“ The Isle of Gigha is the most southerly and one of the most beautiful of the Hebridean Islands. Seven miles long by a mile and a half wide, Gigha is situated three miles west of the Kintyre peninsular, approximately three hours drive from the City of Glasgow. „
A group of people who I was doing an open university course with became pretty close and we decided to have a road trip. One of the girls lived on this island and suggested we have our meet there. I have never been into travelling, probably because of my age and other commitments but I was so excited to be going along and exploring a new place.
Before going I looked at the website which gives you idea's of activities, places to stay and things to do. There are lso pictures provided but unless you go yourself you cannot understand just how beautiful the views are.
Firstly The Isle Of Gigha (pronounced Gee-a) is a hebridean island that is situated around 3 hours drive from Glasgow. There is a bus available for travelling to it but I can't say I would enjoy not having the freedom to stop and take pictures of the gorgeous scenery on the way there. The main part of the drive is driving round a gorgeous loch which has stunning picture opportunities. If you have the chance to get down near the water and experience the full potential of the loch then do so as it is truly stunning!
You do have to get a ferry from the mainland at Tayinloan over to the island. The ferry's run every hour on the hour and are run by Caledonian Macbrayne and cost around £3.25 for a foot passenger and £12 odds for a car. These are only one way but returns can be purchased. Once aboard the ferry you are able to go to the top deck to experience the beautiful scenery on offer. With the journey taking around 20 minutes there is plenty time to take as many pictures as you want.
On arrival at Gigha you can either go to your destination be it a campsite, persons home or hotel or you can roam the island. There is only 1 road so it's impossible to get lost. The scenery is breathtaking, with hiking, cycling and boating opportunities you can get around very easily. There are a couple of little shops, 1 selling general groceries and another that sells handmade jewellery at reasonable prices. A church and farms are also on the island along with some houses, a school, soctors surgery and fire station but there is not much else.
There are beautiful gardens that you can roam along with a hall that enables you to hold parties and weddings in. With beautiful photo opportunities you would be really lucky to get married here.
It was pretty warm the full time we were there, despite there being rain on and off the full weekend. Generally it seems that the weather is majority warm and comfortable.
Everyone is really friendly and happy to help out with directions, the best spots for pretty pictures and stunning scenery. It really is perfection. The beaches are quiet but white and sandy. Who needs spain when you have an island as gorgeous as this basically on the doorstep. This is a very special place and I will be visiting for a long time to come.
Gigha is the most special island I know.The people are so friendly and welcoming.The hotel is excellent, with super views and a warm friendly welcome. The meals are brilliant, with a fish option landed that day on Gigha.The island is simply beautiful and gives everyone a great sense of peace.Why not visit it?
feel quite nervous about writing this review as I really want to do the place justice. It has a very special place in my heart, but I am afraid that, as I describe it, you will think "what's the big deal". You see Gigha (pronounce gee-a), is an island of subtle charms, a connoisseur's choice, an acquired taste. No flashy shops here, no restaurant upon restaurant, and certainly no night-clubs. Instead
Well I don't want to jump the gun; you will have to read on.
~So how do I get there?~
Gigha is situated on the west coast of Scotland, three miles west of the Kintyre peninsula. It is about three hours away from the City of Glasgow by car (but it can be longer in summer, as the road is not very conducive to overtaking caravans), followed by a quick half hour by ferry. You can also take a bus from Glasgow, which is alright the first time you travel that way, as the scenery is breathtaking, but the pleasures of sightseeing soon wear off against the longest and most uncomfortable ride of your life (4 hours without a toilet anyone?).
The ferry link is operated by Caledonian MacBrayne (or CalMac as it is affectionately known in these parts) and runs every hour on the hour between 9:00 and 17:00 with no ferry at 13:00. There are more ferries in the summer. For more information, go to the Caledonian MacBrayne website. You only need to arrive about 10 minutes before boarding times. A passenger return is £4.90 and it will cost you £17.10 to take your car across, providing it is less than 5 metres. Personally, I would leave the car at the ferry terminal at Tayinloan, unless you have young children or cannot walk very far for whatever reason.
For us, the ferry crossing is part of the magic of a Gigha visit, and even my husband who is a very poor sailor has learnt to enjoy the trip. The ferry is of the roll-on roll-off variety, and if the weather allows, sit on the top deck and enjoy the approach to the island. We have never been lucky enough to see this, but on occasion you can see dolphins in this stretch of water.
After a short time, you are there, the front of the boat drops down, any car gets off first, along with the milk lorry if you are on the first crossing, and then you can walk out, free to explore.
~What is it like?~
The island is only about 7 miles long by one and a half mile wide, which is why you don't need the car. The first thing that I always notice when I go to Gigha is the temperature, always milder than it is on the mainland. I always thought this was just an impression due to my loving the place so much, but when I was researching this review, I found out the scientific basis for this. Apparently, this is due to Gigha being low-lying and influenced by the North-Atlantic drift, which causes the climate to be drier and warmer than on the rest of the west coast.
The place is also very clean, which is noteworthy as this is not always the case in other parts of Scotland. We will see later some of the reasons for the pride the locals take in their community. There are also very few cars, and the few drivers you will encounter are always very mindful of pedestrians. The population of Gigha is around 130, no longer declining and perhaps even increasing. The place does feel lovely and quiet.
As you may have guessed from my mention of dolphins earlier, this is an amazing place for wildlife. Where do I start? Well, just to continue with the sea, there are seals and otters, whales of the Minke, killer and pilot varieties, sea ducks and other sea birds. On the island itself, the wildlife is extremely rich and it is known locally as a birdwatcher's heaven. I don't know an awful lot about it, but if it is an interest of yours, you can buy a book on the island about the wildlife you can see here. The plant life is also very diverse, quite apart from the tropical gardens which I will tell you about later. You can tell from the abundance of lichen on walls and rocks that pollution is not a major problem here.
So, how will you get about without your car? Well, you can walk or you can rent a bike from the shop/post office or from the hotel. I favour the hotel ones as the others are past their best, but hotel customers have priority for renting these, so you might find there aren't any left. But what does it matter if your bike is an old pile of junk, you're not going far and you're in no hurry to get there!!!
~What is there to do?~
Let me tell you about the gardens first, as no visit would be complete without seeing those. A nice short stroll away from the ferry terminal the gardens are very luxuriant, thanks to the clemency of the climate on the island. They are famed particularly for their extensive collection of rhododendrons. If you go in spring, you will be assailed by a palette of vivid or subtle colours that would keep a Monet painting for many years. But let me start at the start. There are several entrances to the garden, but no matter which one you take, you will happen upon a kind of shed. This is where you leave your bike if you cycled here, and this is where you pay, putting your money in the honesty box. Yes, you read me right, you are trusted to do the right thing and pay for your visit. I can't remember how much it costs exactly, but it is not a huge amount. You also see a map of the gardens and are given a choice between following the blue or the green arrows. One itinerary is longer than the other, the blue one I think, and that is the one I would advise you to follow. It takes about two hours to complete and involves going uphill, but trust me, you will not regret it!
If you take the short route, let's call it green for the time being, you will be taken through various gardens mainly around Achamore house, all with their own characteristics. I like the walled gardens with their peacocks. You will be able to admire the rhododendrons and a variety of other trees and flowers. Another thing I like about the gardens is the small details which have been included, as if the gardener was giving you a wink as you walk by. For instance, in one place, there are small men made out of bolts running up a tree. Elswhere, a narrow path waves its way in near darkness among tall bamboos. There are some funny sculptures doted about, but they don't detract from the beauty of the gardens.
The blue route has all this too, but the main bonus for me is the outstanding view over nearby Jura you will get at the top of the hill. Conveniently, there is a bench there and you will want to linger a while.
Now, you are going to think I'm getting carried away. This is Scotland after all; they couldn't have beaches of fine white sand with blue, green and turquoise water, could they? Well, they do! If you explore on your bike, you will find these, many of them secluded, and you know the best bit? There isn't usually anyone else there.
If you're after the ultimate shopping experience, this is not the place for you. There is only one shop/post office, the Gigha stores, but you can find anything you might need, certainly bottled water and sun lotion, snacks and ice-creams. Your typical village shop.
There is a delightful little church which was built in 1923. There are still services there.
The Gigha hotel is lovely. I have personal experience of this as we had our wedding reception here. It wasn't a grand affair, as there were only 8 of us, but we were very well looked after. The food is really excellent, using the local produce to its full potential. The menu usually offers such delights as prawns, clams and lobsters caught by the local fishermen, Scottish lamb and beef and the local Gigha cheese. This is also available to non-residents. The hotel also proposes breakfast to non-residents, which must be popular with the numerous yachters (not sure if there is such a word, but you know what I mean) who frequent the surrounding waters in summer. The rooms are very nice, extremely clean, with great views over the island and the sea. We had flowers in ours, but perhaps that's only because we had just got married. I can't remember how much the rooms or the meal cost, but I know we were quite pleasantly surprised when presented with the bill. And throughout the whole stay nothing was too much trouble.
The pub is part of the hotel and caters for tourists and locals alike (as there is only the one pub!). It does bar meals which you can eat in the garden outside. Whilst perfectly adequate, certainly compared to other places locally, I feel the food is not as nice as it could be. But that is a minor complaint.
~Other places to stay~
There is a number of self-catering cottages and a B&B at the stately Achamore house I mentioned earlier. I fully intend to stay there at some point, and will update this review just as soon as I have done so.
~The Boathouse tearoom~
You can get a selection of homemade goodies from soup to cake, and the coffee is excellent, another rare thing in Scotland. And if the weather allows, you can enjoy all this on the beach, which is great if you have children.
~Places of historical interest~
The whole of Kintyre is littered with duns, standing stones, forts, etc. Gigha being such a beautiful island was occupied very early on and has its fair share of ancient monuments and archaeology. The Vikings, Picts and Scots were all residents at some points and have left traces of their passage. There are a number of standing stones dotted about, and the remains of the 13th Century church of Kilchatan with its elegant lancet window. The floor of the church and surrounding cemetery contain some very interesting grave slabs, at least one of which shows a medieval knight. The island has a fascinating history, too rich to go into now, especially as I am by no means an expert.
Since 15th of March 2002, the island has belonged to its inhabitants, who organised themselves into the Isle of Gigha Community Trust. They have been able to purchase it through various grants but one of the conditions of the Scottish Land Fund grant was that the people of Gigha had to pay back £1 million, of which £200,000 had to come from their own fundraising efforts. Amazingly, the £1 million was paid back two years to the day after the community buyout. Meanwhile, a whole programme of regeneration was being put into place by the people of Gigha and it has been very successful. For instance, Gigha now has the first community owned grid-connected wind farm, which 100% of the community was in favour of. People are coming back to the island, new businesses are starting up and there are 13 children in the primary school where once there were only seven.
As you can see, there are many reasons why the name 'Gudey' (good isle or isle of God') given to the island by the Vikings is an apt one. I could have gone on and talked about the music festival for instance, but I know that if you are interested you will check out gigha.org which I used to check most of the facts in this review. I hope I have given you a sense of what the place is like and why I love it so much.
Thank you for reading.