" Colonsay "

Date : Wednesday 17th to Friday 19th May 2006.

Occasion : Exploring Colonsay and a walk over to Oronsay.

Location : Colonsay Island, south of Mull north of Islay and Jura - Scottish west coast.

On holiday with : Ann and the two dogs.

Weather : Improving but not consistant.

Colonsay - arrival at Skalasaig


How they solve the height difference problem !

Due to on going maintenance the roll on roll off facility was not available (hence the crane) so there was a slight dilemma as to how they were going to get us off the car deck onto the jetty some five feet higher. Technology came to their aid however, as can be seen if you hold the cursor over the picture.

Safely ashore.

The hotel was just a short drive up from the harbour.

The Colonsay Hotel



The hotel was to be our base for the next few days,

and what a superb place it was,


well deserving of its accolade as runner up

in the "Best Scottish Island Hotel of the Year"


Ann watches the departing ferry from our bedroom window.

Time to get out now and explore the island we had come to see.

Kiloran Bay at the northern end of the island.
Wide horizons, golden sands, missing a bit of sun.

The island is only about seven miles long, ten with Oronsay included, and about three miles wide at its widest.

It was small enough to have that island feel, yet large enough so that there was plenty to see and to explore.

A weather beaten old Scots Pine.
The winding island roads pass a small water supply reservoir.

Next day we walked locally from the hotel to the old village of Riasg Buidhe.

The old abandoned village was further north round the coast, so we started by walking down to the jetty.

The Scots have a different attitude to footpaths and rights of way it seems.

The maps show very few paths, and signposting here and on Arran was not as plentiful as back home. This meant we were sometimes uncertain whether a stile was someone's private path or was in fact the preferred route to follow. Route planning was more difficult as there are few obvious pathways marked on the Ordnance Survey maps. Never mind, open moorland is still open moorland in this part of the world.

A short road walk was followed by a section of rough walking on the vague footpath along the coast.

Wild country here, plenty of seabirds and a first sighting of a Golden Eagle,

rather distant and blurred in the only photo I took (not shown) , but it was unmistakable in its size and wing shape.

Over the brow to find the old village, not on the coast but set back on the hillside.

I believe that it was abandoned in the 1930's when new housing was provided for the villagers close to the harbour.

Riskbuie then . . .
and Raisg Buidhe now.

The hotel had this old picture which I managed to photograph.

We walked back across the high ground

and could see the hills beside Kiloran Bay and the lower hills on the islands west coast, giving a better impressions of the size of the island.

Another local morning walk, this time in better weather. We started by walking down to the harbour to see what all the activity was about.

It wasn't the CalMac contractors as they had finished renovating the jetty mechanis. which they hoped would now be be good for another twenty years.

A coastal barge unloading road stone.
I was intrigued by the little digger below.

The other activity centered around another civil undertaking on the island, the upgrading of the airstrip. Another set of contractors were landing road stone, and a couple of lorries were busily transporting it across the island to where a team of excavators and levellers were making a longer, wider, and hopefully rabbit-free runway.

Ann and Harry at the monument overlooking the bay.

The structure was built to commemorate Lord Colonsay, the one time island Laird.

We continued onward and upward from the monument (on the high ground to the right) and across to an old hill fort known as Dun Eihbinn.

This rock fortress was home Viking Kings in the 11th Century, and later to Somerled and his son Donald (who started the Clan Donald). It belonged to the Macfie's or MacDuffie's in the 13th century and provided many of the Priors for the Priory on Oronsay. It ceased to be used during the 17th century.

A friendly Highland Cow

as we drove towards Oronsay later in the day.

Oronsay is a second island, separated by a tidal causeway from the main island, and open for walkers and traffic for four hours each tide.

Unfortunately in the last few days a visitor's land rover strayed from the main route across the sand and ended up having to be abandoned to the sea.

Yesterday , the coastguard, the local farmers and even some of the contractors were all out trying to recover the vehicle, which they managed to do successfully after the first tide.

With a lot of cleaning up and some electrical repairs it should survive to tell the tale.

The sun was shining today as we made our way across the causeway.

Oronsay from Colonsay mainland.

Our route passes to the left of the grassy island !

We followed the tide out as it receded across the sand.

However, the owner of the Oronsay farm was more confident of his route and of the causeway itself.

He braved water a foot deep as he crossed to the island, but at least it showed us the route we needed to follow.

We diverted slightly and didn't hurry.


Soon the causeway was dry enough to cross

without taking off our boots,

though I piggy-backed Ann for a short way 'cos her boots were shorter !


Low tide, and the mussels and seaweed

were plentiful on the rocks.


A new island for us as we completed our crossing of the causeway.

Black sheep - variety unknown.

A mile across the causeway and another mile on the island road brought us to the ancient priory.

This was an important religious centre in the 14th Century and for the next two hundred years. The ruins are remarkably well preserved.

The Cloisters

Carved grave stones
part of a fine collection kept under cover.


Close up of the old stone cross from the first photo.
More modern graves in the Priory grounds.


Back now across the island and the causeway to the car.


Oronsay was a delightful place and well worth a visit, and the four hour time limit was sufficient for our particular trip.


To explore this island more fully it would be better to cross on a rising tide and cross back on the next falling one, giving yourself more like eight hours on shore.


There was plenty of scenery and wildlife to fill that amount of time.


- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with a Canon IXUS 400 Digital camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . . a good local tide table.

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