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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?