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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Colonsay: Home to the Clan MacPhee

So why did we chose a remote island with a population of a bit more than 100 people to be the first stop (and one of our longest stops) of our trip?  There are a couple of reasons.
Second of which is that it is a peaceful small community where we could start our Scottish adventure at a gentle pace.  There are just a bit over 100 residents who live scattered over the island, which is only 8 miles long and 3 miles wide (at its widest point).  Folks here are often bi/tri/quad vocational as they making their livings in such a remote location.  This makes each person very interwoven into the community, and each person is very important to the whole.    Which is good… since everyone knows what everyone else is doing!

The small croft (farm) homes are lovely in their simplicity. 

And the landscape is dramatic and beautiful.

Then all you have to do is turn around and there is an equally dramatic and beautiful sea.

The B&B I chose was The Corncrake Cottage (a corncrake is a shore bird)  http://www.colonsay.org.uk/corncott.htm  .  The room was very comfortable.  (We generally booked the twin room because beds in the UK are smaller than those in the US.  And after a long day on the road, one really isn’t in the mood to be fighting for sleeping space!)

We ate at a table that looked out at the above ocean view.  Sometimes there were seals in the bay who watched us watching them.  Our breakfasts were filling and quite delicious. 

Les, the owner of the Corncrake Cottage, is a working crofter and one morning we watched from our room’s window as he and his border collie brought in some of his sheep.  How cool is that!?  The whole family made us feel welcome.  BTW, they also offered to fix supper since there is no close by options for a meal.  It was some of the best cooking we had in the whole of Scotland… and we ate at some very well-known restaurants (more on those later). 

Just up the road was a beautiful rocky beach where we spent each afternoon.  Since it was the off season, we had it to ourselves every time. 

The stones were just incredible.  They ranged from golf ball size all the way up to medicine ball size boulders.  (Yes, a few made it back to TN with us!)

The beach was what is called a “raised beach”.  What that basically is, is a beach with the bedrock ‘raising’ out towards the water.  These stones are part of that raising.  They make awesome tidal pools and I had a great time exploring them.  I think I was staring at little shrimps in this one. 

When the tide was low… it was really, really low!  It went out about 300 feet and left these seaweed covered stones.  This was another fun area to explore, as there were many tiny tidal pools around each rock.  I told Himself the rocks looked like soldiers in their ‘ghillie suits’! 

One thing I think is fabulous about this little community is its sense of fun.  Once a month the small cafĂ©/shop “The Pantry”  http://www.thecolonsaypantry.co.uk/   hosts a ‘theme night’ international dinner and many of the residents are in attendance.  And the Saturday we were there was that night!  We enjoyed an Indian dinner every bit as good as we’ve ever had.  GG and M… you did a fantastic job!!  You ruined Himself with that wonderful rice pudding!  (a side note… The Pantry offers the BEST homemade bread.  I ordered up a loaf that we picked up when we got off the ferry.  It was still warm (!) and soooo good.) 
The night was made even more fun when I discovered a fellow blogger was in attendance.  It was rather funny as we figured who each other was!  Check out her blog at  http://hebridean-isles.blogspot.com/    

There is actually quite a bit to explore on Colonsay if you are interested in ancient history.  These ‘standing stones’ where just up the road from our B&B.  They date back to the Bronze Age (2500 – 600 BC). 

As you can see… they are not small!!

Almost across the road are the ruins of an old chapel, full of beautiful Celtic crosses. 

And stones so old and worn that they were crumbling back to earth.  
Resident Kevin offers tours of the island  http://www.colonsay.org.uk/walks.html 

On Sunday we attended service at the Baptist church.  We walked the mile distance in the company of Kevin and his lab Lola.  
We met visiting minister Douglas and his wife Jeannette.  There are two churches on Colonsay and they alternate where services will be held.  One Sunday at the Baptist church…

… and the next Sunday at the Church of Scotland parish. 
But all that is the SECOND reason we came to Colonsay.  The FIRST reason we came is that Colonsay is the ancestral home of the clan MacFie (or MacPhee, MacPhie, MacFee…).  And my Dad’s mother was of the clan MacFie. 
In a conversation Himself had with the gentleman he rented a bike from, we discovered there was one MacPhee still living on the island.  We were encouraged to go visit him as “MacPhee” enjoyed meeting clan members.

And so we made a call upon “MacPhee” and found ourselves welcomed in with a wonderful hospitality.  We spent several hours visiting and left with a new friend.
So why did we come to Colonsay.
I wanted to see where this part of my Scottish heritage had come from.  Is it a coincidence that I have always loved rugged landscapes, rocky beaches and moody seas?  Maybe.
… Or maybe not…

1 comment:

  1. What splendid photographs and thoughtful narrative; delighted that you enjoyed Colonsay so much - and that you kindly told the world. Do come again - often.

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