56.018211, -6.242265

About Us

Hi I’m Lisa. Welcome to Islandeering I’m an islandeer, author and marine conservationist and passionate about sharing what I have learnt from my travels around the islands of the British Isles to help you find an adventure. I started the project 12 years ago after I had one of those light bulb moments and realised the pure magic that islands held for me. After meeting so many people on their island travels who shared my passion and told me that I must share my experiences so that others could do the same I set up Islandeering.com, where we are passionate about promoting responsible travel to our great British islands.
Learn More

Join our Islandeering community

We have a lot of fun here, as we continuously find new islands and meet plenty of great folks along the way. Join our community to get new routes and adventures, latest blogs and news by using the email box below. Tune in also to our Facebook and Instagram pages to see where we are going next.
High Point: Beinn Oronsay (93m)
Population: 8
Size: 543 hectares
Wild Factor: 10 out of 10

Overview: an island of dramatic scenery, glorious machair, corncrakes, choughs, seal colonies and more. The island is privately owned, with the RSPB managing the island for wildlife. It can only be accessed by crossing the tidal sands of the Strand, often following the tyre tracks left by the postman’s van.

The interior of the island is dominated by the bulk of Beinn Oronsay, where the resident choughs are often spotted, and is a mix of moorland and farmland. Most visitors head along the island’s main track to the ruins of the 14th Century priory, with its ossuary of human skulls and bones and carved Celtic Cross – one of the best examples of its kind.

If tides permit it is possible to have longer on the island and walk the island circuit to visit the magnificent beaches on the east and west coasts, the seals on the skerries off the island’s south tip and the shell middens. The coastal route returns inland at Seal Cottage where it is possible to sup the refreshing spring water. The views across to the Paps of Jura are stunning throughout the coastal walk.

Oronsay is a fabulous destination for wildlife lovers. In addition to the chough, corncrake and seals, birds such as skylarks, twites, lapwings, redshanks and ringed plovers all thrive here, as do rare marsh-fritillary butterflies. Around 3,500 barnacle geese visit in the winter, and in the summer the wildflower meadows and machair come into full bloom, including one field with over 100 Irish ladies-tresses, a very rare orchid.

Type of island: tidal; inhabited

Location: Off Colonsay, Inner Hebrides

How to get to Oronsay: Calmac ferry to Colonsay from Oban. Once on the island take the B8086 at Scalasaig, pass the Colonsay Hotel and after 1.3 km turn left onto the B8085 to reach the head of the causeway at the road end. Cross the tidal sands

Getting around Oronsay: a main tack leads from the head of the tidal causeway on the island to the Priory, House and Farm and RSPB areas; clear paths lead around the coastline.

Best time to go to Oronsay: machair and rare orchids in the late spring/summer; corncrakes April – September; winter months ideal for walking the coastal path as no nesting birds; also the best time to spot the seal colony and pups off the island’s south tip.

Access to Oronsay:  the best time to cross is during neap tides (the two days following a New Moon or a Full Moon) allowing 4-5 hours for the trip. Always cross on an ebbing tide. Tide tables are posted at Colonsay’s CalMac office, the General Stores and the Colonsay Hotel.

Dog friendly: On a lead (farmland and birds)

Food and drink: there are no visitor facilities on the island; the closest is on Colonsay where there is:

The Pantry – right by the harbour that sells freshly baked bread, cakes and biscuits; light lunches and suppers.

Colonsay House Gardens Cafe – soups, filled bread rolls, tarts, teas and coffees and home-baked cakes served on a large sunny garden terrace overlooking the garden.

The Colonsay Hotel – gastro-pub and bar

Accommodation on Oronsay: none on Oronsay but a number of options on Colonsay ranging from hotel, B&B, self-catering, hostel and camping (no camper vans or motorhomes permitted on the island) check them out here

Contacts:  the post office on Colonsay, is the best source of information on the tidal crossing, telephone number 01951 200323.

Best things to do Oronsay: 

  • Walk the coastal circuit – see the Islandeering route
  • Swim off glorious beaches
  • Watch the brooding skies above the Paps of Jura
  • Visit the ruins of the Augustinian Priory
  • Enjoy the colours and insects of the machair

Look out for:

  • Choughs
  • Corncrakes
  • Seal pups
  • Irish Lady’s Tresses

Nearby islands: whilst you are there, why not explore:

Colonsay – more here

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No activities have been added for this island yet.

56.018211, -6.242265

About Us

Hi I’m Lisa. Welcome to Islandeering I’m an islandeer, author and marine conservationist and passionate about sharing what I have learnt from my travels around the islands of the British Isles to help you find an adventure. I started the project 12 years ago after I had one of those light bulb moments and realised the pure magic that islands held for me. After meeting so many people on their island travels who shared my passion and told me that I must share my experiences so that others could do the same I set up Islandeering.com, where we are passionate about promoting responsible travel to our great British islands.
Learn More

Join our Islandeering community

We have a lot of fun here, as we continuously find new islands and meet plenty of great folks along the way. Join our community to get new routes and adventures, latest blogs and news by using the email box below. Tune in also to our Facebook and Instagram pages to see where we are going next.
Distance: 14.3 km
Difficulty: Moderate
Method: Walking
Wow Factor: 9 out of 10

Key Facts

  • Location: Inner Hebrides
  • Size: 543 hectares
  • Terrain: Sands; island tracks; free range on open ground
  • Access: Tidal crossing
  • Height gain: 208 metres
  • Map: OS Explorer 354
  • Starting point: The track head on Oronsay. Lat/Long 56.028160, -6.227976. GR NR 36683 89762
  • Accommodation/food:

    See visiting and facts page here

  • Island Summary:

    Oronsay is a tidal island that sits just off the south coast of Colonsay in the Inner Hebrides. It is a wild and rugged place with incredible views, magnificent beaches, extraordinary wildlife and holds many secrets to prehistoric living. The walk begins with a fabulous tidal crossing of The Strand, and then uses the main island track to the Priory and Oronsay Farm before the easy free-range route follows the coast. There are magnificent views of the peaks of Islay and Jura for most of the trip, a wonderful bothy and stunning, deserted white sand beaches on the south and east coasts that make idyllic swimming spots.

  • Look out for:
    • Secluded swims off any one of the glorious white sand beaches
    • Exciting tidal crossing across the draining sands
    • Stunning views of the Paps of Jura and mountains of Islay
    • Spying the elusive corncrake
  • Route description:

    Begin your walk at the south end of B8085 and follow the tyre marks to cross The Strand. After 2.3km, take the shingle track between two posts and a standing stone onto the island. Follow the track through the rocky foreshore, over moorland at the base of Beinn Oronsay, and through farmland to the priory. Take the track through the gate left of the main house towards Oronsay Farm. Just before reaching the RSPB office turn left, opposite the house, go through the gate and along the grasstrack through the managed corncrake habitat. After 200m turn left through a gate and continue towards the shore, walking alongside the stream. Go through the metal gate and onto the beach. Turn right to access the tidal islet of Dubh Eilean or continue south to the white bothy at the end of the long beach. Go through the gate in the stone wall, turn right parallel to the stone wall and continue over the open ground and machair, keeping to the coast.

    At the southern tip continue around the low rock terraces of Port na Blàthach then rejoin the grass island track between the head of the inlet and a raised pebble ‘beach’ to the left. After about 1.9km, pass through the remains of a stone boundary wall. Continue, past the shell mounds to Tràigh Uamha Seilbhe. FromSeal Cottage take the left fork and continue north west through a metal gate towards the main island track. Turn right at the metal gate in the stone wall and continue along the main island track, retracing your steps back to the causeway.

  • Getting there:

    Calmac ferries offer a regular service to Colonsay from Oban https. From Scalasaig head past the Hotel on the B8086 for 1.3 km, then turn left onto the B8085 to reach the head of the causeway at the end of the road, cross the tidal sands of the causeway.

    Find more details on the route and 49 other island routes in our book: Islandeering: adventures around the edge of Britain’s hidden islands

Download file for GPS

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