Tuesday, September 21, 2021

mega-island? no, gigha island!

this post is a little late, but better late than never!

cut back to may 2021: travel within the UK was beginning to open up, and we had the May bank holiday, with no particular plans.

by a random coincidence, one of the sailing groups had a post about the only restaurant reopening on an island. and that the food was amazing.

i put the name of the island into google. it showed a 250 mile ride and two ferries. and that the island was just 7 miles long and wild campers were welcome.

and so, we packed our tent and sleeping bags and headed off.

the ferry to scotland was packed. in fact, it had the most motorbikes we've ever seen on the ferry - there was literally no room in the bike parking area in the bottom deck of the ferry! we wondered if everyone had the same idea we did. but once we rode off on the other side, the rush started thinning almost immediately. by the time we got to loch lomond, our breath had already been taken away by the mesmerizing scottish countryside.

we were somehow cutting it close though: even though I estimated 3 and a half hours of buffer, google maps started doing its usual and acted up: it decided the best route involved us taking ANOTHER ferry, and by the time we realized we were on the wrong highway, we were already half an hour off course. our lunch ate into a good chunk of our buffer (shruti insisted supermarket sandwiches wouldn't cut it), and once we were back on the correct route we had to deal with a lot of urban traffic, followed by countryside highways which were being repaired.

by around 2:30pm, google maps showed our ETA was 5:50pm, and the last ferry to gigha was at 6pm.

some crazy riding ensued (i did not break any speed limits, although i certainly was tempted!). we made it 5 minutes faster than the google maps ETA - literally just enough time to pee at the public toilets at the ferry terminal as we watched the boat dock and people disembark.

luckily for us, the ferry was relatively empty (just one campervan, one car and us) - and we were soon across on this lovely island!

we quickly got our bearings on the island, asked around, and set off in search of a suitable spot to pitch our tent. both extremes of the island (north and south) had all the prime camping spots taken up, and the one decent-ish spot had a big group of campers who already seemed quite loud and tipsy, so we decided to look more carefully elsewhere.

our spot was perfect: slightly behind a mound, so not very obvious, not in a fenced-off field, so fair game - and with a lovely view of the ocean!

parking vicki in the mud was a nervous experience, but we managed to prop up the stand from sinking on the mud with rocks. the tent was also on a bit of an incline, but it was manageable.

we rode back to the restaurant, barely 10 minutes before their last order, and were not disappopinted. absolutely fresh seafood, eaten facing a little sandy cove, with lots of happy people at nearby tables. we also had the weird experience of a rather tipsy lady giving us hug when we said we're from india, to the embarassment of her companion. yes, that was my first hug with someone other than shruti since march 2020. strange!

The next day was basically our only day to explore the island, and after a good night's sleep and coffee/breakfast, we were ready to explore this hidden gem!

Our first stop was the only shop on the island - and since it was Sunday, and there was a TV serial being shot on the ialsnd, and the shop was one of the shooting locations, it was open for precisely one hour: 11am to noon. We joined the queue, purchased the few snacks we needed for the day, and then purchased our takeaway lunch, which was also locally caught seafood. 

we rode to and then walked through "Ardmore gardens" to find a sunny spot for our lunch. I'd have never imagined steamed mussels in a takeaway box with a wooden fork (which eventually gave way and I had to use my hands 😂) could compete (and win) against all the fine-dining experiences i've had!

And the biggest surprise awaited us: there was a stately peacock roaming the garden!

After lunch, we climbed to the highest point of the island, which wasn't really that high, but had quite a view!

We then found a nice beach, and I took a quick dip after a few sips of cider - perfect for the almost-blazing sun!

We walked as far along the shore as we could, and it was close to 6pm when we decided to head back to the only restaurant on the island.

That's when a bit of a nasty surprise awaited us: the restaurant was completely sold out. They said they had no food to serve. Like, absolutely nothing. Plenty of alcohol, but no food. The kitchen was open for another 3 hours, but every single item of food in stock had been ordered. Luckily, we had purchased stuff for Monday's breakfast, and decided to have it for dinner instead. we still had a bit of sunlight left though, so we cut across sheep-dotted fields to get to another of the high points of the island, home to the windmills that power it.

Back in our tent, we settled in for the night, and after an early start, we packed up and were ready to bid farewell to the island! this time, we didn't take any chances with time, and were on the 10am ferry which gave us another hour on our return journey than we had on our way here. the decision served us well, and we had plenty of time, even to squeeze a couple of scenic breaks on the way back. the weather was great, and just being near the sea all day was everything we could ask for.
Probably the best way to spend a long weekend this corner of the UK!

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