About the Isle of Gigha
The Isle of Gigha is clearly visible from the Kintyre Peninsula and a short 20 minute ferry ride across the Sound of Gigha is all that separates the two.
The little lump of land was originally named Gudey by the Norse King Hakon. The name meaning Good Isle or God's Isle was later adjusted by the Gaels to Gigha (pronounced Geeea).
There aren't many Scottish Islands that you can feasibly visit and explore widely in 1 or 2 days but the community owned Isle of Gigha is one of the exceptions. It is an ideal destination for those looking to experience a little piece of Hebridean paradise in a short amount of time thanks to its close proximity to the mainland and its bijou size.
It is the most southerly Hebridean Island and is only 7 miles long by 1 1/2 miles at its widest point, with one main road dissecting its length. Although you could visit with a car, its small size means it is equally possible to explore by bike (bike hire is available locally) or on foot.
There are not many man-made attractions on Gigha but the beautiful natural scenery is the real draw. Although there are no museums, the history of the island is told through the objects that intertwine the landscape from the standing stones to the modern 'Dancing Ladies' wind turbines.
The island has seen many inhabitants and owners over the centuries, including the Scots, Vikings, various clans and private individuals.
However, Gigha has been community owned since 2002 and many of the facilities are owned or run by the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust. By visiting and supporting these ventures, you are directly supporting the future of a Scottish island community.
Where is the Isle of Gigha?
The little red marker is Gigha, nestled off the west coast of Scotland between the Kintyre Peninsula and Islay which are both famed for their excellent whisky distilleries.
A combined trip to the Kintyre Peninsula and Gigha is a great choice for those that like to take the road less travelled. This combination also makes a great detour on your Scotland itinerary if you plan to explore the west coast north to Oban.
Kintyre is also the starting point for a Hebridean island hopping adventure to Islay, Colonsay and Jura. Gigha makes an easy addition to this route if bagging some Scottish islands are on your travel agenda. You can also travel to Arran from Kintyre which offers another island hopping possibility.
You might want to check out my blog post with my travel guide to Kintyre for more ideas of things to do in this underrated part of the country.
How to get the ferry to Gigha
The ferry to Gigha departs from Tayinloan on the west coast of the Kintyre Peninsula. The crossing takes approx. 20 minutes and vehicles are permitted on the ferry.
There is no need to book in advance as this is a fairly quiet route but I do recommend turning up in plenty of time for your sailing to make sure you get a place if you do plan to take a vehicle. There is a cafe at the ferry terminal so you can park up in the queue early and grab a coffee while you wait.
You can find the ferry timetable on the CalMac website.
Tayinloan is around 120 miles from Glasgow and the drive takes about 3 hours. There is also the option to take the Campbeltown bus from Glasgow which stops at Tayinloan. I recommend using the Traveline website for planning public transport journeys in Scotland.
My recommended things to do on Gigha
Beaches, archaeology, natural scenery, wildlife, gardens, walks and historical sites are some of the things to see and do on a trip to Gigha. I've listed some of the places I been to that I think are worth exploring and a few other ideas of things that I haven't managed to do yet.
Whether you explore them all or just enjoy the chance to switch off from the hustle and bustle, Gigha makes a great wee alternative to its bigger and busier Hebridean neighbours.
HEAD TO ONE OF THE BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
If the very mention of 'Hebridean island' conjures up an image of flawless white sandy bays, clear turquoise water and rugged coves, you'll be pleased to know Gigha won't disappoint with its own bite sized slices of paradise.
Being only 1 1/2 miles at its widest point and 1/2 mile at its narrowest, you are never far from the coast and at certain places you can even admire the tempting stretches of sand along both sides of the island at the same time, talk about a dilemma!
The Twin Beaches with white sands and turquoise water at the north end of the island are my top pick. but there are plenty more to choose from.
TAKE IN THE VIEWS OF ISLAY AND JURA
You can almost smell the waft of whisky from Islay and reach over to touch the Paps of Jura which both sit teasingly close off the west coast of Gigha. If a visit to this miniature Hebridean oasis leaves you hankering for more, then gazing across at its imposing relatives is guaranteed to add to your island wanderlust and immediately booking you next ferry trip.
You can travel to Islay from the ferry port at Kennacraig which is on the north west coast of Kintyre. From Islay you can take another ferry to Colonsay or Jura or Oban.
Kennacraig is only a 20 minute drive from the ferry terminal at Tayinloan so if the temptation to visit Islay, which is known as the 'Queen of the Hebrides' does become too much, you won't have far to travel!
Probably the best known attraction on Gigha is Achamore Gardens. Before the community bought over Gigha it had many private owners over the years and in the 19th Century it was bought by the Scarlett family who built Achamore House and began to create a garden which included hybrid Rhododendrons.
In 1944 Colonel Sir James Horlick (of the malted drink family) worked alongside garden designer Kitty Lloyd Jones to develop the grounds even further, introducing rare and unusual plants from around the world. After the community buy-out in 2002, the islanders took over the management of the acclaimed gardens.
When I visited I found the gardens looked a bit neglected but hopefully it is just a temporary situation as the gardens are a massive asset to the island.
GO FOR A WALK
I love going for a walk among nature, it is a great tonic for my mental, physical and emotional health. When you're surrounding by beautiful view in every direction, it is easy to free any negative thoughts. Add in some fresh salty island air and exercising outdoors becomes a restorative pleasure rather than a sweaty indoor chore!
On my trip to Gigha I managed to build up an impressive amount of steps by just bumbling about along the coast. However, the Walkhighlands website had a range of detailed trails if you prefer your walking routes to have a bit more purpose than aimless wandering!
You can also buy a 'Walk Gigha' booklet locally that features 12 designated off-road routes which are part of the signposted Gigha Path Network.
KILCHATTEN (ST CATHAN'S) CHURCH
Sitting slightly uphill with an open view to Kintyre, the now ruined Kilchatten Church dates from the 13th Century although it became derelict in the 18th Century. Thanks to careful conservation work, the building has been partially preserved and retains some interesting lancet windows and grave slabs which date from the 15th Century or earlier.
I always get goosebumps visiting sites like this where the stones are full of stories and history oozes from every uneven surface and although there is not much left of the original building it is still an atmospheric place to visit.
Just past Kilchatten Church you will find the Ogham Stone which has a Pictish inscription although I personally couldn't make anything out. It is said to be a grave stone with the name of the deceased and his father and is thought to date from the earliest settlement of the Scots in Dalriada.
THE DRUID OR HANGING STONE
As you head towards the northern end of the Island you cant miss the large standing stone by the side of the road known by several names, each with there own associated legend.
Sometimes called the Druid Stone, it is said to have been used in Druid ceremonies; also known as the Hanging Stone, it was said people who were found guilty at the nearby Court Hill had their heads positioned in the cleft of the stone before being left to hang to their deaths.
The legend I like best is that of a giant on Kintyre with toothache who pulled out the painful tooth and threw it across the water where it landed on Gigha, resulting in the stone also being known as the Giants Tooth.
You can make your own mind up as to which one is the most likely!
SHOP AT THE HONESTY TABLE
I've got to admit I am a bit of a sucker for the honesty tables that I often find on my travels around Scotland, so I was delighted to find one on Gigha and instantly knew that my purse was about to get a bit lighter.
This type of small scale entrepreneurship means everyone is a winner; I can get my hands on a unique souvenir or some tasty local produce and the maker gets all the profit. In this case I picked up a lovely card with an image of one of the perfect local beaches, which now sits on a shelf in my living-room and reminds me of my lovely wee day on Gigha.
Every time I see one of these tables it also reminds me that they can only exist because people are generally good and trustworthy and I hope that never changes.
Top tip - If you are travelling around Scotland it is always wise to have some spare change as you never know what goodies you might come across.
Where to eat & drink on Gigha
There are quite a few places to eat and drink on Gigha, however be aware that some are only open seasonally -
Gigha accommodation options
For a small island there are a diverse range of accommodation options on Gigha including The Gigha Hotel with sea views, several bed and breakfasts, self-catering options and even a traditional handmade Yurt rented out by the owners of Ardminish Stores. Visit the Isle of Gigha website for full details.
The island is also perfect for camping with a campsite next to the sea run by The Boathouse Restaurant. The north of the island in particular has some good spots for wild camping. My guide to tent camping and wild camping in Scotland will keep you right if you're unsure of the rules.
Hopefully my guide to the Isle of Gigha has given you everything you need to know to plan a trip to this wee island gem. Just think, in just over 3 hours you could have swapped the busy streets of Glasgow for a deserted sandy white Hebridean beach...now doesn't that sound like bliss?
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