The Isle of Gigha (pronounced "geea") is some seven miles long and about a mile and a half wide. It is aligned with the west coast of the north end of the Kintyre peninsula, from which it is separated by the 2-3 mile wide Firth of Gigha. Access to Gigha is via a frequent car ferry from Tayinloan on the Kintyre coast, which itself is roughly mid way between Tarbert and Campbeltown. Some ten miles to the west of Gigha is the island of Islay.
The ferry lands at a slipway on the north side of Ardminish Bay, roughly in the centre of the east side of the island and at the north end of the scattered main settlement of Ardminish. This straddles the road that runs most of the length of the island from Port Mor at its northern tip to a pier near the southern end of the island overlooking Caolas Gigulum to the small island of Gigulum. Off the southern end of Gigha is Cara Island, home to a small chapel. Much of the development on Gigha tends to be on its eastern side, which is also home to many of its best beaches. The western side of the island tends to be less accessible and more remote, except where the island narrows at its northern end and the road gives equal access to either shore.
Gigha is a relatively low lying island, rising to a maximum height of 100m at Creag Bhan. It is also a relatively fertile one, with about a quarter of its total area given over to arable land and divided up into six farms. The climate is relatively mild and benign, though the west side of Gigha is exposed to westerly gales.
From the point of view of the visitor, there is a considerable amount to see and do on Gigha, and many of the points of interest are within a mile or so of the ferry terminal. There is also a good choice of accommodation, including the Gigha Hotel, which overlooks Ardminish Bay not far from the ferry terminal, as well as self catering, B&Bs and camping. The island also has a school, a village hall, a post office and shop, and a church.
At the southern end of Ardminish you move into the woodland planted around Achamore House. This is a grand baronial mansion built in 1884 for Captain James Scarlett by the Glasgow architect John Honeyman. In 1896 it was rebuilt after a fire by the firm Honeyman & Keppie, and it is thought that some of the details in the reconstructed house show the early influence of the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who worked for Honeyman & Keppie at the time. Today Achamore House is operated as a B&B with eleven letting rooms.
Achamore House stands within what is perhaps Gigha's main visitor attraction (other than the island itself): the magnificent 50 acre Achamore Gardens. These gardens were largely created by the then laird, Sir James Horlick during his ownership of Gigha between 1944 and 1972, and restored to their former glory in recent years following the purchase of the island by its inhabitants on 15 March 2002, with support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Lottery-based Scottish Land Fund.
Like much of the rest of the island, the gardens are now managed by the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust. The community buyout in 2002 brought to a conclusion an unsettled period during which the population declined from a high point in 1841 of 550 (including Cara Island) to 326 in 1911; 240 in 1931; and to 110 in 2001. Greater stability and improved future prospects saw the population increase significantly, to 163, by 2011.
Today's residents are only the latest in a continuous line of occupation which can be traced back some 5000 years. It entered the historical record as Gudey, "the Good Isle" when visited by the fleet of King Håkon IV of Norway in 1263, and subsequently became a property to be fought over by the Lords of the Isles and the Scottish Crown. It later swapped hands a number of times between the MacNeills and the Macdonalds, before being sold to the Yorkshireman, Captain William Scarlett, in 1865. The Scarletts owned Gigha until 1919, and the island then changed hands seven more times until it was purchased by the community in 2002.