Saturday, 11 January 2014

A plane trip and a bike ride, Inner Hebrides (Islay, Colonsay and Kerrera)

One evening I was looking at the wealth of information and the amazing wall map in the hallway of the accommodation where I was saying in Oban. Up to that point I hadn't met the Guest House owners son who was passing through, introduced himself and asked what I was looking for. I told him I was just looking for an idea a little bit different other than the routine tourist trips that I had now been on twice to Tobermory and Iona. He came up with an amazing idea to get my travel juices going ... of landing on the sands of Barra in the Outer Hebrides by plane.

In reality it seems, that does happen although not on a scheduled flight. The services from Oban airport cover four of the Inner Hebrides islands, two trips each day to two islands on alternate days, Islay and Colonsay, Coll  and Tiree. The load can be spasmodic and is supported by the Scottish Government as an additional form of transport to supplement the erratic ferry service that I briefly hinted at in an earlier post.
As you can imagine, this was the most expensive trip of the week but was an opportunity that wouldn't rear its head again for a long time to come so I grasped it with both hands and my bank account !!
The departure lounge, Oban airport !!!

Taking off from Islay airport looking north towards the Paps of Jura, something I only ever had the opportunity of reading about before in mountain books and magazines.

The terminal building at Colonsay airport !!

Just taking off from Colonsay. (Not sure how I kept the horizon straight at such an angle!!)

Dunstaffnage Castle in the foreground trees, Connel bridge (previous post) background right with Loch Etive and the mountain of Glen Etive in the distance.

Similarly the Guest House owner on another occasion suggested an alternative option of bike hire using Nevis Cycles in the main street which turned out to be the least expensive day of the week.

Even though I was last to board the ferry due to the queue !!,  I was nearly refused for the weight limit ... I know my breakfasts were good from my host but ... not that good .... !!

After a short coastal bike ride from Oban and a gentle crossing over the sound of Kerrera, I was met by my tour guide ... err ... this wooden map nailed to a shed. The island was a little smaller than I thought based on the timings of the suggested walks and consequently I had my lunch back at the jetty while I waited for the ferryman to have his on the mainland. All very well considering I had only been on a bike once before (two years ago) in the last 25 years !! I'll talk about that again when I finish this Scottish series.

On my clockwise ride around the island, I unfortunately discovered that the parrot sanctuary was not open to the public so I had to make to do with photographing other forms of wildlife.

One of the advantages of travelling by bike from the ferry was I was first to reach the tea shop (Kerrera Tea Garden).
As it wasn't my bike, it took me three attempts for the tea shop owner to decide where a suitable place was to leave it away from his precarious fence. The final resting point was on a grass bank outside the garden on the other side of the path. "No-one's going to steal it there !!" I was informed.
I felt like a dispatch rider as he enquired how many people were on the ferry and he seemed pleased with my answer.

It was only coffee time ... Oh well. I better force down a slice of Lemon Drizzle cake !!

Waiting for the cutting of the cake  ... inside that window !

More familiar faces arrive from my ferry as it's time for me to vacate a seat for the masses !! ... and move on to other things.

Gylen Castle at the south end of the island was a short return trip from the Tea Garden. The castle was built in 1582 and was only occupied for a short period of time before being burned in 1647 by the Covenanters during The Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The castle was restored in 2006 with £500,000 made up from a Historic Scotland grant and donations from the modern day members of the Clan who built it .... MacDougall.

The easy bit on the western section !
The journey heading north on the west coast of the island was a little more torturous for the novice cyclist.

Houses on the island, particularly on the less accessible west coastal track, are few and far between. Little did I know at the time when I took this picture that I would have to cycle up the curving track in the middle of the photo.

Made it, time for a breather. A rare glimpse of the illusive M.V. Clansman returning from Barra with the dark long thin island of Lismore behind it. Not strictly accurate to the purists but the eastern hills of the Ardnamurchan peninsula making up the backdrop.

A distant Oban when I'm allowed to go !!
I opted out of the ride to the marina at the north end of the island (another time maybe) as I was a bit saddle sore from my inexperience of the rough roads. I longed for the tarmac of the mainland but was prevented as the ferryman was on his lunch ... but hey what a great view.

The return ferry was a little less busy to say the least with the company of the ferryman, the bike and a few pieces of marine ware !
I was however in for a treat as I spotted the other illusive vessel M.V. Lord of the Isles coming up the "sound" from Colonsay. I had no idea if we were going to make it across her path or not because I was all prepared to  .... "take a run and jump !" .....


  1. The yellow plane photographed with a beautiful blue sky backdrop is so beautiful. Where were you seated to get that second photo? That's absolutely a very nice shot. Genius composition!

    I love this trip and I'm imaging myself biking with those sceneries. Wish to be here soon. You're walking on sunshine. Wonderful weather looking at your photographs.

    Happy Weekend, Jayz!

  2. This is a wonderful look round. I anchored off Kerrera several times and never went ashore. I wish I had now.
    Seeing the area from the air was a real bonus.

  3. Photos no. 4,6,7 are my favourites but I also love the Kerrera Tea Garden. A lot of nice photos, a great trip again!

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  5. I thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the sceneries and of your captures, J. The bird's eye view was a bonus! For me, just as it must have been for you, I bet you didn't regret spending the money for making that trip. The yellow propeller against the water and partly cloudy sky looks awesome! :)

    Scotland is such a picturesque country, isn't it?

  6. I loved all the photos, but those aereal shots were the best! I'm glad you have photos to show for the expense.

  7. For me these photos are just awe inspiring. You have captured the beauty of the land perfectly. A place I long to visit.

  8. Nice photos. I bet you must have enjoyed your trip a lot. Oban is a rich and diverse place. You can see a lot of birds and animals in there and you'll even get the chance to see whales and dolphins during rib trip oban.

  9. Hi dear J!
    You are visiting marvelous places I haven't even heard about yet...
    And you have posted awesome pictures for us to see!
    Send you my wishes for a great new year (Jan. is almost over) and
    stay in touch!!
    (Most of the time I am on Flickr as you sure know)

  10. A beautiful series of photographs. The area looks stunning, well worth the journey.


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