I’m really looking forward to going to Colonsay for a long weekend in mid-May as part of my ’14 for 2014′. My Mum’s coming too and we’re now all booked up to go. We’re staying at Colonsay Backpacker’s Lodge, part of the Colonsay Estate, and looking forward to exploring the island, its beaches and generally soaking up the atmosphere of life on a small Scottish island.
However, in the course of planning this trip we’ve come across an issue that’s sure to spark some debate.
Our original plan was to take my Mum’s (very) small camper* and camp informally beside the beach at Kiloran Bay on the northwest of the island. A check of Google Earth confirmed that there are two small, informal parking areas. However, since the Calmac ferry timetable advises that “Motorhomes/caravans may be allowed on Colonsay but only on contacting Colonsay Community Council” I duly rang to check.
The lady from the Community Council put me on to the Pier Master and both were very sympathetic but explained that owing to problems in the past with motorhomes leaving litter (and worse) and leaving their toilet buckets in full view when parked overnight, they had taken the decision to restrict caravans and motorhomes on the island. The situation is this: unless you have permission to park in a private driveway then you are currently unable to stay in a caravan, camper van or motorhome on Colonsay. I was informed that a local crofter is considering creating a formal stance for motorhomes but this isn’t currently available.
I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand, the lack of any formal parking areas means that some visitors will be put off altogether from visiting the island. We’re responsible campers and wouldn’t dream of littering this beautiful island; why should we be disadvantaged owing to the thoughtless actions of irresponsible others ? Informal camping provides a sense of real freedom; now we need to stay ‘indoors’ in order to visit the island**.
On the other hand, Colonsay is a small island (with 144 residents and measuring 8 by 3 miles) and I can fully understand the impact that large white “fridge” motorhomes would have if parked up in a row beside its beauty spots. I wish I’d taken a photo at the time but remember being appalled at the sight of a 40+ foot white motorhome sticking out like a sore thumb, parked up overnight beside the treeless ‘Destitution Road’ in the NW Highlands a couple of years ago. The last thing Colonsay residents (and other holidaymakers) want is huge vehicles clogging up single track roads and creating an eyesore.
I wonder what the situation is on other small Scottish islands ?
I know that the larger islands such as Arran, Islay and Skye are well served with campsites and are large enough to accommodate motorhomes, camper vans and the like. But what about Coll, Tiree, Barra and others – do they have restrictions too, or do official campsites or stances exist ?
There’s little doubt that in recent years there’s been a significant increase in the number of hired motorhomes on Scotland’s roads in summer. I wonder if this is a contributory factor ? I wouldn’t like to think that caravans, motorhomes and camper vans – even the smallest ones – are tarred with the same brush and subject to the same restrictions. While I completely understand local residents’ objections, aren’t there solutions that allow responsible camping ?
* so small in fact that it only sleeps one – I was planning to take my 1-man tent and camp at the far end of the beach.
** you can still wild camp in a tent on Colonsay as long as you’re away from the road and are travelling on foot or by bike. At 80, my Mum’s a little past backpacking and so this wasn’t an option for us.