Colonsay is one of the smallest inhabited islands in the Hebrides. Together with its sister island Oransay, the islands cover an area roughly ten miles long by two miles wide. They are situated south of Mull and west of Jura off the west coast of Scotland. Colonsay can trace its roots back to 7,000BC and all over the island you can find evidence of Iron-Age forts and duns and an abandoned village that was inhabited until 1918.
Legend has it that Columba visited Oransay on his journey from Ireland; however on climbing the highest hill he could still just see the coast of Ireland so he sailed on and ended up founding the religious community on Iona. However, the magnificent priory on Oransay, much of which is still standing to this day, was founded by the Augustinians in the early 14th century. It became an important religious centre for Argyll and the islands over the next two hundred years. The gravestones and ruins are well preserved and worth a visit.
Most visitors are attracted to Colonsay for its unspoilt natural beauty and tranquillity. The island offers the visitor a wide variety of attractions, including the famous Kiloran Bay that has over a mile of crescent-shaped golden sand that faces the westerly wind where rollers are often big enough for surfing. Some reports say that this bay is the favourite beach in the entire world for our present Queen. There are miles of unspoilt beaches on the island, waiting for you to discover them; each have their own characteristics and are favoured by much of the wildlife on the island, including otters, seals, wild goats and golden eagles.
Every Saturday during the season, there is a ceilidh in the island hall near the pier when visitors are very welcome. Islanders and visitors are encouraged to contribute to the entertainment.
Things to Do
- Climb the 22 McPhies (hills over 300 feet). Seemingly, you can climb them all in one day!
- Visit Oransay and its Priory
- Come and visit the ancestral home of the Clan McPhie. Check out the island's family, natural and human history here
- Hire bicycles from Archie McConnell (01951 200355)
- Go to one of the ceilidhs in the village hall held throughout the summer
- Play golf on the challenging, natural 18-hole golf links that is a unique experience!
- Visit Colonsay House Gardens which are noted for their extensive collection of species of rhododendron and azalea
- Visit the Colonsay Brewery which is a micro-brewery brewing a range of great tasting ales. Colonsay is the smallest island in the world that has it's own brewery.
- Fishing on any of the lochs.
- A new annual event started in 2011 - the Festival of Spring features guided walks, talks, exhibitions and much more. Details and programme of events here
- Birdwatching for the elusive corncrake or the many other species that inhabit the island.
- Eat out at The Colonsay Hotel next door or at The Pantry near the pier
- Visit the Colonsay Bookshop which has a wide range of local books and crafts.
- See what you can find beachcombing – maybe you can find lots of beautiful cowrie shells.
- Come to the annual folk festival (Cèol Cholasa) in September
- Visit the well-stocked local shop
If you are looking for somewhere to stay on the way to or from the island, why not try the Crianlarich Hotel, which is owned by a Colonsay family. Just mention Colonsay for a special rate.