God’s Isle – Welcome to the Isle of Gigha
“Welcome to God’s Isle”. So said the friendly sign welcoming my family and I on our arrival on the Isle of Gigha one of the jewels of the Inner Hebrides and the furthest south of the chain.
The island is approximately five and a half miles long by one and a quarter miles wide. The unusually mild climate and quiet undulating roads make the Isle of Gigha a Walkers and Cyclists paradise.
Afte departing from the regular Cal Mac Ferry from Tayinloan on the west coast of Scotland, my family and I drove the steep slip road that wound its way through to the main road at the only village, Ardminish. From here we made our way slowly down to the extreme south of the island. The single track road ends at a short Pier adjacent to what looks like an old, stone storehouse with a solitary wooden bench outside. There are gorgeous views from here over to the Kintyre peninsula and the nearby islands of Gigalum and Cara. In 2016 Gigalum was advertised for sale at around £450,000 which would be cheaper than buying a one bedroomed flat in London! This article shows what you would be acquiring for your nearly half a million pounds.
Heading back from the Pier, we next passed the Village Hall, a detached building that is the hub of activity on the island as well as being used for public meetings and private functions. The Hall is located opposite the entrance footpath to Achamore Gardens, which would be our next destination.
Achamore Gardens are a mile and a half south of Ardminish. The gardens were the vision of Sir James Horlicks, who made his money from the famous chocolate drink. He lived here until his death in 1972. Gardeners from all over the world come to marvel at the myriad of exotic plants, shrubs and trees.
There was no main entrance to the gardens, just an informal honesty box that asked for a small contribution towards the upkeep of the gardens.
There were two walks available, one that lasted an hour, the other a more leisurely two. We decided that the one hour trail was for us, so we set off and followed the appropriate trail markers. As we slowly walked around, my daughter was inquisitively running around each corner. The rich summer colours, subtle shades and fantastic shapes, so rarely seen by a child of tender years, enchanted her. The warm, damp conditions created a natural humidity that enveloped us like a dense fog in a black and white horror film.
All too soon we arrived back at the entrance and wished that we had taken the two hour trail. Our fingers traced the route on the wooden map. “We can come back another day”, I said to my daughter, which seemed to placate her for a while.
After this splendid walk we returned to the car and drove up to Kilchatten (or St Cathan’s) Church and graveyard, which dates from around the 13th century. The Church became derelict in the 18th century. In order to preserve the Church, conservation is underway to keep this important monument from falling into any further disrepair. On the south of the road opposite the lower end of the graveyard, there was an old well dedicated to St Cathan. Unfortunately, the specific position of the well has now been lost.
Next to investigate was the north of the island. Most of the amenities and housing is in the south of the island, so the north is sparser, but no less spectacular. The main attraction (if you can call it that) is the ‘Giants Tooth’. It is a large Bronze Age Standing Stone, also known as the Hanging Stone, believed to be because criminals were hanged from the top of it.
Next, we headed back to the Gigha Hotel near the main village. The only Hotel on the island, it is an imposing, brooding piece of architecture which dominated the surrounding scenery. The Ferry was not due for another hour, so we found a table in front of the main window and greedily demolished the excellent coffee and biscuits provided by the friendly lady on reception.
As the hour rescinded, we boarded the ferry and made a promise to visit ths beautiful island again. The next time, we will stay overnight and experience life on the Isle of Gigha at a more leisurely pace.