The idyllic island getaway on your doorstep
You normally have to travel thousands of miles to find crystal clear ocean waves lapping softly onto pristine white sandy beaches.
Fortunately, the West Coast of Kintyre is an island paradise with all this and more just a 20 minute ferry trip away, the Isle of Gigha, often referred to as 'God's Island.'
After a gentle sail across from the village of Tayinloan, courtesy of CalMac and their friendly staff, the idyllic and peaceful shores of Gigha awaits you. From the minute you step off the ferry, especially on a warm summer's day, you might just think you are in a tropical oasis.
Immediately on your left as you leave the ferry you will find the Gigha Boats Activity Centre, which offers the chance to get out across the clear crystal blue waters in kayaks, paddle boards, pedalos and rowing boats.
The centre is run by Gordon Watson, who moved to Gigha from Stirling to set up the business after falling in love with the island following a holiday. It also rents out bikes, along with tagalongs which are a perfect way to get around the single track, nearly car-free roads. Mini-golf is also present offering a fun activity for all the family.
Following south around Ardminish Bay leads to the Boathouse, the Michelin-recommended and multiaward winning restaurant.
The quaint building sits in front of a beautiful white sand bay with outside decking and serves simply stunning fresh local food providing a heavenly dining experience.
The Boathouse campsite sits alongside the restaurant which is an idyllic spot to enjoy the peacefulness of the island with all the necessary amenities on site.
Carrying on up the main road into Gigha brings you to Ardminish Stores, the only shop on the island which stocks a variety of hyper-local produce as well as more exotic and eccentric supplies. This is the only place on the island where you can buy smoked Gigha Halibut, a true delicacy, which recently scooped the Golden Fork Award for the Best Scottish Product of the Year.
The store, run by Joe and Hannah, also offer one of Gigha's most interesting accommodation options: a real Mongolian Yurt.
Imported from the East Asian nation, it has a wonderful ethnicity and the cosy stove makes it a lovely retreat for both summer and winter months. Enjoy fresh eggs in the mornings from the hens which potter about the garden. It’s perfect for families and couples, or a wonderful gift idea.
Directly across from the shop you will find the Gigha Church and the Manse Bible Garden, where visitors are more than welcome.
It is impossible to walk or cycle around the island without bumping into one of its many characters, including the personable John Martin, a joiner who moved to the island in 1971 after falling in love with it and his future wife, and has never once wished to move away.
John, and several other locals, are always happy to stop to tell visitors the incredible history of the island, which became community owned after a buyout in 2002.
John says: 'We now have a say in our future, we are all working together and as a team and it is totally democratic. I am delighted to be alive to witness what is happening here right now.'
The Gigha Hotel sits around the corner from the shop and is the island's main accommodation hub, often called Gigha's beating heart.
Having just recently re-opened last year thanks to the loving care of Leicestershire man Ken and his wife Angela, the hotel is now thriving again with self-catering cottages, a bar and a new bistro cafe.
Ken says: 'We are ideal for mini-breaks, because Gigha is an island that you need to stay on, you cannot see everything it has to offer in just one day.' The hotel serves as a great place to hold an event, such as a wedding, with a wonderful garden which is the perfect spot to enjoy in the summer months.
Next to the hotel lies Gigha Gallery, run by art aficionado Henri Macaulay, who is currently celebrating her tenth anniversary and her 50th exhibition on the island.
The gallery is a beautiful open space, with excellent exhibitions adorning the walls with views across the bay onto the sailing boats moored at the newly installed pontoon.
Henri says: 'Art should be uplifting, so I choose to have exhibits here which have that effect on visitors.
'We have a lot of events here: Gaelic weekends, film nights, music sessions, ceilidhs. Its a wonderful space where art is really important.'
The gallery sits next to a craft shop, which sells a wide variety of all-natural and Gighaproduced skincare and beauty products, along with a number of other arty items produced by the local people of Gigha. Everything from homemade preserves to knitted cardigans. Opening soon in the Gigha Gallery is the Pottery Tearoom, serving tea, coffee and a delightful array of home baking. The cafe will be run by Henri and her daughter, local lass and musician Catriona Rose. Keep an eye out for Catriona's upcoming CD, Fly, which is due to be released on August 24 and enjoy a free download of her first single on August 6.
The isle of Gigha Heritage Trust is also alongside the Gallery, whose doors are always open to help shed light on the island and its history.
Jacqui Smith, administration assistant, explains: ' We have just improved the pontoon to increase the yacht capacity, as well as making it a safer and more welcoming environment.
'We have a number of self-catering cottages, many of which look onto beaches, and there really is something for everyone looking for a quiet, tranquil getaway.
'The community takeover really encapsulates the spirit of Gigha - there is teamwork across all businesses and across our wee society. Everyone looks after everyone else.'
Heading towards the south of the island do not forget to buy a wee bag of homemade Gigha tablet which sits on a stall on the single track road, a true delight.
As you carry on towards the south of the island you reach the world-renowned Achamore Gardens, a sensory sensation that provides a wonderful walk through rare rhododendrons, before reaching the two acre walled garden and a breathtaking viewpoint across to the Isles of Islay and Jura, known as the Jewel in the Crown.
Tasty Wee Isle dairy ice-cream is available at the stunning Achamore House, which sits in the centre of the gardens - a real treat for your walk around the gardens.
Nestling beside the gardens you will find Springbank B&B, where your hosts Betty and Kenny, who were farmers on the island for over 30 years, make visitors feel most at home from the minute they walk through the door. Welcomed into their lounge, which has simply stunning views across to the mainland, enjoy some delicious homebaking and a cuppa with the superbly friendly hosts.
Not far from the gardens, down a track road, look out for the sign posts for 'The Wee
Gift Shed.' It is exactly what it says on the tin: a wee shed full of beautiful and unusual handmade gifts, an absolute must see.
Heading back towards the north end of the island, you will come across Gigha Golf Course: a nine hole course with some testing par 3's and 4's. £15 will see you have as many rounds as you like. Up past the golf club, you will find Drumeonbeg B&B. Run by the MacNeills, who have been part of Gigha's history for over 1000 years, you will experience a truly delightful stay with breathtaking views over the golf course to the mainland. Breakfast in this B&B is one for the stars. Alistair says: 'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day so we pride ourselves on the breakfast we serve. You won't need lunch after your breakfast at Drumeonbeg.'
As you continue up the north end of the island, the gems are the white sandy twin beaches which makes the perfect picnic stop.
There is a depth of history to Gigha, from standing stones, to archaeological sites, chapel ruins and shipwrecks, not to mention the abundance of wildlife.
Seven miles long and one mile wide, Gigha serves as a great getaway for those who love to walk and explore. There are 12 designated off-road walks, with some covering a range of terrain, from white sandy beaches, rocky shores, bramble covered hill-sides and woodland. Walk highlights include the Spouting Cave, ancient standing stones, sheltered beaches, the Fisherman's Cave and many more.
The weekend of June 24-26 sees the island enjoy one of its busiest weekends of the year: their own music festival with a ceilidh on the Friday night, Shooglenifty on the Saturday and the Pipers picnic on the Sunday alongside a number of other musical talents. It’s a great weekend for all the family.
So take a long weekend, book yourself into some of Gigha's wonderful accommodation, be it a B&B, the hotel, the yurt or the campsite, and enjoy a few days break on this wonderful, peaceful, safe and welcoming little island. It is the perfect getaway for an individual, couple, family, wildlife enthusiasts, art enthusiasts, walkers and cyclists.
In one way or another, whether it is the sandy beaches, the stunning food, the crystal clear water, this island will take your breath away, and for that reason alone, it is absolutely worth a visit. While the ferry offers the option to spend a day on Gigha, it is the perfect getaway to unwind from the hustle and bustle of modern 21st century living. How lucky we are that it is right on our doorstep.
One of the island’s many white sandy beaches.
The new pontoon from the sky.
Even the phone box has a quirky side.
Ardminish Stores provides the island’s best local food and drink produce.
The Boathouse produces stunning food to match its location.
The eye- catching Gigha Church.
Henri Macaulay encapsulates Gigha’s cultural identity.
Below: The stunning Ardminish Bay.
Ken Deacon always provides a warm welcome at Gigha Hotel.
Locals John Martin, Tommy Shaw and holiday maker Dougie launch community boat ‘Saorsa’: Gaelic for freedom.
Gordon Watson provides the best mode of transport around the island.
Honesty boxes are a welcome sight.
Drumeonbeg host, Alexander MacNeill