Kerrera Island sits at the end of a long journey, a windswept jewel flung off the coast of the Scottish Highlands.
The island is near the town of Oban, which is one of the end points along Scotland’s West Highland Line. It’s a place that caters to travelers, but is also sufficiently remote that it manages not to be overwhelmed. To get there, take a train from Glasgow and ride for a about three hours. Six trains leave daily.
To reach Kerrera from Oban, walk south out of town along the main road for about two miles until you get to the Kerrera Ferry, which departs regularly during the day and costs 3 pounds. A few minutes later, you’ll arrive at the sparsely populated island, where sheep and highland cows wander amidst ruins and dewy hills.
There are only a few “sites” on Kerrera Island. For the most part, the point is just to wander the hills, listening to the wind and watching the sun streaking across the waves.
If you follow the paths, you’ll eventually end up at the Kerrera Tea Garden and Bunkhouse.
This is what I wrote about the tea garden in 2013:
The garden is in a white-washed cottage nestled between several hills and as I walked around the bend it jumped out of the green landscape like a scene from a pop-up book. Several wooden picnic tables sit out front in a garden filled with flowers and song birds. Off to the side, an old stone cow shed has been converted into a warm, rustic dining area in the style of a country living room. The entire place seemed almost mystical, like something out of a fairy tale that couldn’t possibly exist but did, here, for the pilgrims willing to walk miles.
The most visually stunning part of Kerrera is Gylen Castle, a lonely ruin thrusting into the wind at the edge of the cliffs.
The castle is free to visit and explore. A few plaques provide some history, but for the most part it is simply a place damp with solitude, weather-beaten for ages and forgotten by all but a few.
The same could be said for much of the island. Though a handful of people live there today, Kerrera felt to me like a place shrouded in sublime quiet.
The paths on the island meander for miles and could occupy a day or two if you stay at the bunkhouse or, if you’re in a hurry, an afternoon. However long you stay, though, the trip is rewarding for its breathtaking ocean views and verdant hills, all punctuated by relics of human history. The fact that it is out of the way actually adds to pleasure of visiting; like working up an appetite enhances a meal, working hard to reach Kerrera makes the payoff that much sweeter.
Update: After going through my notes on Kerrera, I was reminded that there is also a rusted old shipwreck on one of the beaches. It’s not far from the ferry landing, though it is separated from the trail by a pastured of Highland cattle.
— Jim Dalrymple II