Photo by Peter Taylor
This little Scottish island can quickly steal your heart away, and for many it has. Nestled on the west coast of Scotland, between the islands of Islay and Jura and the mainland of the Kintyre peninsula, Gigha (pronounced with a hard ‘g’ - Gee-ah), has an extensive history contained with its six mile long and one and a half mile wide stretch of land.
The ferry from Tayinloan on the mainland is less than a half hour journey to the terminal at Ardminish. One of the many things Gigha gives you is the island experience without the overwhelming journey to get there. If you are driving to Gigha, the journey around Loch Lomond and down the A83 towards Tarbert is unforgettable. But stepping onto Gigha itself is a treat for both the soul and the feet.
Why do visitors return to Gigha?
Photo by Peter Taylor
It could be the natural grace of the people and the land itself. Or perhaps it’s the opportunities to camp, stay in a Bed & Breakfast, rent one of the several cottages overlooking the sea, or another tucked away in a quiet den of trees that warrant the addiction. Maybe it is the assurance of a delicious meal at the award winning Boathouse Café, or a romantic dining experience at the Gigha Hotel. Up for a walk around the enchanting Achamore Gardens, anyone? Or test out your new driver on the nine hole golf course? A walk up to the North end will reward you with magnificent views of the Paps of Jura and the splendid outline of its Islay neighbor. It looks like you could reach out and touch them both. But the breadth and beauty of the sea is a visual reminder that indeed you can not, so you might as well take a picnic, and a camera, and utterly enjoy the tranquility you will find by witnessing such a sight!
What is there to do on a small island?
Walking along the main road, which runs from the south to the north end of Gigha, one can observe the working farms and sense the attachment the people here have to the land. Many families here are direct descendants of the original settlers of Gigha. There is a vibrant sense of history on this little island dating back to the Bronze Age. Viking influence can also be seen in the burials left behind in the North end of the island. There are several standing stones to inspect, as well as oral history ready to be bequeathed by some of the locals.
The views from the 13th century designed Kilchatten Church are breathtaking. The ruins of the church are delicate but much has been done to keep a few walls intact and the grounds clean. It is a small area but full of well preserved grave-slabs of some of the original inhabitants. There is an undisputed sense of sacredness about the place set on the side of a hill overlooking Kintyre. A few yards up from the church ruins stands the ‘Ogham Stone’, a Pictish influenced monolith that is roughly translated as Fiacal, son of Coemgen.
Take a tour of the Achamore Gardens, famous for the variety of splendid Rhododendrons and gentle strolls that can zip you into an extraordinarily fragrant world.
Walk to the South Pier and watch the fisherman tie up and unload their catch of the day. The view over to Cara, Gigha’s little sister island, is also another sight that should not be missed. It is easy to allow the imagination to become as windswept as the environment.