Sign up to Simon Calder’s free travel email for weekly expert advice and money-saving discounts
Get Simon Calder’s travel email
Nwest of Scalasaig on the island of Colonsay, the single track road took me to the beach where I fell in love. It was raining, naturally, and I walked aimlessly towards the ocean, the golden curve of Kiloran Bay curling against a lip of machair and a hill spotted with black-faced sheep. I looked around and realized I could see wavelengths of light bleeding through the clouds, making the sand shimmer and shine. It was the start of two heart-filled days that felt uplifting and full of possibilities.
Looking for a car-free fall getaway and googling “last minute availability,” I stumbled across the home page of the new Passport of the Scottish Islands app: Coincidentally, it had been released this spring. Featuring a stunning image of whales landing in a crystal blue sea, the free app is a gateway to Scotland’s inhabited islands, many of which most travelers will never have heard of. Everywhere is covered, from Kerrera in Argyll to Wyre in Orkney to Fetlar in Shetland, and the idea is simple; with so many to choose from, the app plays matchmaking, helping you decide where your next vacation will be based on what appeals to you. It’s Tinder for tartan-eyed travelers. A Love Island app for thalassophiles. And even if you don’t have any knowledge of Scotland, you could have a fair stab at it (plus flirty emojis and GSOH abbreviations don’t apply).
Mike paired up with Colonsay
There are 72 islands listed in the app, and by selecting keywords that appealed to my personality (seafood, beach walk, gin, distillery, festivals), it filtered through dozens of profiles, linking between me and the slender island of Colonsay, a hideaway on the fringes of the South Hebrides. I imagined a hotel by the sea with lobster casually piled outside, a quiet local pub with a fire, a big sky under which to cycle and walk along the beach. More than that, a place of stillness.
“Known as ‘The Jewel of the Hebrides’, Colonsay is renowned for its sandy bays, stunning natural scenery, rich diversity of flora and fauna and fascinating archaeological sites,” read the island’s app profile. It was the push I needed – I booked a return CalMac Oban ferry, a bike from Colonsay bikes and boardsand landed at Scalasaig harbor the following week, albeit in a driving rain.
The app plays matchmaking, helping you decide where your next vacation could be based on what appeals to you. It’s Tinder for tartan-eyed travelers
The courtship began at the Colonsay Hotel, both an inn with a soul rooted in the sea and a tribute to the community that lives on the island. In the reception room was a handwritten tide weather forecast, with walls hung with photographs of lonely crops and shields. Connected to the lounge with a fire was a cozy pub, the only one on the island. Alone there, my great pleasure was to hear the cadence of the rain falling outside, and then to discover Colonsay Beer Co. wings by the wood fire. You don’t get that kind of solitude on Skye.
Dinner in the hotel restaurant that night was seafood with a violin soundtrack, and I had the wedding app to thank for the oysters, butter scallops and soft lobster. It was hard to shake the thought that the same thing would happen again tomorrow. It was great, but it turned out to be the only option – during my stay, the Colonsay Pantry The cafe overlooking the harbor was closed in the evening.
Enjoying a beer at the local brewery
Much of Colonsay’s appeal has to do with the way it feels like a secret island, even though it clearly isn’t. Only 125 people live there, about half as many as in winter, and of the dozen or so houses in the sprawling village of Kilchattan, for example, 11 are rented out as holiday homes. Without a doubt, it puts the microscope on the issue of the lack of social housing for the islanders. And for those looking for a couple romance, get this: only two kids live there. The prospect of the daily ferry call of visitors is what keeps the island moving. That and a deeply felt sense of determination.
In a way, this is also an island that changes through the centuries. In the Palladian mansion Colonsay House, the seat of the 5th Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal and now a series of cottages and self-catering apartments, the atmosphere is that of a Victorian country estate. There, I wandered through his Wonderland garden, complete with knotted rhododendrons, fountains, and tea room. In the south of the island, across the tide that separates Colonsay from its sister island Oronsay, the building of an Augustinian priory built in 1353 changes the time period to medieval. Elsewhere, there are critical stones and wild goats said to be survivors of a Spanish Armada shipwreck in 1588.
Oysters and scallops are on the menu
While the app has been designed to connect you to a range of nature, beaches and activities along Scotland’s coastline, it has also been created to support the people and communities that live there. And while Colonsay remains an old-hearted destination, it has a hint of contemporary resonance. Next to the Colonsay Hotel, an easy stroll along a farm track patrolled by hip-swaying sheep, new look Colonsay Smokery it’s back in the spotlight today: the room, permeated with the scent of cured Atlantic salmon, opened this summer.
Another measure of the island’s new life can be had at one of the two competing gin distilleries, Spirit of Wild Thyme in Kilchattan and Savage Island, a short potter from the Scalasaig hotel. On a day when dark skies matched angry seas, it didn’t take much persuasion to pop into the nearest one for a taste (free, assuming you buy a bottle, which I did). I was impressed by his High Croft bramble.
Although Colonsay remains an old-hearted destination, it has a touch of contemporary resonance
Seafood, a seductive beach walk, gin sipping and a distillery were enjoyed during my two days (too bad I arrived a week too early for the annual autumn). Food and drink festival), it was time to catch the afternoon ferry back to the mainland. The end of this whirlwind romance was met with a rough sea, heavy rain and the outline of Colonsay slowly receding into a splatter of ink.
Are we made for each other? Wide and beautiful, but quiet and simple, Colonsay drew me in in a way that Arran, Islay or Mull never could, and with a couple of simple taps and dabs of apps, I got almost all my kicks. I’m not off the market yet, but there may be another trip to the South Hebrides for next year.
Oban can be reached by train from Glagow in just over three hours. The CalMac ferry from Oban to Colonsay takes 2 hours 20 minutes.
The Colonsay Hotel has rooms from £89, B&B.
FAIR-USE COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER
Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as citation, syndication, criticism, commenting, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by the copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational, or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.
-This article has no negative impact on the original works (It would actually be positive for them).
-This article is also for teaching and inspirational purposes.
– It is not transformative in nature