The Isle of Colonsay and its unassuming charms
So often the biggest challenge when it comes to visiting Scotland’s Isles is knowing which ones to squeeze into your Scotland itinerary. The simple fact is that everyone I know who has experienced the islands of Scotland has their own favourites. Their are obvious unmissables such as Skye and Mull, and there are those a little further off the beaten track that offer more subtle delights. The Isle of Colonsay falls into the latter category.
Like so much of this part of the world, it’s all about the beaches. Kiloran Beach is the best known and with good reason. Beautiful sands, rock pools and near-total serenity are why the west of Scotland has some of the world’s best beaches. There are even nearby caves that can be explored. Everything about this serene spot is pretty much picture-perfect.
Amongst the highlights is the Isle of Colonsay’s golf course. First impressions can be misleading. What stranger could guess at its long evolution, apparently first played in 1775. More recently it was home to a small military base during World War 2. The island’s airstrip was once part of the course but when it was tarmacked in 2006 changes to the course’s layout were made. The 18-hole Machrins course on the west of the island sits on machair land with not one but two beautiful, sandy Hebridean bays forming the western fringe of the course to strain your powers of concentration. Two burns cross the course from east to west and rabbit holes can pop up overnight. Cattle, rabbits and sea breezes present moving hazards to add to the fun and challenge of your round. The sands of the Ardskenish peninsular catch the eye to the southwest and out on the Atlantic stands Dubh Hearteach lighthouse. After that the next stop is Canada. The vista is completed by Dun Ghallain, a cairned headland where a mediaeval fort once stood.
Alternatives include visiting the Colonsay brewery, birdwatching, historical researching and appreciating the Isle’s archaelogical sites. Best of all is simply taking in the wonderful views with relaxing walks in any direction you choose. Be deafened by the silence. Colonsay is a mere 10 miles long and has around 130 inhabitants for you to try and find. I suspect you are likely to see as many of these hairy guys as you are locals.
The Isle of Colonsay can be reached by boat leaving the mainland at Oban. With the exception of winter, boats depart 5 days a week and take a little over 2 hours. I also thoroughly recommend seeing Colonsay as part of an island hopping tour if you have the time. The village of Scalasaig is where the boats dock and where you should stock up before exploring the Isle. Alternatively there is a small airstrip for those that are not fond of sea travel.
A great moment is yours for the taking if you time your trip to coincide with low-tide on southern Colonsay. It is possible to take a beach walk between it and its smaller neignbour, Oronsay. Aside from the short walk between islands, the highlight is the impressive ruins of Oronsay Priory.