Thursday, 4 May 2017

Oronsay

This is our fourth visit to Colonsay and, finally, I have managed to cross to the neighbouring island of Oronsay.  It is joined to Colonsay at low water by the Strand, and so there is a narrow window of opportunity to walk across the mile of sand to reach Oronsay.  You really need wellies, or bare feet, as there is always a stretch of running water, so as I had stupidly failed to pack my boots, I borrowed a pair from the Colonsay Hotel and joined a group on a guided walk to the Priory on Oronsay.  
 Above, leaving Colonsay.
Above, on Oronsay, a rock formation looking much like an elephant.  Not very easily seen, but there is a big gap behind the elephant's trunk!  Below looking back to the southeastern corner of Colonsay.

Colonsay and Oronsay were occupied during the Mesolithic period, but 5,000 years ago the islands were abandoned and eventually reoccupied at the end of the Neolithic period.  Later Bronze Age farmers were here, and then Iron Age inhabitants.  Eventually Colonsay was an important Viking stronghold and in the 1100s the foundation of the Lordship of the Isles was established on these islands.  The history goes on and on.  
Our guide grew up on Colonsay and spent much of his childhood rocking around Oronsay.  What he doesn't know about the history of these two islands really isn't worth knowing.  On our outing, we were heading for the 14th century Priory.  St Columba was said to have landed here when he left his native Ireland.  However, he was not happy when he realised that, on a clear day, he could still see the hills of Donegal, so he didn't stay long on Oronsay and travelled on a little further north, to the tiny island of Iona, off the south west toe of Mull.  There is no conclusive evidence that this happened, but if St Columba really disliked Ireland that much, it seems to be a reasonable assumption! 

On Oronsay the beautiful stone walls stretching across the island were constructed in Napoleonic times.  They are real works of art, reminiscent of Andy Goldsworthy's handiwork!  As we walked to the Priory, the views across to Jura and Islay were glorious.
In the Priory there are ancient carvings on 15th and 16th century tombstones and a magnificent Celtic cross in the grounds outside the ruined ecclesiastic buildings.  The history of this place is extensive and it is probably best to learn more about it here.  I can't even begin to scratch the surface!  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oronsay,_Inner_Hebrides
Most of the stone used to build the Priory was local but the golden stone in the window surround below came from the Isle of Arran.
Below, a detail from the cross.
Below, the cloisters within the Priory buildings.
The photo below shows our guide, Andrew, and I just snapped this hastily and later noticed that he appears to be striking a very similar pose to the monk on the grave slab.  I thought it was rather comical!
The knight depicted in the grave slab above was awarded the honour of angels tending his feet, seen in the photo below.  This indicated that he was a Crusader.
There is a fairly narrow window of opportunity for crossing the Strand to Oronsay.  A few    hours while the tide is out.  Andrew was such a mine of information, and filled our visit with so much that the time flew by, and very quickly we had to hightail back to Colonsay.  We had had a fascinating visit, and there is still so much more to discover and learn about.  It is a very special place indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Such a fascinating history; you've got me Googling all about it now.
    Those walls have the most accurately laid stones I've ever seen - and we have plenty of them around here.
    Your photo of Andrew was perfectly timed - he does indeed look as though he is mimicking that figure on the grave slab.
    Thank you for all the photos - AND I see the ELEPHANT!!!!

    ReplyDelete