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Scottish anchorages

Scalasaig and Loch Staosnaig

There may not seem a lot to choose between these two anchorages, but they are very different.   Either you can go for convenience and tie up to the pier and roll around with everyone else in the swell that sets into the bay at Scalasaig (and pay for the privilege) or, just around the corner, there is an easy anchorage in Loch Staosnaig (or Queen's Bay) from where it is a 15-minute walk to the hotel (head up the hill to the right of the signs for the electricity cable). This latter anchorage has a delightful sandy bay with a beach that dries out a long way at low tide, ideal for children to mess around on. At above half tide it is good for swimming and snorkelling around the tidal islet. If you don’t fancy the water then you can just look at the view of the Paps of Jura. But, dear oh dear, 10 moorings are planned for the faint hearted who won't/can't anchor. Time to move somewhere else.


200 yards from the pier (original bit 1850 with roll-on roll-off extension in 1988) is a convenient and quite well stocked shop, but being an island you cannot always get bread or fresh milk — but nor do you have to tolerate the horribleness of a large Tesco.  Right by the pier, the Pantry (ph 01951 200 325) is a great place for home-baked cakes, real coffee and fresh bread if you order it. And it does lunches and dinners. Also just by the pier there is now an art gallery in the old waiting room.  











Loch Steonisaig

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Loch Staosnaig across to the Paps of Jura

Up the road from the pier is the 18th century, fairly recently upgraded, and highly rated Colonsay Hotel. (original building circa 1750). To make my hackles rise, it has also been rebadged as 'The Colonsay' and in some quarters is regarded as a 'boutique' hotel. However, honour redeemed, it is very friendly to children and sailors, it has a good bar, and a nice but not cheap restaurant with good food (ph 01951 200 316). However, watch out, things may change as it was up for sale in 2013 — £545,000.


Beer has been brewed on the island since 2007, you can get it on draft in the hotel — dark, IPA and blonde — or buy it from the brewery itself down the road. It is said to be the most remote brewery in the UK and I can well believe it.


The parish church, earlier than many at 1801-4, is nicely perched on a mound opposite the hotel, but close up it is not all that interesting, either inside or out. Except the pewter baptismal font hinged on a rail is worth a look. Although originally designed for 400 'sitters', the regular congregation is now down to about a dozen, so there are real problems with the upkeep. For example, in 2015 they were having to raise £60000 to stabilise the belfry, maybe grants and crowd funding will do the trick. I am in no way religious but it is very, very sad to see these historic and reassuring buildings going downhill.


Finally, miracle of miracles, there is a lovely bookshop by the hotel. The opening hours are limited so phone ahead — 01951 200 320. Here there is a great collection of new and second hand books, majoring on Argyll, but also covering the rest of the Hebrides and Scotland, with some children's books thrown in. There is even a local publishing company, the House of Lochar. Long may it live.


I imagine the 2.5 mile walk to Colonsay House (which is private) would be good, but I haven't done it — yet. The gardens sound fine, and there is a café, but not open every day, so check (ph 01951 200 316).