Colonsay Location Colonsay shown within Scotland OS grid reference NR382938 Names Gaelic name Colbhasa Pronunciation [kʰɔlˠ̪ɔ.əs̪ə] ( listen) Norse name Colonsey Meaning of name Old Norse for 'Columba's isle' Area and summit Area 4,074 hectares (15.7 sq mi) Area rank 26 Highest elevation 143 metres (469 ft) Population Population 108 Population rank 44 out of 97 Main settlement Scalasaig Groupings Island group Islay Local Authority Argyll and Bute References  If shown, area and population ranks are for all Scottish islands and all inhabited Scottish islands respectively. Population data is from 2001 census.
Colonsay (Scottish Gaelic: Colbhasa) is an island in the Scottish Inner Hebrides, located north of Islay and south of Mull and has an area of 4,074 hectares (15.7 sq mi). It is the ancestral home of Clan Macfie and the Colonsay branch of Clan MacNeill. Aligned on a south-west to north-east axis, it measures 8 miles (13 km) in length and reaches 3 miles (4.8 km) at its widest point.
The island's total population is about 110 people. Colonsay's main settlement is Scalasaig (Gaelic: Sgalasaig) on the east coast, from where ferries sail to Oban and, between April and October, to Kennacraig via Port Askaig on Islay.
The island is known for Colonsay House, the eighth century Riasg Buidhe Cross, its wild goats, and for birds including Black-legged Kittiwakes, cormorants, guillemots, corncrakes and golden eagles. The island is linked by a tidal causeway (named 'The Strand') to Oronsay [Orasa].
Although Colonsay appears bare and somewhat forbidding on approach from the sea, its landscape is exceptionally beautiful and varied, with some of the finest sandy beaches in the Hebrides, and a sheltered and fertile interior. Hence the growth of tourism as the mainstay of the island's economy, with numerous holiday cottages, many of them owned and managed by the Isle of Colonsay Estate. The estate is owned by Donald Howard, 4th Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, whose eldest son and heir to the title, Alex Howard, lives on the island with his family and oversees the running of the Estate. The Colonsay Hotel, the only one on the island, is also estate owned.
The island has a tiny bookshop specialising in books of local interest; it is also the home of the House of Lochar publishing company specialising in Scottish history. There is a hotel overlooking the harbour, a cafe and bakery, and a shop and post office. In 2006 the former grass airstrip was upgraded and provided with a hard surface, in readiness for the introduction of a scheduled air service from Oban (Connel). This service began operating in June 2008 with morning and evening flights on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Colonsay Community Development Company, the local development trust is “engaged in a range of work which reflects a sustainable approach to the regeneration of our island”. Current projects include running the islands coal supply and only petrol pump, a major rhododendron ponticum eradication programme and a feasibility study into the possibility of improving the harbour and surrounding area.
The nature of island life was exemplified by a story reported in November 2006, when a construction worker from Glasgow was arrested and confessed to theft by housebreaking. The man had entered an unlocked house and stolen £60 in cash. Media interest was stirred when it was reported that this was the first recorded crime since 2004, and the 'first ever theft from a house.'
2007 saw the opening of the Colonsay Brewery, a micro-brewery offering three different products.
In 2008, Colonsay hosted the first ever Ceòl Cholasa, the island's own folk festival. This has now become an annual event and has seen performances by numerous well-known artists including Phil Cunningham & Aly Bain, Karen Matheson, Gaberlunzie and Karine Polwart as well as performances from local island musicians.
The American author John McPhee, descended from a Colonsay immigrant, spent a summer on Colonsay, out of which was published The Crofter and the Laird in 1969.
Mesolithic food industry
In 1995 evidence of large-scale Mesolithic nut processing, some 9,000 years old, was found in a midden pit at Staosnaig on the island's sheltered east coast. The evidence consists of a large, shallow pit full of the remains of hundreds of thousands of burned hazelnut shells. Hazelnuts have been found on other Mesolithic sites, but rarely in such quantities or concentrated in one pit. The nuts were radiocarbon dated to 7720+/-110BP, which calibrates to circa 7000 BC. Similar sites in Britain are known only at Farnham in Surrey and Cass ny Hawin on the Isle of Man.
This discovery gives an insight into communal activity and forward planning in the period. The nuts were harvested in a single year and pollen analysis suggests that the hazel trees were all cut down at the same time. The scale of the activity, unparalleled elsewhere in Scotland, and the lack of large game on the island, suggests the possibility that Colonsay contained a community with a largely vegetarian diet for the time they spent on the island. The pit was originally on a beach close to the shore, and was associated with two smaller stone-lined pits, whose function remains obscure, a hearth, and a second cluster of pits.
- Danny Alexander the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey grew up on Colonsay.
Crest badge of the MacNeills of Gigha & Colonsay.
The Druid's Circle and other archaeological features on Colonsay.
8th-century Riasg Buidhe Cross in the gardens of Colonsay House.
- ^ General Register Office for Scotland (28 Nov 2003) Occasional Paper No 10: Statistics for Inhabited Islands Retrieved 9 July 2007.
- ^ Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 1841954543.
- ^ "Colonsay Hotel" colonsayestate.co.uk. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
- ^ House of Lochar Publisher. "Mission Statement". http://www.houseoflochar.com/sitefiles/mission.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- ^ "Colonsay Hotel". http://www.thecolonsay.com. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- ^ "Argyll Flying High." Argyll-bute.gov.uk. Retrieved 20 September 2007
- ^ Paterson. S. (2006-11-10). "Colonsay’s first house thief is fined £400". The Herald newspaper (Glasgow). http://www.islayblog.com/2006entries/20061110-colonsaycrime.shtml. Retrieved 2006-11-29.
- ^ "Colosay Brewery". http://www.colonsaybrewery.co.uk. Retrieved 2007-04-24.
- ^ "Mull: I Know Where I'm Going" powell-pressburger.org. Retrieved 29 December 2009. Extract from Bruce, David (1996) Scotland the Movie. Polygon.
- ^ "Ceol Chòlasa" colonsay.org.uk. Retrieved 15 August 2009.
- ^ The Crofter and the Laird amazon.com Retrieved 7 Feb 2011.
- ^ a b "Mesolithic food industry on Colonsay" (June 1995) British Archaeology. No. 5. Retrieved 25 May 2008.
- ^ a b Moffat, Alistair (2005) Before Scotland: The Story of Scotland Before History. London. Thames & Hudson. p. 91–2.
- ^ Dinwoodie, Robin (31 May 2010) "The boy from Colonsay takes on critical job at Treasury". Glasgow; The Herald.
- ^ Harvie-Brown, J.A. and Buckley, T. E. (1892), A Vertebrate Fauna of Argyll and the Inner Hebrides. Pub. David Douglas., Edinburgh.
- Island at the Edge Colonsay produce website
- Colonsay Brewery Website
- Island web site
- Colonsay House and gardens
- The Corncrake, Colonsay's newsletter
- Colonsay Estate Website and Holiday Cottages
- On The Edge, documentary about Colonsay
Inhabited islands of the Hebrides Inner Hebrides Outer Hebrides Islands of Scotland Northern Isles Hebrides Other
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