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05/10/2015

#Isleathon | Island hopping from Bute to Colonsay

Isleathon Challenge to Colonsay

Adventures Around Scotland discover Bute & Colonsay during #Isleathon

If you want to undertake a unique island hopping adventure then I highly recommend spending 3 days on a memorable expedition involving eye-popping scenery, thousands of years of history, deserted beaches and several panoramic ferry rides as you follow the west coast by land and water from the sheltered Clyde to the wild Atlantic.

Recently I undertook this journey for myself as part of the #Isleathon campaign with #Scotlanders and CalMac to showcase as many of the magnificent west coast Scottish islands as we could over a long weekend.

For those wanting to get off the usual island tourist trail you couldn't pick two more diverse and underrated Scottish destinations to visit than the Isle of Bute and the Isle of Colonsay.

CalMac Ferry

Bute sits nestled in the Firth of Clyde, just a stones throw from the mainland.  Although only 15 miles by 4 miles, it is home to approx 6500 residents, making it one of the most densely populated Scottish islands

It's groomed gardens and palm tree lined promenade benefit from the mild climate created by the Gulf Stream and evidence of it's popularity as a Victorian holiday destination can be seen in the period architecture and features in the main town of Rothesay.

Travelling from Glasgow it is possible to reach the CalMac ferry terminal at Wemyss Bay in under an hour, with the crossing to Bute taking approx 35 minutes, the hustle and bustle of city life quickly becomes a distant memory as you sail in to Rothesay Harbour.

 

I started my adventure on a Friday and could easily have filled my day visiting attractions in and around the main town, however I opted to leave the Victorian facades behind and spend the day travelling much further back in time on the south of the island.  I was drawn to three historic gems; the mysterious Blackpark Stone Circle, the imposing Dunagoil Iron-Age Hillfort and the atmospheric remains of St Blane's Church and Monastery which provide a fascinating insight into life on Bute, hundreds and thousands of years ago. 

 St Blane's Church

I also managed to visit a couple of secluded beaches, savour the scenic views to Arran and enjoy some tasty local food at the Kingarth Hotel.  There are many more popular attractions on Bute including the magnificent Mount Stuart House, however a trip to the southern end of the island provides a completely different experience and is well worth the effort

 

The following morning I barely had time to blink on the five minute journey across the Kyles of Bute on the first of three CalMac ferries that would transport me to Colonsay.

Driving up Argyll's Secret Coast from Colintraive to Portavadie is always a treat and I had just enough time to stop at one of my favourite viewpoints to get a look back at Bute stretching before me, with the toy sized CalMac ferry travelling to and fro.

The ferry crossing from Portavadie takes you to the scenic village of Tarbert and on any other day I would relish a stop here, however another ferry awaited at nearby Kennacraig which would navigate me along the Sound of Islay to my final destination.

Tighnabruaich viewpoint looking towards Bute

My journey terminated at Colonsay, which sits exposed to the Atlantic on the west with only a lighthouse separating it from Canada.  Slightly smaller than Bute at 10 miles by 2 miles, it is one of the most remote communities in Britain with the small population of approx 135 inhabitants spread across the island in little residential pockets.  A narrow road circles around this Hebridean gem, past varied scenery and freely roaming sheep which far outnumber the people.

Kiloran Beach, Colonsay

On arriving at the main settlement of Scalasaig I managed a quick stop at the Brewery for an essential pick up of local beer before heading to my accommodation at Colonsay House.  Being such a small island, exploring is easy and I spent the next day and a half enjoying the natural wonders from walking barefoot on the sands of the stunning Kiloran Bay to completing the short climb to the Lord Colonsay Monument with fantastic views over Scalasaig to Jura.  As the tide went out I walked across the Strand on the south of the island which provides a connection with neighbouring Oronsay at low tide and although I didn't have time to wait for the water to recede completely, I still managed to almost get within touching distance!

View from the Lord Colonsay Monument

The beauty of the island is captured in the wild natural landscape, although I do recommend a visit to the interesting man-made Heritage Centre and the gardens at Colonsay House where you can find an unusual carved stone believed to date from the 7th or 8th Century.

Just as I was beginning to fully embrace life at an island pace, my boat back to the mainland was drawing ever closer.  An excellent pre-ferry dinner at the Colonsay Hotel set me up nicely for the journey ahead and all too soon I had arrived in Oban, the starting point of many an island adventure and in this case the end of mine.

 

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