I have recently come back from a tour of the Slate islands (Seil, Easdale and Luing) and the Isle of Gigha. As usual, I had a fantastic week, made even better by the spectacular weather. As I think I have mentioned before, I usually go to Scotland in April or May (over Easter if I’m taking the kids) and so far I’ve been really lucky with the weather. There has been the odd bad day, but generally, the weather is great and best of all – no midges!
Although I’d been to all of the above islands before, it was great to visit them again. I visited parts of all these islands that I had not visited before. Originally, I had planned to visit the Garvellachs and Colonsay, but unfortunately there were very few trips running as it was very early in the season. Although,on the plus side, this gives me a good excuse to go back, which I will be doing over July and August – see Small Isles and Colonsay Tour
Firstly, I visited the isle of Seil and although I had been several times previously, I’d never been to Balvicar – so this was my first point of call. I took some photo’s of the Golf Club and the village itself and also the area on the way done to the Isle of Easdale. Finally, I must give a mention to the Oyster Bar and Restaurant at Ellenabeich, where I had possibly the finest meal I’ve ever had – washed down with several ‘Avalanches’ – a lovely real ale from Fyne Ales.
At the Isle of Easdale, I completed the Heritage Trail, which is a lovely 20-30 minute walk around the island. Again, I had been to Easdale several times, but I had never walked to it’s highest point or around the abandoned slate quarries. This gave a whole new perspective to the island. Finally, I went stone skimming, which always takes me back to my childhood. I spent a good half an hour skimming stones with my family. Unfortunately I didn’t win our mini-competition, but I came a very creditable second.
The next island I visited was the Isle of Gigha. I has previously visited here about 8 or 9 years ago – so I was quite excited to return. Once on the island, I first made for the pier at the southern end of the island, where I took some excellent photo’s – including some of the neighbouring island of Cara. From here I went to Kilchattan Chapel, which became derelict in the 18th century and read about the conservation work that has been undertaken to preserve this important monument. I then went to the north of the island and photographed the ‘Giant’s Tooth’ – also known as the Hanging Stone. This is perhaps the best known of the prehistoric monuments on Gigha. It looks like an enormous incisor embedded in the ground, but as the latter name suggests, it is believed to have been once used as a place of execution. I then had an excellent lunch at the Isle of Gigha Hotel and walked some of the meal off with a meandering jaunt down to RudhaChinnMhoir Beach near the Hotel. This is a lovely little spot and there are many other excellent beaches on the island.
The last island I visited was the Isle of Luing. I had visited here a couple of years ago, but I wanted to see more of the island – specifically Blackmill Bay at the southern end of the island. Firstly, I visited the islands main settlement of Cullipool and walked up to the stunning St Peter’s Episcopal Church, which overlooks the village. I took some great photo’s of the church and the village and then made my way to the islands only shop, the Isle of Luing Store and Post Office. Here, I got chatting to Ann, one of the owners of the Store, who had moved to the island from the north of England. She explained to me that she absolutely loved life on the island and that it was the best decision she had ever made.
Eventually, I was able to visit Blackmill Bay and this has to be one of my favourite spots on any island. It overlooks the Isle of Scarba and is a really quiet, picturesque location. However, the story of Blackmill Bay is very interesting. It used to be the main port on the island during the 19th century. Passengers, freight and live animals were transferred to and from the Steamers that plied from the Firth of Clyde to Inverness. The remains of the old wooden Pier and the Ticket Office are all that is left of this once thriving port.
Once again, I had a fantastic time visiting the islands. I’m already making plans for my next visit, as I continue to be enthralled by wonder of the Scottish islands.