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Colonsay Trip Report March 2022

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743116d14932bedcd094322a0540e06e?s=80&d=retro&r=g
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I've a long fondness for the islands off the west coast of Scotland. I've been a regularly visitor since I started flying. Colonsay EGEY being my favourite of the islands. It's small enough to be accessible by foot, but large enough to have somewhere to explore, one of the closer ones to me, and it has a great runway. With a population of just 135, (growing slowly) it has a really remote feel to it.

I last flew to Scotland in the summer of 2017. I brought a friend on mind and his son, and we explored the area of island that was south of the airport and wild camped overnight. Ever since, I've longed to go back and explore some of the island north of the airport. However life got in the way. My wife had an illness that kept me away from flying for about 2 years, and just as I got back, COVID put restrictions on movements, and our aircraft was down for extended periods getting new avionics (which took much longer than planned). But with all COVID travel restrictions in Ireland now gone, and our aircraft finally back and ready to fly, it was time to start making plans.

March 17, our national holiday is a public holiday. It fell on a Thursday this year. But this year our government has decided to make Friday 18 a national holiday too, in recognition of the dedication of our front line workers during the COVID pandemic. So a four day weekend. That would leave a good opportunity for a 2 day trip with some ability to move dates to find some nice weather. Flexibility being key to a VFR trip!

Originally I'd planned Thursday - Friday, but as it got closer, the weather on Thursday didn't look great. So I changed to Friday to Saturday. (Thursday actually turned out ok, but I'd already changed my aircraft booking). The only downside to the weather was wind. It was forecast for 20-25kts fully crosswind, with gusts to 35kts. Sporting. It's always windy up that direction! With just a 500 mtr runway you'll have to make sure that cross wind technique is right.

Our aircraft is based in Weston Airport (EIWT) near Dublin. It only opens at 9am, and I was ready to call for taxi at 9:10 and was airborne at 9:20. As I haven't been this direction in a long time, I decided to take in as many landmarks as possible along the way.

The first one was the Hill of Tara. I've recently posted a photo of this location on the photos thread. So a bit of repetition here.
The Hill of Tara is believed to be the inauguration site of the High Kings of Ireland. It's an ancient burial/ceremonial site.
Hill of Tara on Wikipedia

1 Hill of Tara !

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The next landmark was Newgrange. This is a passage tomb from around 3200BC (older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids). The rising sun shines through the opening down a long passage to light up the ceremonial chamber on the morning of the winter solstice. It's quite an interesting tour if you are ever in the area.
Newgrange on Wikipedia
2 Newgrange !
3 Newgrange !

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Next on my list was Cabra Castle, now used as a luxury hotel. It was built in the early 19th century. Unfortunately, despite taking 6 photos, not a single one came out in focus! Sorry. This is the best I can do with this one!

Cabra Castle on Wikipedia
4 Cabra Castle !

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After Cabra Castle, I crossed into Northern Ireland. My first sight in Northern Ireland was Gosford Castle.
Gosford on Wikipedia
The current castle was finished in 1859, though a castle has existed on this site since 1610.
5 Gosford Castle !

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6 nm later it was Navan Fort. It's an ancient fort or ceremonial mound, near Armagh. Not much can be seen now other than the mount and the outline. The earliest construction that can be dated goes back to the 8th century BC, but pottery and tools found on the site date back to between 4000 & 2500BC.

Navan Fort on Wikipedia
7 Navan Fort !
6 Navan Fort !

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Now I pass over Lough Neagh, the largest lake on the island of Ireland and cut the corner of the Aldergrove CTR (No airspace awareness course for me....I had a clearance!)

Photo 9 Lough Neagh
9 Lough Neagh !

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Then I fly over Galgorm Castle. With Navan Fort I had to keep things very tight to avoid flying too low over a built up area, and I again face a similar problem with Galgorm Castle. Galgorm is a 17th Century Castle.
Galgorm Castle

10 Galgorm Castle !

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The cliffs of the Northern Ireland coastline as I coast out.

11 Cliffs from Northern Ireland coast !

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Rathlin Island, just 3nm off the coast of Northern Ireland.

12 Rathlin Island !

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I as leave the island, I pass Rathlin East Lighthouse. It stands 27 mtrs tall and was built in 1849.
"Rathlin East Lighthouse on Irish Lights": https://www.irishlights.ie/tourism/our-lighthouses/rathlin-east.aspx

13 Rathlin East Lighthouse !

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Port Ellen on Islay

14 Islay !

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Islay interior

15 Islay !
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Islay to the left, Jura to the right

16 Islay !

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Jura

17 Jura !

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Next is Ruvaal Lighthouse on the northern edge of Islay. It was completed in 1859 and stands 34 meters tall. Painted white, gold and black, I think it's a fine sight.
Ruvaal Lighthouse on Wikipedia

18 Ruvaal Lighthouse !

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Now Colonsay, my destination, comes into view. It's 40 sq km, measuring 13km long and 5km wide at the longest/widest points.

19 Colonsay !

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Colonsay Airport. You need an out of hours permit from Oban Airport in order to be able to fly here. It's easily and freely available, but must be applied for in advance and you have to send a copy of your insurance before you get it. It's valid for a year after that. You don't need it if you arrive/depart during opening hours, but given that there are only 3 or 5 flights per week (covering 2 or 3 days) depending on winter or summer time tables and that they only open just before the flight lands and close as soon as it departs, you're not likely to be able to make your visit during opening hours, making an out of hours permit a necessity.

Wind at 2000ft was 35kts and on the ground was around 20kts (windsock almost horizontal). It was about 70 degrees across the runway with nasty gusts and turbulence.

20 Colonsay Airport !

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A pilot happy to be on Colonsay again.

21 A Happy pilot on the ground !

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Flight time was 1 hour & 25 minutes in the air. Given that I was here early in the day, and I was by myself (and not having to think about what I was putting anyone else through!), I figured I'd use the opportunity to explore as far north as I could. I wanted to get to the northern coast if I could, but needed to be back to the aircraft a bit before sunset. My camping gear was in the aircraft and I planned to camp close to the airfield.

So I put on my hiking boots and my day pack and headed off.

Colonsay golf course is just outside the entrance to the airport. Definitely a links course.
22 Colonsay !

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Some photos from the island

23 Colonsay !

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This isn't a sheep! Someone farming Lamas
24 Lamas !

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Beaches aren't just for people! Here is a cow enjoying the beach

25 Cow on Beach !

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Kiloran beach. It's a fine long sandy beach and gets all the publicity as far as beaches on Colonsay go. But there are lots of nice beaches on the island.

26 Kiloran Beach !
27 26 Kiloran Beach !
28 Kiloran Beach !

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At the northern end of the beach are three caves. I found two of them. I assumed what looked like an entrance was the third one but didn't go in as it was very narrow and awkward to get into it. After getting home, I did some reading and it turns out that wasn't the entrance to the third one. It's up above these two, so I missed it. The caves go back 80 mtrs into the rock.
29 Caves !
30 Caves !
31 Caves !
32 Caves !
33 Caves !
34 Caves !
35 Caves !
36 Caves !
38 Caves !
39 Outside Caves !
40 Caes !
42 Caves !
43 Caves !

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After the caves, I tried to pick up a trail shown on my hiking gps app. I'd no idea if the trail was a paved path, a cleared trail, or just a suggested path accross the ground. I crossed over a gravel road that appeared to come to a dead end as my GPS was telling me to continue a 100 mtrs further east. Turns out that that gravel road was the trail and it wasn't a deadend! But I didn't realise that until much later. That much later was when I was on a ridge line, looking down over the side of a cliff seeing the road below! So I unintentionally ended up hiking along the top so the hills moving north following sheep trails 🙂 But getting some very nice scenery and not seeing anyone.

44 !
45 !
46 !
47 !
48 !
49 !

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I eventually managed to join back up with road, (about 500mtrs from where it came to an end!). But time was getting late. I continued on to Balnahard Beach. In my mind it's almost as nice as Kiloran Beach, but I suppose it doesn't get the same publicity as it's not so easy to get to (Certainly not the way that I got to it!).

50 Balnahard Beach !

Can anyone tell me what this is? There are two of them buried in the sand at Balnahard Beach. They are flat timbers with massive nails/pins sticking out. At first I thought they were the rotting corpse of an old wooden ship, but then I saw some old fishing nets attached to one. Perhaps some structure dropped into the sea for farming or catching fish?

51 What is this !

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Well the sun waits for no man, so it was time to make my way back to set up camp before the sun set. I wasn't sure that I was going to be back in time. I pushed the time a little in order to get to Balnahard beach and expected the return trip along the road would be faster than the way I came. I was only about 1 km from the most northerly tip of the island, but I didn't have time to make it unless I was willing to put my tent up in the dark (which I wasn't!).

So I set off back, joining up with the road that I missed first time.

This is the ridge line that I was moving along on the way north.
52 ridge line !

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Some photos from the island
53 !
54 !
55 !

 

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These cows seem to have a taste for seaweed!

56 !

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Kiloran Beach from a higher vantage point

57 Kiloran Bay !

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Lower Kilchattan Standing Stones

58 Lower Kilchatten STanding stones !

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Time to set up camp for the night.

I set up camp close to a stone wall, as it sheltered me from the worst of the wind, but still left me a nice view of the sea, and I didn't have to carry my gear too far from the aircraft.

My tent pitched just before sunset.
59 tent !

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Chicken Arrabbiata for dinner. Yummie after a long day's hiking!

60 Dinner !

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Colonsay has little in the way of light pollution. The locals seem to want to keep it that way to encourage tourism. (Coll an island a little further north has got recognised as a Dark Sky Community). While there were plenty of stars to see, and I also saw two satellites, and the sky was clear, unfortunately a really bright (almost full) moon ruined most of the viewing. The moon was casting very distinct shadows. Even inside my tent, I didn't need a torch to find things, the moon was so bright.

61 Stars !
62 moon !

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Night time temperatures were 9C. I got fed up of being cold while camping, so bought a really warm sleeping bag (Rab Expedition 1400) and have never been cold again! At 9C I woke up during the night sweating and having to open some baffles to cool down.

The next morning an otter passed me my. It was no more than 2 meters from me and just walked on by! If it was scared of me, it didn't show it. It just took a look at me while walking on continued on its way. It was almost gone before I got my phone out and camera app open (I had to do it slowly to avoid a sudden move which might frighten it!)

63 Otter !

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Porridge for breakfast

64 Porrige !

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Having walked about 30km the day before, the soles of my feet were a bit sore. While the gravel road back was much faster than the hills, walking in hiking books along hard surfaces kills my feet. So I used my electric scooter to travel around a bit more on the second day. I packed up my tent and put it back in the aircraft and made my way to the main village on the island, Scalasaig.
There isn't much to the village.
A bookshop/gallery/cafe (that I've never seen open). The sign says it should be open when I was there but it wasn't. Maybe only open in summer?
The ferry terminal, a small shop and the local brewery. Apparently Colonsay is the smallest island in the world with its own brewery.

65 galary !
66 port !
67 Brewery !
68 Shop !

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I explored a road up the eastern side that I'd not previously travelled, until it joined up with a road that I'd hiked along the previous day. The scooter making it much easier!
69 !
70 !

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The Colonsay Hotel. I've never stayed here, but I have eaten here twice and the food was nice.

71 Hotel !
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Some photos close to my camping spot before I prepare to head home.

72 !
73 !
74 !

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Preparing to leave

75 !

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It was time to leave now. And again I intended to take in as many sights as possible.

Winds for departure were just as strong as yesterday, but somewhat more aligned with the runway.

For my trip back, I was seeing winds aloft of between 30-50 kts. At one stage, it was 50kts straight on the nose! That made for slow progress. Occasionally when I got it just right, I was getting upward mountain wave which helped add a little to the TAS, but not anywhere near enough to cancel out the headwind!

These are a few shots of Jura Island.
76 !
77 !
78 !

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This is Skervuile lighthouse. It was built in 1865 and has the same white, gold and black colour scheme as Ruvaal Lighthouse on Islay.

Skervuile Lighthouse

79 Skervuile lighthouse !

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Gigha Island and runway.

80 Gigha !

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Campbeltown runway. Once a backup runway for the space shuttle

81 Campbelltown airport !

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This is the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse. Originally built in 1788 and rebuilt in 1820. The former lighthouse keepers cottage is now a holiday cottage.

I hope you appreciate this photo. The light house is down low on some hills, so I had to drop below the peeks of the hills to get a decent shot. The wind at this point was 50kts coming straight over the hills. So I was very much in the washing machine to get this photo!

Mull of Kintyre lighthouse on wikipedia

82 Mull of Kintyre !

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Chaine Tower. It's a memorial to James Chaine MP and was built in 1888. It's right beside Larne, so I couldn't get low enough to get a great photo without infringing the low flying rules. I could have flown off the coast but then it would have been on the wrong ride of the aircraft for me, and I'd have to take the photo through the glass rather than the storm window.

Chaine Tower on Wikipedia

83 Chaine Tower !

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Grey Point Fort is military defence base built in 1904.

Grey Point Fort on Wikipedia

84 Grey Point Fort !

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Mount Stewart is a 19th century house owned by the national trust. Just as I was coming up to it, ATC wanted to confirm my intended track and advised of traffic. So I didn't have much time take very many photos. Thankfully it came out ok!

Mount Stewart on wikipedia

85 Mount Stewart !

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My next point was intended to be Nendrum Monastery. However just as I was getting to it, ATC called again asking me to report some point and at first I couldn't understand what they were saying and then didn't know where it was, and they also wanted my estimate for the FIR boundary. Too much going on, and I missed the monastery. So this one will have to wait for another day!

The next one was Dundrum castle. This one I couldn't find. I mixed it up with the following point, so was looking for the wrong thing! Oh well....another one for next time!

The next two were Narrow Water Castle and Narrow Water Keep. They are right beside one another. I didn't see the castle, only the keep. But looking at my photos afterwards, I see that I caught the two in the same photo.

Narrow Water Castle was built in 1816, but a previous castle on the site dated back 1680. It's now used as a hotel
Narrow Water Castle
86 Narrow Water Castle !

Narrow Water Keep
87 Narrow Water Keep !

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Next was King John's Castle at Carlingford. I've walked around the grounds of this one before. It was built in the late 12th century.

King Johns Castle on Wikipedia

88 King Johns Castle !

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On my way back I passed Newgrange again. But this time I also spotted Knowth, another passage tomb which is also in the area. Its age is also estimated at 3200BC.

Knowth on Wikipedia

89 Douth !

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And another photo of Newgrange. And why not....it's always worth a look 🙂

90 Newgrange !

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And another of the Hill of Tara as I pass by on my way home.

91 Hill of Tara !

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And the last one of my trip. Carton House. Normally I'm too busy at this point, as it's quite close to Weston Airport. But Weston was quite today (almost nobody flying because of the wind!) so I got my calls and clearances in early and had time to take the photo.

Carton House is a 5 star luxury hotel. The first house on the site was from the early 17th century. The current house was commenced in 1739 and added to over the centuries. It's attached to two highly rated golf courses.

92 Carleton House !
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I landed after 1 hour and 50 minutes in the air, after a really busy flight. It was a tiring but really rewarding trip. My feet still hurt and my head is still tired, but I really got to explore parts of Colonsay that I thought I might never get to, and I took in so many sights along the way to make it a really high value trip.

A trip to Colonsay comes highly recommended. It's not for those seeking fancy shopping, collecting souvenirs or looking for 5* accommodation (though I believe that the hotel is nice), or Michelin star meals, or amazing night life. But if you would like a day or two with a slower pace and enough exploring by foot, it's a great place to go.

 

"EasyVFR 4 Track outbound": https://www.easyvfr.aero/
Inbound !

"EasyVFR 4 Track inbound": https://www.easyvfr.aero/
Outbound !

EasyVFR's tag line is "Adventure made possible". It certainly helped me to make this adventure possible!


   
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b5c830c40d747fdb5ae6278e1fc0a4e0?s=80&d=retro&r=g
Reputable Member Beta tester
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 236
 

What a excellent trip report Colm!

I really enjoyed reading your adventure to Colonsay, lovely photos, made me want to go and visit but it would be the Hotel for me if I went, my camping days are long gone!

Alan.


   
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a82ba4be1a792ce8fff251489ebb3429?s=80&d=retro&r=g
Estimable Member
Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 123
 

One of the most extrordinary trip reports I've ever read! Excellent!!


   
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743116d14932bedcd094322a0540e06e?s=80&d=retro&r=g
Eminent Member Beta tester
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 19
Topic starter  

Thank you both. 

 

Here are some videos of inside the caves

 

https://vimeo.com/692427789  

 

https://vimeo.com/692427789

 

https://vimeo.com/692428499

 

 

And one of what the windsock was doing just before I set up camp. 

https://vimeo.com/692428617

 


   
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Heli.Lamb
Estimable Member Beta tester
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 122
 

Very thorough report! You've certainly put more effort into that than I did!

https://easyvfr4.aero/community/trip-report/6-days-in-a-helicopter-aroundd-scotland-using-2-x-evfr-devices/


   
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