The island of Colonsay lies in the Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. Fifteen miles to the north lies the island of Mull; the eastern and southern horizons are bounded by the islands of Jura and Islay; and to the south west, just visible from a high point on a clear day, is the coast of Donegal in Ireland. To the west lies the Atlantic, with only the Du Hirteach lighthouse standing between Colonsay and Canada. Together with its semi-detatched neighbour Oransay, it forms an island group roughly ten miles long and two miles wide.
With just over one hundred inhabitants and its nearest neighbouring community almost twenty miles distant, Colonsay constitutes one of the most remote communities in Britain. The island has a primary school (currently with seven children and one pre-school starter), one hotel, a shop and post office, a tea shop and a number of other seasonal enterprises. There is a resident doctor, two churches (one Church of Scotland and one Baptist) but no resident minister. It is served by ferry five times a week (in winter three times) from the mainland port of Oban and there is an additional summer service from Kennacraig via Islay.
There are many beautiful sandy beaches, the largest and most famous of which is Kiloran Bay. This is a crescent of golden sand over a mile long where the Atlantic rollers can provide surf for the adventurous after a westerly wind. Other beaches have completely different characters and different attractions.. seabirds and seals .. rockpools and shells..an unbroken Atlantic horizon to the West or the distant coastlines of Jura and Islay to the East. For those prepared to take the plunge, the water everwhere is crystal clear, smooth as silk and at most times of the year icily invigorating.
Most visitors to Colonsay arrive by the main Oban ferry, which runs regularly during the summer and the travel time is about 45 minutes. The ferry is able to be booked in advance, and it certainly advisable to do so during the Summer months, and particularly on Saturdays. If you have an option to travel on other days than Saturdays, savings can be made by avoiding expensive 'peak sailings'. If you travel to Mull more than a couple of times a year, consider buying a book of six journey tickets, as the local people do. In summer, the ferry trip can feel more like a cruise than a necessary part of the journey. Oban ferry timetable
The second option is the ferry from Lochaline on Morvern to Fishnish on Mull. This option is better if you are travelling from the northern areas of Scotland, particularly if your journey takes you through Fort William. This ferry crossing takes about 20 minutes and you are not able to book. Having said that, watch out for very busy periods like bank holidays and rally etc. The ferry travels hourly, with a break for lunch. Again, books of tickets are available and this ferry now takes credit cards. It is a much cheaper ferry than the one from Oban, but is a bit further to drive, and you need to use the Corran ferry if coming from the north and east.
The third ferry option is to travel from Kilchoan on Ardnamurchan. This is a good alternative if travelling from Mallaig or Ardnamurchan. The ferry is quite small and is not bookable. Care should be taken to arrive in good time to make sure of a crossing. Another good reason to take this option is that the drive along Loch Sunart is very scenic, although winding and along single track roads. If visiting Tobermory for Balamory reasons, this option is good as it allows a day visit without needing further transportation. The Kilchoan ferry is the only ferry arriving in Tobermory. Kilchoan ferry timetable
The ferry to Iona sails regularly from Fionnphort. Motorised vehicles are only allowed with a permit. Bikes are fine, however, it should be noted that there is no camping allowed on Iona. All of the above routes are served by Caledonian MacBrayne.
In recent years, small boat operators have started regular services to less common destinations. It is now possible to travel to the Isles of Muck and also Colonsay. Also it is possible to travel from Drimnin and Sunart on the mainland. Please note that these vessels only carry passengers and bikes by arrangement. Contact the owners prior to travel.