In 2002 the people of Gigha successfully managed to buy their island, with some help from the National Lottery Fund and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Before this it had always been privately owned. I believe this has caused some problems and at one time the Trust was running out of money and steam.
We took the ferry Lochranza over to Ardminish, the main township on Gigha, in the morning from a pier just down the road from our campsite.
There was very little room for vehicles but we were the first in the queue. Most people go over as foot passengers but, although the island is very small at 10km long by 2.5km, we didn’t want to waste time walking the length and wanted to spend quite some time in the world acclaimed Achamore Gardens which were set out by Colonel Horlick, one time landlord of the island.
You will notice the wild foxgloves in a very bright shade of mauvy-pink in the header picture. The whole island is covered in them, which livens up the rough grassland.
We drove straight to the gardens, following for a while this man on a lawnmower…
Little did we know we would see him again in the gardens!
There was a sign at the Gardens telling us there were seasonal refreshments. Oh good thought both of us – cakes in the garden! We followed a track through a heavily wooded area with plenty of semi-wild flowers.
We suddenly came out into a glade where we could see the magnificent Achamore House, originally a Victorian home whicih was partially destroyed by fire soon after and then rebuilt by the same architects who employed Charles Rennie Macintosh.
We already knew that the house was for sale and here was proof…
Homemade ice cream? That would be lovely!
We went up the steps to the front door and pushed it open. There was a tall freezer full of ice cream tubs and a sign on a brass bell on a small table…
We rang it loudly, and then at least three times more – no answer. We looked around the outer hall – definite signs of Mackintosh…
Coats were hung up but nobody came so we resigned ourselves to an ice cream-less day and carried on around the gardens. It soon became clear that the gardens weren’t what they once were – it all looked a bit sad really. It is known particularly for its rhododendrons but of course they had mostly gone over. We had decided to call it a day when we rounded a corner by some outbuildings, passing what looked like a wild cat, when suddenly from out of the bushes came a little family right at our feet!
A Peahen and her four chicks!
They weren’t at all frightened of us but had obviously retreated into the undergrowth when the cat came past. Then followed another Peahen – possibly a daughter from last year.
Suddenly, from around the corner, strutted the Peacock and possible a master Peacock – you could tell the difference.
Then the cat reappeared and father started the performance of a lifetime….
Round and round he strutted – from the back it looks interesting!
The orange feathers seem to work like bellows and there’s a lot of bottom wiggling!
Mother nearly gets pushed aside as father show off to the chicks. Note the stance!
I don’t think he cuts much ice with the wife and kids though…
We had to leave them to it in the end but Dad was still giving the full performance when everyone else had wandered off.
Deciding now to go back around to the house again we saw that a car was now outside so Peter thought he would give the ice cream bell another go. On the third or forth time I saw a chap in tee shirt and jeans coming out of the greenhouse beside the house itself. At last! I signalled to Peter and sure enough he managed to buy a couple of ice creams, chocolate for him and banana for me!
As we chatted to the chap it turned out that he was the owner and he told us how the gardens had been neglected rather by the Trust (he only owned the house and 2 acres) because, basically, they had run out of money. Such a pity. Checking up on him later I found out that he was a Californian businessman called Don Dennis who had bought the house in 2003, planning to open part of it as a guesthouse and also to bring his perfume business to the island, thereby creating jobs for the locals.
It certainly has been a B&B (good reviews) but I’m not sure how the perfume business went. He told us his wife owned a farm at the north end of the island and that they were going to live there if he could ever sell the house. £900,000 doesn’t seem bad for a 14 bedroom house with 2 acres.
When we took a quick tour of the island (only one road) we found there certainly were a lot of cows on the island – possibly more than the 110 inhabitants! And quite dozy ones too!
We caught the next ferry back, having seen all there was to see, and wondered what the future was going to look like in a few years time for the islanders. Would Don ever sell the house? We certainly wish them both luck.
Back at the campsite it was a nice evening so we took advantage and had another meal en plein air!
Weather looks gorgeous. Pity about the gardens and house but you did get an excellent display from the peacock family, especially dad.
Yes, there always seems to be something that makes up for disappointments.
Such wonderful Peacock photos and the flowers are so pretty.
Thanks Sally – we were very lucky to be in the right place at the right time. 🙂
Dorothy Gray said:
Wow factor with those peacocks.
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Forgot to say I love the header with those Foxgloves so vibrant.
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I love Peacock Jnr attempting to copy the dad and the dad pushing the rest of them out of the way with his feathers!
You could write a story Harry!