My Colonsay moment happened on the side of a road. At 5pm. I lay down on the Heather that covered the verge. It was a soft pillow and I closed my eyes. Buzzing insects, a distant sheep baa, my own breathing- the only sounds. I could smell grass, flowers, a hint of sea air. I felt that I could stay here for hours, even days and it would be the same; nothing would happen. It would always be tranquil. This is why we come to these islands, for these moments.
My trip to Colonsay began with the afternoon ferry from Oban. We pulled away from the bustling harbour, the town's skyline of grand Victorian hotels soon disappeared and it was just the sea and a horizon of hills and islands. There is a feeling of leaving behind the familiar and heading to distant lands.
On arrival I made straight for the restaurant at the island’s hotel. The sofas, wooden floors and fireplaces were a cosy introduction . My 80 Shilling from Colonsay Brewery tasted like a Scottish island in a bottle with it’s peat infusion. My Cajun chicken burger was delicious, but I felt unadventurous compared to the family at the next table who were tucking into oysters and crab claws. The parents were having a conversation with another family at an adjacent table who said that they had been coming to Colonsay every year for the last 15. I heard someone else say that they were staying two weeks. I was getting the impression that this is an island people love to spend time on.
I was staying in the hotel's bunkhouse, 2 to 3 miles away. It was getting dark as I started pedaling. I was beginning to doubt that I was going the right way when a Massey Ferguson tractor pulled over and the driver, with bushy white moustache asked "where you aiming for?" He was friendly and told me "you are going the right way. Keep going until you get to the public hall, then turn right."
There are no staff at the bunkhouse and no locked doors. You just walk in and find your bed. It's all very trusting, this easy going island way of doing things. It seemed that I had the place to myself, but a little later on two women turned up who had been to a ceilidh. "It was packed, full of kids, old people. The whole community were there." They were beaming from their experience and "in love with Colonsay."
The next morning I pointed the handlebars in the direction of Kiloran Bay. This has a curving golden beach with rocky promontories surrounding it. This is Colonsay's showstopper, the place where everyone goes. However, the bay is so massive that it absorbs people and I never got close enough to see the faces of the others enjoying the sands. A small car park and a couple of bins are the only sign of development. Cows freely wander the beach, their hoof prints on the sand. The sound of the water licking the shore, its gentle rhythm and the immensity of the open sea ahead- I love this.
The very steep, twisty road that heads to the west provides a stunning aerial view of the bay. The road is so-little used that there was a strip of grass growing down the middle. It took me to a gate with a sign saying this way to the beach. I left the bike and walked across muddy grass; I could feel water entering my shoes. I arrived at a pebble beach with two Highland Cows munching the grass, unperturbed by my presence. They must just stay here hour after hour in this spot. I sat on a rock with lines and swirls through it. I moved my pam over it and it was so smooth, not a single cut or jagged part. There was an old rope and a bit of drift wood with a rusty nail next to my rock. All that I could hear was lapping water and flapping wings of birds overhead. The sun was warming my face. I watched the cows and the sea and could think of no reason to leave this place.
The gap between ferry departures means that rushing around Colonsay is unecessary.