Below you'll find a number of options for guided walks and tours around Colonsay and Oransay.
Peat and Heather
The guys and gals over at peatandheather.co.uk have compiled several detailed walks on Colonsay and Oransay. Each walk has an OS map, together with routes, way points, photos and points of interest. Well worth checking out.
The RSPB run a Oransay as a bird sanctuary and sometimes they arrange guided walks. Look out for information locally, e.g. a notice on the board at the village store.
Fern Appreciation Walks
Ferns are popularly recognised as having originated during the Devonian era, almost 400 million years ago, somewhat earlier than the flowering plants, whose origin lies in the Carboniferous period; not that 50 million years makes a lot of difference. They are recognised as being in some way special. They are found in fossils, they were believed to have medicinal properties, they conferred the gift iof invisibility to humans, they even inspired the crosier or bishop's staff of office. They have no seed, and their life cycle seems quite exotic, running each time through two quite distinct generations.
There are said to be some 13,000 species of Pteridophytes in all, and here in Colonsay we have at least 33 of them, including our ubiquitous bracken. Although the Victorians were fascinated by them, ferns are perhaps slightly neglected nowadays, so we offer you the chance to rekindle your interest by joining one of the regular Fern Appreciation walks. The walks are led by Kevin Byrne, an enthusiastic novice who nonetheless can happily guide you on a relatively gentle tour around a dozen or more of our more interesting and accessible specimens.
Choose a very simple ramble through the woodland garden of Colonsay House (Option A: allow 90 minutes, good outdoor footwear); or if you are a little more adventurous, a slightly longer walk can expand the species list (Option B: allow 2 hours, wellington boots essential). Even better, you can choose to include a visit to A' Choille Mhor ("The Big Wood"), which is a magnificent example of ancient and mature woodland (Option C: allow 3 hours, wellington boots essential).
Bring your own camera and notebook, but Kevin will bring magnifying lenses and a basic identification key. This should be an enjoyable experience so we suggest that you choose dry weather with a light breeze, thus avoiding wet legs and the attention of any midges. Groups are normally limited to between 2 and 6 persons and well-behaved dogs are not a problem. The terrain DOES include natural hazards, so participation is at your own risk.
Suggested start times, meeting at Old Village Hall, Kiloran, 100.00hrs or 14.00hrs, available three days per week (to be decided when ferry timetable has been published).
Cost per adult is £10.00 for Option A, £12.50 for Option B, or £15.00 for Option C.
Note: the first persons to book for a given day and time will choose the Option for that particular walk.
There is no charge for children up to 16 years, but anyone under about 12 years might find it a bit boring.
Payment by cheque or credit card is very acceptable. Telephone 01951 200320 to book or firstname.lastname@example.org
Finding your Feet: by arrangement
Kevin Byrne can offer you a guided tour of Colonsay in your own vehicle, taking about an hour and a half. Although restricted to the road system it is sufficient to give you a broad sweep of the island's history and topography. The ancient geological background, the effect of the last Ice Age and the arrival of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers lead on to an outline of events from the Bronze Age to the present day. The relevance of Clans Donald and MacPhee, the flourishing of the McNeills and other local families, the Clearances and the purchase of the island by the first Baron Strathcona and Mountroyal. The tour may help you to identify the places you wish to revisit for further investigation, perhaps for especial scenery, historic sites, places of family interest or locations suited to botany, ornithology or photography. If you have only limited time, this may help you to make the most of it.
Cost is £40.00 per party. Payment by cheque or credit card is very acceptable. Telephone 01951 200320 to book or email@example.com
Explore Balnahard: by arrangement
This is a fairly vigorous walk led by Kevin Byrne, ideally starting about 10.00 a.m. or so and one should allow 4 or 5 hours; footwear is up to you but Kevin will almost always wear wellington boots. The route is mostly off the beaten track so there should be plenty of natural history to enjoy as well as fresh air and more than a few curiosities along the way.
The walk starts from An Crosan (bridge leading from public road at Kiloran onto Balnahard Track). It includes Port Easdail, the caves, the cupmarks, St. Columba's Well and a chance to see a fine Bronze Age house and neighbouring Iron Age (?) fort. Then onwards to Port Sgibinis, Port an Obain, Dun Meadhonach (at one time "the home of the Richest Woman in the World"), the Gruagach Stone, Carraig Nighean Mhaol Choinnich, Cill Chatriona etc. It is possible to break away at that point for a bathe or a picnic at Balnahard Bay, and/or to walk back to An Crosan along the track. Hardier souls may prefer to return along the east coast and to see Sguid nam Ban Truagh, the standing stone at Cnoc a' Charraigh, Cnoc na Faire, Sron 'ic Ille Mhiniche and the very interesting shieling at A' Mhaol Bhuidhe.
The trip is not intended to be competitive, but participants should be reasonably fit. As well as your lunch, please remember to bring chocolate and a bottle of water. Children will need to be reasonably independent, perhaps 12 years or more; well behaved dogs are welcome (there are only two places where you will need to lift your dog across an obstacle).
Cost is £15.00 per adult, £10.00 students over 16yrs, no charge under 16 years but there has to be a minimum return of £60.00 to make it viable.
Payment by cheque or credit card is very acceptable. Telephone 01951 200320 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Beach-cleaning in Company
Great fun - and free! A major effort is being made to enhance our environmental credentials and this includes a serious campaign to render Colonsay Rubbish-free. The sides of all roads, paths and lochs are carefully cleared during each winter and in mid-March a start is made upon the coastline. Although individual beaches are often cleaned, this is a sustained attempt to actually clear the entire coastline - volunteers gather for about 90 minutes every week, usually about 10.00 on Saturday mornings. Details will be found on posters - on average, we cover about 1 km per week, and recover tyres, fish-boxes, floats, plastic bottles etc. Do join us - it is surprisingly good fun, and excellent exercise for joints that one had forgotten one had.