

Posted by IainT 14:20 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland ferries island calmac islandlife colonsay Comments (0)

Colonsay

all seasons in one day 15 °C
View Colonsay on IainT's travel map.

Colonsay is one of the islands in the Southern Hebrides, located south of Mull and west of Jura. The population is about 100.

Island Life

Island Life

You have a choice of two ways to get there and back by public transport. Calmac offers a ferry service which is daily in the summer. The alternative is to fly with Hebridean Air from Oban.

Ready?

Ready?

I chose to mix and match for my trip to the island - I flew there and took the ferry back.

Hebridean Air operates from Oban Airport and flies to Colonsay on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It uses an 8 seat Islander.

http://www.hebrideanair.co.uk/flights/Air_Charter.html

Oban Airport is tiny. The usual formalities are ignored. My bag was weighed (10kg maximum) and the pilot gave as a safety briefing. That was it. No check in. No identification. No baggage tags. No boarding pass. No security checks.

The flight had one other paying passenger - the chef at the Colonsay Hotel - plus 2 fire crew from Colonsay who’d been on the mainland for training.

Tight Squeeze

Tight Squeeze

The flight bounces along at a pretty low level - it isn’t for the faint hearted. The views must be great on a good weather day. They weren’t the day of my flight. They almost cancelled the flight because of rain and low cloud - no fancy all weather systems here!

Low Level

Low Level

The service stops at Islay (35 minutes flying time) on the way, and then it’s another 15 minutes to Colonsay.

It cost me £35 one way (not business class, obviously) for a fabulous experience!

Highly recommended.

Posted by IainT 07:05 Archived in Scotland Tagged planes scotland ferries calmac islandlife colonsay Comments (0)

Going Home

sunny 18 °C
View Islay on IainT's travel map.

My ferry from Islay back to the mainland was at 15:30, and it was a great sail. Sunshine all the way for 2 hours.

MV Finlaggan at Port Askaig

MV Finlaggan at Port Askaig

From the terminal at Kennacraig I had a 10 minute drive to the next ferry, over in Tarbert (on the other side of the Kintyre Peninsula) at 18:15. The Tarbert to Portavadie trip is 25 minutes - just a short hop. More lovely sunshine, and amazing scenery on both sides of Loch Fyne.

Loch Fyne

Loch Fyne

It's another Calmac route - £10.75 one way for the wee Audi and me.

Tarbert

Tarbert

Next came a 40 minute drive to Dunoon for the 3rd ferry - to Gourock. That drive features quite a lot of single track road and spectacular scenery - it was a shame to be driving!

I drove onto the Western Ferries’ 19:30 sailing at 19:27. It's more expensive - £17.10.

A 20 minute voyage on that one. More evening sunshine and wonderful scenery.

Firth of Clyde

Firth of Clyde

The last leg was 1hour 40 minutes in the car to get home.

Who needs an expensive cruise with all these cheap ones on the doorstep?

Posted by IainT 14:02 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland islay calmac islandlife Comments (0)

Islay, Part 3.

all seasons in one day 12 °C
View Islay on IainT's travel map.

Well if malt whisky distillery tours are not for you, or once you’ve done that, what else does the island offer?

The three main villages are Bowmore, Port Ellen and Port Charlotte. All three are very attractive places. Portnahaven is too. It’s a bit of a drive away at the end of the Port Charlotte road, but well worth it. A lovely spot.

Portnahaven Local

Portnahaven Local

I visited Finlaggan and the Kildalton Cross.

Scottish History

Scottish History

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/kildalton-cross/history/

http://www.finlaggan.org/

The weather was being a bit Scottish at the time, but I’m glad I went anyway. Finlaggan is just so historic and standing in front of the 1,300 year old cross was a bit special.

I had a good walk to Carraig Fhada - the square lighthouse - close to Port Ellen.

Square Lighthouse

Square Lighthouse

I tried for another walk over at Machir Bay, but the rain beat me back.

I can’t help much with restaurants, I’m afraid. I did try to eat at Peatzeria in Bowmore, but they were full - Sunday night surge, I suppose.

Not for Me

Not for Me

I had lunch at Seasalt in Port Ellen - good quality, good service and good value for money.

I blame my bed and breakfast owner for my poor appetite - she gave me a great breakfast. I struggled to work up an appetite for hours afterwards.

Bedroom View

Bedroom View

In fact, the B&B gets top marks all round. Lovely decor. A large comfortable room. Peace and quiet. I couldn’t fault it, and I’ve had a fair bit of experience of B&Bs over the last few years. Recommended. Thanks, Claire.

http://www.excisehouselagavulin.com/home

My hunch is I’ll come back to Islay. Certainly I have the inclination. It’s a question of finding the time.

Posted by IainT 06:49 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland islay islandlife Comments (0)

Šljivovica, Anyone?

all seasons in one day 13 °C
View Islay on IainT's travel map.

I’ve written about getting to Islay (and I may also write about getting back) but what’s on offer on the island?

I had 48 hours there, so it was enough time to get a flavour without being long enough for a proper appreciation. It was mid May, so the days were long. On the other hand the weather was a bit... Scottish. The wind did mean my visit was midge free - another positive!

The whole Islay experience is too much for a single blog post, so this is part 1.

If you like malt whisky - of the island variety, which is very different to the likes of Speyside - it must be heaven. I do like it, but I was in the middle of one of my regular dry spells so a whiff of the angels’ share was good enough for me.

Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich

You’ll find 8 distilleries on Islay, and a ninth is being built. With a tiny bit of effort (5 minutes on a ferry and a few minutes on a bus) you could also visit the one on Jura.

Jura Ferry

Jura Ferry

Lagavulin is across the road from the bed and breakfast I stayed in. Laphroaig and Ardbeg are an easy stroll from there. Bowmore is smack in the of the town of the same name - you’ll pass it. Bruichladdich is on the road to Port Charlotte.

Lagavulin

Lagavulin

Off the beaten track, you’ll find Kilchoman. It’s worth a special mention as it’s Scotland’s second smallest distillery, and it’s very new. It started production in 2005 and is on a farm. The cow shed was converted.

Kilchoman

Kilchoman

To get there you leave the Port Charlotte road for the single track road to Machir Bay for about 5 miles. I had coffee and a scone in their cafe - a pleasant spot and excellent home baking.

Nice Spot

Nice Spot

Bunnahabhain is also hidden from view along a single track road, but on the other side of the island facing Jura.

Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain

The only one I didn’t see is Caol Ila, which is also away from the main roads not far from Port Askaig.

I sometimes wondered if I was “missing out” by not doing a couple of tours and sampling some of the goodies. Everyone else seemed to be getting stuck in! Well it’ll still be there next time I visit.

I also have to admit having done more than my fair share of distillery tours - Strathisla, Glenfiddich, Glen Moray and Glenfarclas on Speyside, Blair Atholl in Pitlochry, Bushmills in Northern Ireland, and even the Père Magloire Calvados distillery in Normandy.

I shouldn’t forget Keti’s dad’s home made šljivovica (plum brandy) sampled in his house near Despotovac (Serbia) during a massive thunderstorm. Long story, that... My eyesight may recover eventually.

Posted by IainT 07:15 Archived in Scotland Tagged whisky scotland islay islandlife Comments (0)

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