… Grasshopper! Oh, yes the wheels have finally been turning again after an absence due in part to all of injury, ill-health, apathy and weather, but mainly age. Anyway, what better way to explore a new island than by bike. And in the process The Urchins too re-discovered their zest for pedal power.
Our return could barely have been more of a contrast to the arrival, with a journey in howling gales and torrents of the wet stuff. But the memories are all of the first sights, and the ferry putting distance between us and the mainland. White puffs pecked at the pinnacles of Jura’s Paps, just as Mull’s hills recede. Then Colonsay appears. There is a beach, at Balnahard, as the ferry draws closer. We walk there, later.
Firstly there is another beach. Kiloran Bay is often described as the best in the land, and it is spectacular, especially viewed from the higher ground around. I’m not sure it can surpass Luskentyre, but it is has much that Harris doesn’t have. And the children loved it, as they walked the length, getting splashed ever higher as they warmed to the gentle surf.
Then there comes The Strand, the tidal access over to Oronsay, where the centuries old Celtic grave carvings await a later visit. On the way we passed some of the wild goats, but stopped often to hear the rasp of the elusive corncrake. Hooded crows frolic on the heights of the rocks and down on the shore, tormenting whatever takes their collective fancy. The machair is cropped by sheep, though we didn’t get to sample the local mutton, which is another marker laid down for next time.
Give me a week on the island and the neglected biking muscles will be attuned to the rise and fall of the land. But there is work to do on that front; much in fact to stop the glee of Boy Urchin racing past on the uphills. But I got him on the run down to Oronsay, which is all to do with mass and gravity, as The Grasshopper bounced and ran with the wind.
And so to Balnahard, the final day, cottage vacated, a race before the arrival of the tempest. Three mile walk the guide said, each way of course. With a brief stop for toes to be dipped in the icy water on arrival the round trip was getting on for half a day. Rugged and chiselled, soft and gentle, no not I, but the terrain, and wind, rising. It is all off road, challenging for 4-by-4s, though three family saloons passed by, somehow.
That man Balfour appeared again, Kidnapped in reverse, for there to the north, on Mull’s tip and hiding Iona, lay Erraid, another tidal strand, and another walk for another day. The Treshnish Isles and Stevenson’s light at Dhu Hartach peppered the horizon. The lie of the land is similar to Iona, but bigger, more rugged, and without the scourge of the day trippers.
Our time on Colonsay was short. It was a trip we’d thought of making for some years, though ferry schedules make a long weekend difficult. There was agreement all around that more time would be welcome. We ate well, fuelling our bursts of energy by foot or by bike, and enjoyed a cottage with more space than home. I miss the cats, was heard several times. But they were fine.