The Isle of Gigha lies a couple of miles off the west coast of Kintyre and is a twenty-minute ferry crossing from Tayinloan. Yesterday was warm and sunny and lots of people seemed to have had the same idea about going over to the island for the day. The island is owned by a community trust and loads more information about the place can be found here.
The main purpose of the trip was to go to find a nice sandy beach where we could have a picnic and a swim. Her Maj is a great fan of sea bathing and Daisy (who is spending a few days with us) was easily-persuaded to come as well.
We decided to take the car over with us, which turned out to the the economical choice, because bike hire would have cost the three of us more than the return car fare on the ferry in any case. All right, if I was going over on my own, I’d take my bike and pootle around at a proper island pace, but with three people, picnic and bathing gear and all the clobber, we decided to be idle.
First stop were the gardens at Achamore House, which were probably of great interest to people who knew lots about plants, but were sadly lacking in good interpretation for the casual visitors like ourselves. Also rather expensive to walk around, at £3.50 per adult, but not as expensive as the teas, which were £2.50 per person, even if you did get a slice of cake and a refill included. The gardens are probably at their best earlier in the year when all the rhododendrons and azaleas are in bloom, but the walled gardens were pleasant to walk around. Her Maj enjoyed collecting feathers from the resident peacocks.
Off then, to the Twin Beaches at the northern end of the island. The twin beaches are formed either side of a tombolo, which is a spit of sand joining the small island of Eilean Garbh to the larger Isle of Gigha.
We chose to go to the southern bay, Bagh Rubha Ruiadh, where we found a nice sheltered spot on white sand with some warm rocks to sit on. There were a few other folk on the northern beach, but no-one else at all on the one we’d chosen. So, having come all this way, we got into our cossies and into the sea. The water here is very clear, quite unlike the brown soup of the Bristol Channel of recent familiarity, and it was wonderful to wade around looking at the seaweeds and worm casts on the sandy bottom. The beach shelves only very gently and we were able to swim out quite some distance without going out of our depth. With the shelter afforded by the off-shore island, this made it a superb swimming beach.
The only problem with swimming in the Atlantic Ocean at these latitudes is that is it ruddy cold and determination and vigorous activity is necessary to get over the first few minutes in the water. After that, one acclimatises (or gets hypothermia – I’ve never decided which) and the experience becomes almost pleasant. It was, actually, great fun and reminded me how much I enjoyed swimming in the sea.
Daisy was far more reluctant to come into the water, but finally managed to get swimming. Great success of the day was teaching her to float on her back, something which she’s not managed before.
I couldn’t come to Gigha without bagging a couple of green squares. There was a small wrinkle on the west coast of Eilean Garbh that hadn’t been geographed, so, after a picnic lunch and reclad in trousers and shoes, I set off to find it. First thought was to walk across the island the 300 metres or so to the destination, but the thick growth of brambles and bracken soon required a new plan. Since the island was only small, the logical thing was to walk around the coast, which I did. The southern end of the island is a large gull colony and I was accompanied all the way by wailing gulls as I picked my way through their nests and the carcases of the unsuccessful young birds. The object of the expedition was determined with the use of a compass (provided the coast north went eastwards and that south ditto, I knew I was in the right place). This is the result of all that effort.