From Oban, Colonsay is about the same distance as Iona and Oronsay Priory is 2nd only to Iona Abbey in terms of early Christian settlements. Legend has it that St Columba didn’t like this island as the mountains of Donegal in Ireland could be seen some 75 miles to the SW and therefore continued north. To the west the vast expanse of the North Atlantic leaves you feeling a bit exposed where the eastern seaboard of North America lies some 2200 miles away.
The sea state was calm with only a scattering of fair-weather cumulus peppering an otherwise blue sky. The Marfin made good time to Kilonon Bay on the NW tip of Colonsay. I’d never heard of Kiloron Bay before today but having seen it, you can never forget it and will forever be a place I must return to. I’ve seen greater expanses of sandy beaches in Harris and longer beaches in North Uist but the open horse-shoe shaped bay bounded by a mountain of sand partially covered with sheep and cattle cropped grass leaves it unequalled in the Hebrides. I noted that when King Edward VII visited the island in 30 August 1902, that many of the royal party made their way to Kiloron on bicycle and carriage. Today there was a lone swimmer with his loyal collie watching on, a young lady galloping her steed along the shoreline and a heard of cows loitering at the south end.
Beyond the bay the guano covered sea cliffs were a cacophony of bird life. It was like the Serengeti of the north with guillemots, kittiwakes and razorbills all living cheek by jowl on the narrow ledges. A lone Harbour porpoise joined us for a moment as we made our way to Oronsay and the large bay directly south of the priory. Lunch was had on board and already the tranquillity that you associate with Iona after the crowds have gone starts to descend. The gentle motion of the boat at anchor, the warmth of the sun, the beautiful empty bay and the soft landscape towards the priory all combine perfectly to capture the reason why the learned person/s of yesterday decided, this was home.
With a flooding tide we carried the dingy high onto the shore and made our way to the priory. Ignoring Anthea’s suggestion to follow a path to the east of a small burn (slightly longer and indeed the path we returned on) but the macho males preferred the more direct approach only to find ourselves neck-deep in what could only be described as a cottage garden style meadow. We were soon intercepted at the gate by a bearded young man from the RSPB on a quad bike. I thought he was particularly polite considering he thought we were trying to flush out the Corncrakes. He asked if we had seen any corncrakes and Ian replied, “yes, I have them every morning for breakfast”. Fortunately, he didn’t quite hear what Ian said.
On our return from the priory we could hear the corncrakes in every direction but didn’t see any as they tend to stay on the ground protected by the deep meadow. We were soon on our way back to Oban but this time with Anthea at the helm. She is being trained up as the deputy skipper as Ian has ambitious nautical plans for their retirement. Charts have been purchased for the Orkney and Shetland Isles as well as Norway and Iceland. The day was rounded off nicely where Elise and the boys had prepared a grand BBQ for our return to Connel.