Wully Davidson’s Blog: Isle of Gigha
Bus Pass Ramblings – August 2021
Tayinloan Village – Ferry Terminal
Today’s trip would take me to the small island of Gigha, a few miles west of the Mull of Kintyre. The Campbeltown bus from Glasgow left Buchanan St at 0910, and arrived at Tayinloan village at 1253. A half hour later, it would arrive in Campbeltown.
The bus didn’t go to Tayinloan ferry terminal, so I had a half mile walk from the village. There’s a ferry every hour, on the hour, except at 1300, which is when they have their lunch break. So, I’d get the 1400 ferry, taking 20 minutes to make the crossing. Cost of return ticket, £5.50.
Ideally, I’d have liked to have had about four hours on the island, but the last bus back to Glasgow arrived in Tayinloan at 1730, so I had to get the 1630 ferry back to make sure I got it. Ferries from Gigha to Tayinloan leave on the half hour.This meant that I’d have just 2 hours and 10 minutes on the island. Not enough, but better than no trip, at all.
Gigha was formerly owned by a series of wealthy landowners until 2002, when there was a community buyout. The island is just 6 miles long, and about 1.5 miles across at its widest. A previous owner created Achamore gardens during the war, which is the island’s main attraction. Achamore house, within the gardens, is now a B&B. The tiny main settlement, with a general store/PO, hotel and restaurant is called Ardminish, and the island has a population of 163.
What struck me most about the island was the sheer number of cyclists. It was like it was ‘Tour de Gigha’ week.I had noticed that some of the cars on the ferry were carrying bikes. Also, some of the drivers left their cars inTayinloan car park, and went on the ferry as foot passengers with bikes. There are also two bike hire businesses in Ardminish, one of which also hires out sea kayaks. It wouldn’t be putting it too strongly to state that cycling Gigha appears to have become something of a ‘craze’. I was constantly being passed by cyclists as I walked on the road, some as young as seven.
There are two restaurants in Ardminish, both of which get 5 stars on Tripadvisor. One is in the Gigha hotel, and the other is called ‘The Boathouse’, and specialises in locally caught sea food.
Achamore gardens is about a mile south of Ardminish. It’s 54 acres of natural woodland to which a great many exotic plants from around the world have been added. No doubt, Gigha’s very equable climate, warmed by the Gulf Stream in winter, contributes to their survival, as does the fertile soil. ‘Gigha’ derives from the Viking for ‘good’ island, meaning that it was good for growing crops, unlike some other islands, like Jura, which is a blanket bog, unsuited for agriculture.
There are a great many crisscrossing paths which, along with all the high trees making it impossible to get your bearings, makes it easy to get lost, and I was relieved to find myself back on the road again. The gardens are well past their prime, and had been managed by local volunteers, until a new head gardener was appointed in 2020. I think he has his work cut out.
I had intended walking all the way to the southern point of the island to take what I thought would be some good photos. There are also some ancient standing stones on the island, and an old ruined chapel. There’s a photo on Google images which shows two standing stones in the foreground, and a wind turbine in the background – a great composition of ancient and modern structures. But, with Achamore gardens being far bigger than I thought they would be, I found myself running out of time, and had to return to the ferry terminal. I might go back to Gigha some day, to get the photos I missed. If I do, I’ll definitely be hiring a bike.
Wully Davidson, August, 2021
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