Colonsay and its tiny neighbour Oronsay, separated only at high tide, are tranquil places to visit. Many people come here simply to slow down, relax and immerse themselves in nature. But if you want to get active, there are plenty of options to keep you busy. This tiny island group, just 10 miles long by two miles wide, has a remarkably diverse landscape offering all sorts of great activities, from McPhie bagging to cave explorations. If you’re looking for an active family holiday in a stunning island setting, you can’t beat Colonsay. And while you’re out and about exploring, you’ll see some wonderful wildlife and fascinating history too.
Hire a bike and cycle around the island. With quiet roads and few hills, Colonsay is ideal for cycling – particularly with kids. And remember, you can bring your bike free of charge on the CalMac ferry. You can also hire bikes, including children’s bikes and tag-alongs, on the island from Archie’s Bikes in Kilchattan. Hire them for the day or the week. Call Archie or Jan on 01951 200355.
Bag the McPhies
One of the highlights of a visit to Colonsay is the opportunity to ‘bag’ the MacPhies of Colonsay and Oronsay. A MacPhie is defined as a point over 300ft on the islands and there are 22 of them which can be bagged in a single 20-mile walk. Or why not just bag a few of them? The MacPhies can be linked together, but it’s not a way-marked trail with paths. Some are harder to negotiate than others!
There are lots of other lovely walks for all abilities on Colonsay and Oronsay. The walk across The Strand to Oronsay is a must do. You can stroll across at low tide; it’s about two miles each way but you will need to check the tides carefully. Once there, check out the magnificent ruins of the Augustinian priory on Oronsay. Take a look at the Visit Colonsay walking guides, covering options from beach strolls to woodland ambles.
Everyone is welcome to play a round of golf on the 18-hole Colonsay Golf Course. The course is reputedly over 200 years old, having first been played in 1775. It’s a beautiful setting on indigenous machair looking out over two sandy bays. Just pay the green fees, £5 per round per person, at the Colonsay Hotel or the Colonsay Estate Office.
Colonsay is home to some stunning beaches, and Kiloran Bay is perhaps the finest. This huge expanse of soft sand is sometimes pounded by Atlantic breakers making it a good spot for surfing. Do check the surfing conditions with the locals before you give it a go.
There are some cracking caves on Colonsay. The caves at the north end of Kiloran Bay are pretty accessible and easy to explore. A visit to the New Cave at the southern end of the beach requires a bit more planning. Also known as Uamh Ur and the Crystal Spring Cavern, this is a large three chambered cave. Be careful though. Don’t go alone, notify a third party about your plans and take a torch (and at least one back-up torch).
On the fly
Fly fishing is a wonderful way to experience Colonsay. The island’s lochs are managed to conserve the native brown trout, a distinct strain that is a descendant of the fish introduced by the monastic community of Kiloran Abbey. You can fly fish with a permit from March 17 to October 6. Buy permits from the Colonsay Hotel.
Take a boat trip
Take to the water and enjoy an exhilarating boat trip from Colonsay. It’s a great way to explore the coastline, visit other islands and see some of the incredible marine wildlife around Colonsay’s shores. Cameron and Struan Smith operate Coastal Connection, with fast charter boats operating all year round. They run boat trips to and from Colonsay.
If all this activity leaves you feeling peckish, here’s some of the Colonsay food and drink you have to try.
Find out more about things to see and do on Islay, Jura and Colonsay.