Islay Trip Report - Caves of Bholsa

A close friend of us was lucky enough to make a beautiful walk to Bholsa, on Islay's north-west coast, during excellent weather conditions. She made the trip with her brother, sister in law and nephew and was kind enough to send a detailed report for the blog. Thanks a lot! ;-)

One of the amazing things about this beautiful island you can access remote, unspoilt terrains in an afternoon. It had been a scorching hot day so in the late afternoon we packed our rucksacks and headed off in search of the Bholsa caves.

We got a lift to Bunnahabhain and headed out across to the North West coast, through the hills and past the lochs, across an unforgiving terrain of hillocky grasslands and thick high ferns. Although the walking was tough, the unfolding views made it all worth while. As we carefully picked our way across the land, what looked like a roe deer in the grass turned out to be a golden eagle, we watched in awe as it took flight, its huge wing span spread out majestically as it soared away from us into the distance. We saw deer and mountain goats and had to watch our footing as we came across several adders basking in the sun. An army of ticks made their way up our long walking socks, looking for a route to flesh. Wild bilberries grew intermittently in the grass, staining our fingers purple as we gathered them along the way. Eventually the hills gave way and spectacular sea views unfolded once more as we looked out across to Oronsay and Colonsay, the islands lit up in the warm glow of the late afternoon sun. Continue reading..... Finally several hours later we had arrived at Bholsa. The beaches covered in smooth white pebbles, caves and natural arches carved into the jagged rocks that surround the coastline, waterfalls gushing down off the hills and the gentle ebb and flow of breaking waves.

Natural arche near Bholsa

We set up camp on the shore on a patch of well grazed grass. My sister in law and I pitched our small tent, my brother and nephew were opting to sleep out under the stars in their survival bags. We then scoured the beaches for driftwood to make a fire. Bholsa is a very atmospheric place, the coastline carved out by the unforgiving storms that batter it during the winter months, debris from old ships and boats litter the shore, wood well weathered and worn by the sea, old creels, buoys, rope and an odd battered shoe lie abandoned brought in by the incoming tide. My brother fancies himself as the next Bear Gryllis and lighting a fire without matches was the order of the day. Steaks were laid our on flat stones, near to the flames, and potatoes wrapped in foil were placed in the fire, wine and whisky were poured and we sat for hours just listening to the sea, enjoying the last of the day’s sun, in the warm glow of the fire.

We awoke next morning to swarms of midges after a damp wet night. With midge nets on, we hurriedly packed away the tent, making sure to cover up the remains of our fire; we left the beach as we had found it on arrival. Packs on backs we headed up a gorge and back onto the hillside. A billy goat stood on a rocky crag watching us, waiting for us to depart his domain.

The sun broke through and the clouds cleared to another scorcher of a day and more adders. The hill loch provided a refreshing stop to replenish our water supplies, dehydrated from the previous night and the growing heat of the midday sun it was a slow hard slog back up through the hills and across to Bunnahabhain. The views remained breath taking, as we took one last look out across the sea before heading into the hills.

As our lift arrived, tired and footsore, we clambered in, just as the heavens opened and the rain lashed down in torrents for the rest of the day....

A last glimps of the sea before entering the hills

Tag: walking report bholsa remote

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Friday, 12 September 2008
Thank you for the lovely, evocative description of your trip to the caves of Bholsa. Was with you in spirit. Just off to Budapest for weekend BUT how I wish it was Islay. There in 5 weeks time but don`t think my decrepit body would get me to the caves. Maybe a little of the way there. What an incredible way to see an eagle. Thanks for sharing your trip. Mags