How to spend a day on Gigha

It would be fair to say that Gigha might not be at the top of your ‘Scottish Islands to Visit’ list. It’s one of the smaller, understated and less tourist-friendly dots on our coastline and — with just over five square miles of fertile land to explore — you could quite easily tick it off in a day. Which is exactly why you should.

Gigha lies just off the coast of Kintyre, the long peninsula that lies to the far west of Glasgow. It takes about four hours to drive from the Central Belt out to this wild, exposed area of Scotland where there’s not much for miles but beaches, distilleries and forgotten towns. We spent a few days in Machrihanish and the highlight of our trip was the sunny Saturday we spent on Gigha.

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Where to eat

The most obvious place to stop — which is also an ideal spot en route from or going back to the ferry port — is The Boathouse. It’s a beautiful building which perches right on a tiny bay, enjoying unobscured views out to the harbour from its decking area. We sat outside on a balmy day at the start of April, feasting on pulled pork and apple brioche buns and steak burgers from the small kitchen. They also offer fresh, local seafood which is highly commended in the 2015 Michelin Guide.

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Beaches to visit

You can use the Google Maps satellite function all you like, but it won’t necessarily spill the secrets on how to find Gigha’s nicest little beaches. Your best bet is to follow the main road left at the crossroads — little houses and a small petrol station surrounding you — and, on your left again, you’ll see the sign for a beach. This takes you through a short, gorse-lined trail to a small bay where you can sit on the grassy rocks and watch the ferry leave the harbour. It’s even better when the sun’s out!

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Historical sites

Although small, Gigha is also home to several archeological wonders such as cairns and standing stones. One of the most famous of these, the Druid’s Stone, is found to the north of the island and stands over seven metres high. Further south near the Gigha Hotel, there’s also the Ogham Stone which is believed to date from Pictish times.

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The abandoned gardens

I’ve dedicated a whole article to Achamore Gardens right here. The estate was once one of Gigha’s tourist epicentres, boasting a collection of rare rhododendrons, a stunning walled garden and viewpoint with panoramas over to Islay and Jura. In the past year or so, it’s sadly been abandoned and nature has reclaimed the once blossoming grounds. Although it’s a shadow of its former self, it’s well worth a spooky wander around.

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How to get there

Drive to Tayinloan — a small village about 30 minutes from Campbeltown — where you can park for free and get the CalMac ferry to Gigha. There’s one every hour and it’s just £5 return to get across as a foot passenger. That’s less than a single train ticket from Glasgow to Edinburgh… a no brainer, right?

Have you ever spent a day on Gigha? What did you do?

5 thoughts on “How to spend a day on Gigha

  1. We went there on a beautiful warm sunny day in early June 1990 and the garden was superb. In fact my husband thinks he burnt his head it was such a beautiful hot day. Long before digital photography so just a good memory. West Coast of Scotland in springtime in good weather is the most glorious place on earth…beauty and grandeur and welcome. We love that whole coast and return again and again and take our house guests there if they allow sufficient time with us (we live down in Peeblesshire). It needs one night away thus two days to get a feel for it all. I am so sorry the garden has been abandoned, but that can happen anywhere and labour costs are high. Argyll has the most stunning of gardens and a whole week can be devoted to just going round these and enjoying meals and boat trips in between…when the sun shines, or it stays dry!

    1. It is! If you’re ever down in Kintyre, DEFINITELY go – just £5 return to get over and you can walk quite easily to the gardens. Hidden treasure absolutely!

    1. Hi Iain, thanks for commenting! Where did you visit on Gigha? I’d be interested to know if the gardens are in a better state than when we visited last 🙂

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