Thursday, July 10 2008
When we returned from Islay in May we had a whole day left which we spend in Tarbert and on the island of Gigha. The Isle of Gigha is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides, lies off the west coast of Kintyre, east from Islay, and is part of Argyll and Bute. The island currently has a population of about 150 people, which was around 700 in the 18th century. Gigha is also known as "Good Island of God Island", derived from the Norse Gudey. The island is almost 10 km in length, max 2.5 km wide and has only one single track road that runs the whole length of the island. There is some evidence that the island was the seat of power for Conall mac Comgall, the king of Dalriada.
Although Gigha has a small grass airstrip in the south of the island, the Calmac car and passenger ferry from Tayinloan on the mainland to Ardminish provides the easiest way to access the island. The ferry leaves the mainland every hour, on the hour, starting at eight in the morning till six in the evening, Monday to Saturday and eleven till five on Sunday. The pleasant crossing is only 20 minutes and tickets can be bought on board. Passengers pay Â£2.85 for a single journey and cars are Â£10.55. To save some pennies you can park the car at Tayinloan and make the journey by foot, which is what we did. There is a bike hire a few metres from the ferry terminal and the main village is only a pleasant ten minutes walk. If you want to visit Achamore Gardens add another twenty minutes.
There is something very interesting about this wee island. Gigha had several owners in the 20th century and none of them were very keen on developing the area. In fact, one of the former lairds of Gigha was found guilty of attempted murder by an Australian court. In 2002 all this came to an end when the islanders managed to purchase the island for Â£4 million with help from grants from the National Lottery and Highland and Islands Enterprise. The island is now owned through a development trust called the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust. continue reading.....
Ardminish is the main settlement on the island and it's here you will find two churches, a shop annex post-office, an art centre, the hotel and most of the houses. This is probably also the only place on the island where you find a road sign! When we arrived on a Saturday it was rather busy with quite a few cars and people on the main road, something we didn't expect. It felt busier to us than Islay and probably everyone who owned a car took it out for a ride. Our main objective of this trip was to visit the Achamore Gardens and also to get to know the island a bit better. We were not disappointed and in fact we enjoyed the island very much although we only saw a small part; Ardminish and the Achamore Gardens. The gardens, 50 acres situated in beautiful woodland, are very beautiful and definitely worth a visit, specially on a sunny day. The gardens, still owned by the community, once belonged to Achamore House. The house itself was sold to a Californian businessman and is now rented out as a Bed and Breakfast.
The landscape of Gigha is very beautiful and unspoilt with many bays, small hills, a few lochs, a good variety of wildlife and the island offers lovely views to Islay and the mainland of Kintyre. The nine hole golf course is located just outside the main village. The Gigha Hotel, the only hotel on the island, provides good accommodation and has a restaurant and bar. There is also a Bed and Breakfast at Achamore House as well as several other smaller Guest Houses and self catering cottages. For a good overview of everything the island has to offer I can recommend a visit to the Isle of Gigha Website.
Village Shop and Post Office
Rhododendrons Achamore Gardens
Gigha Craft Shops
The Main Road at Ardminish