Sunday, November 19, 2006

Isle of Islay - 2003

Went for a long weekend to Islay. I didn't do a travelogue but did take quite a few pics.

We stayed in a comfortable room behind a pub in Port Charlotte and ate two of our dinners there. One evening we stayed after our meal for a ceilidh. We went on a long hike to Machir Bay (gorgeous!) and had the beach to ourselves for a couple of hours. I recall getting a blister on my foot and not being able to walk all the way back to our room, so Danny went ahead and got the car and came back for me.

The Bruiachladdich distillery had recently reopened and we purchased a bottle, but unfortunately were too late for a tour.

The main town is Bowmore and has lots of shops as well as a round church.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Isle of Colonsay - April 2005

Danny and I spent a week on Colonsay to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. We chose it because it's quiet, has a beautiful landscape, nice beaches, good hill walking and because it's an island neither of us had visited.

We rented a self-catering traditional stone cottage which had unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean. This cottage was rented through Colonsay House Estate. Colonsay Community Website.

Day 1: Hillwalking near our cottage and the golf course. Drizzle but not enough to require rain trousers.

Day 2 & 3: Rain and wind. Power went out midday the second day. Open coal-burning fireplace in the living room was useful for heating water for tea and cooking (our anniversary) dinner. The ferry was cancelled so someone had to be flown in by helicopter the next day to fix the power. It was back on after 24 hours. We took a bike ride completely around the island ('s not very big) in the rain in full rain gear.

Day 4: We had booked a day boat trip on the
Lady Jayne to Jura, however, everyone else had cancelled so that trip was cancelled. So the captain, Kevin Byrne, changed his plans to pick up someone from the Isle of Mull. So we went with him to Mull instead. Beautiful sunny day and a lovely trip.

Day 5: A very long day! We hiked to Balnahard Bay from Kiloran Bay via Balnahard Farm.
Following a walking guide we purchased from the island book shop we took a different route back. We climbed the hills to the south of the bay to follow the coastline, then went inland. This proved to be a big mistake! There were many bogs to traverse, heather to walk through and steep hills to come down. There were also new barbed wire fences to climb over which proved a huge challenge. We recommend this route is NOT followed. The owner of the bookshop mentioned to us later that there is a deep pit in the area we were walking through that is impossible to see until you fall down it.....! However, we did thoroughly enjoy the walk to the beach and our long lunch on the beach. The sand and the colour of the sea there is gorgeous!

Day 6: Oronsay Island. We crossed the long strand which connects Colonsay and Oransay at low
tide. Oransay has the ruins of a 14th century Augustinian Priory. There is a building on the site with many well-preserved burial slabs. Well worth the walk but make sure you get back before high tide or you are stuck!

Day 7: Last day and the 4th sunny day in a row. We packed up and had to leave our cottage by 1.30 in order for it to be cleaned for the next tenants. The ferry only leaves in the evening so we had until 7.35pm to explore what we hadn't yet seen. Colonsay House Gardens are open to the public from 3-5 on Fridays and are quite beautiful. We also spent quite a bit of time on Kiloran Beach and walking around the surrounding area.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Isle of Skye - summer 2002

The Isle of Skye is one of Scotland's better known islands is has an enormous amount of great trails to hike. A great book with details of hikes: Collins Rambler's Guide - Isle of Skye

During the summer of 2002 we went to Skye (twice) to go hill-walking and bike riding.

The first trip we spent a night in Morar (about 3 miles from Mallaig) and rode our bikes from there to Arisaig to see all the lovely white beaches. We had the best fish and chips dinner ever at the Morar Hotel in the pub. You could tell the fish had been out swimming earlier that day.

Next day we took the ferry from Mallaig to Skye and went hillwalking on the Storr, just north of the town of Portree. We had to wear full raingear and the higher we got, the foggier it got. We walked right into the clouds. We couldn't go past the sanctuary (just below the Old Man of Storr) because of visibility. It was easy to see what an incredible landscape it was and we decided to return on a day with better visibility.

Photo: from the top of Storr

We spent the night in Plockton - a popular village where the tv series Hamish Macbeth was filmed - and went to a celidh that evening after dinner. We returned home the next day passing by Eilean Donan Castle.

In checking the weather the following week we saw that the weather on Skye was due to be sunny and warm for at least two days, so we repacked and set off again.

We hiked all the way to the top of Storr which gained us stunning views. The weather was incredible - high 70's F and sunny.

Photo: The old men of Storr!

The next day we hiked part of the South Duirinish Coast Walk - the entire walk is 18 miles. We hiked from Orbost House to Macleods Maidens on Idrigill Point. Same perfect weather. In fact, the Skye and the Western Isles had the best weather in all Britain. Unfortunately, no longer being used to constant hot sun we didn't take precautions and got sunburned!

Photos: the South Duirinish Coast Walk

I highly recommend a trip to Skye whether to hike, bike or just take a drive around the island. It's absolutely gorgeous!!