Sep 29, 2008
Written By: Leanne Cordingley
This is the final post from the UK tour, things will be back to normal from here, less of the random traveling waffle and a return to recipes and rants. Colonsay was the last island stop on our tour, we had intended to go further, but the WWOOFing season finishes earlier than we expected, we couldn’t find anywhere to take us on the whole western side of Scotland except for one week at the very end of September meaning we’d have a two week gap to fill. Unexpected stays at B+Bs, and a lack of wwoofing opportunities meant we were flying well over our budget, the weather just seemed to get worse and worse, we kept getting attacked by ticks, both picked up a nasty cough and decided something was trying to tell us to go home. Only a little earlier than planned and it means hopefully Andy should be able to get his thesis written before the new year, so it’s all good. Plus it’s been sunny down here. Hurrah! Although all I want it to do now is rain so the mushrooms will come, a woods we’d visited a while ago which was full of them was completely dried out, nothing but a few battered old russulas and big squishy brown things to be found. Boooo. Seems silly to be wanting rain after cursing it for weeks.
Anyway so Colonsay, absolutely lovely place. It’s quite small, so you can really feel at home after just a couple of days. We were wild camping (there are no official camp sites there at all) and the first night camped at Kiloran Bay at the top of the island, which is absolutely beautiful. A huge golden sandy beach, crazy cave systems which go on for miles and we only saw two other people there. I spotted a pond of watercress, which I’ve never seen growing wild before. We tried a bit which was very tasty, so spicy I don’t think you could eat too much of it, but it was incredible to see it all there. Considering you’d usually pay a pound for a small bag, here was a huge pond full of hundreds of pounds worth of the stuff. We also found some mint by the river that runs down to the beach and used some to make some mint tea. Something strange seemed to happen to us after we’d drank it, Andy was telling strangers to drive their car through the sea and we both got a bit giddy, kept giggling and pulling faces at each other. Very odd, good fun though. Must be special mint, maybe it’s like when you give cats cat nip.
By chance we’d arrived just at the start of Colonsay’s first ever folk music festival, ‘Ceol Cholasa’. They had musicians coming from all over to play, unfortunately we missed most of it, we were only there for the first night as we’d already got ferry tickets and a weekend arranged on the main land, but what we saw was great. The first night was all local musicians, some fantastic traditional music and a chelidh. I’ve never been to a proper Scottish chelidh before, infact I’ve only ever been to one, at a wedding, so had no idea what was going on, there was no person calling out instructions like you get at weddings yet everyone else knew all the moves to some pretty complicated dances and spent the night twirling happily round the room. Andy and I sat at the side and watched. My coordination in these type of dances is pretty bad and I struggle even with instructions. We’d both have ended up in a heap on the floor at this one without a doubt. Maybe next time. Great to watch though. It looked as though it was going to be a brilliant weekend, the place was packed on the first night and as we were leaving a whole ferry load of people arrived for the rest of the weekend. Shame we missed it.
Cows at the music festival
We had a good mushroom haul. The golf course doesn’t appear to get used by golfers, supervised or sprayed with these nasty chemicals lots of clubs use so we found quite a few interesting things there, including a huge mosaic puffball. Unfortunatly we found out only the young ones are really good for eating, and this one had got to the turning brown stage, still it was a pretty exciting find. On our last day we visited Colonsay House which has some fantastic gardens to walk around, we spent a a good few hours there and found loads of hedgehog mushrooms(the creamy coloured ones at eh left of the bowl), they’re unmistakeable and very good to eat. We picked about a dozen or so and took them with us over to Glen Coe and had them for breakfast. Very tasty. I couldn’t believe how much water comes out of them though! You need to get about twice as many as you think as they really shrink down with cooking. Good texture and nice favour, a favorite so far.
Colonsay mushroom haul
We were also really lucky with our finds in Glen Coe. We’d gone to meet a few friends, including Viv, who grew up scouring forests with her Dad looking for mushrooms. It was brilliant to have someone who could identify things and also wouldn’t get fed up of us stopping and running off into bushes or think it was strange we were getting so excited about finding fungus. We found amongst other things some orange birch boletes, a cep (unfortunately maggots had found it too) and a really beautiful fly agaric. We had the boletes for breakfast the next day fried up in butter along with a macro mushroom we’d found on Colonsay. All in all it was a very successful mushroom weekend and a lovely end to our UK trip. It’s been great traveling around Britain. So many beautiful places, we’ve met some really lovely people and had lots of fun. Why people feel the need to fly off to some trashy resort in a made up concrete town of ugly hotels and tacky shops I have no idea. I’ve seen some of the best beaches ever here, had a great time wandering around little towns, up mountains, through woods and I can’t wait until we get a chance to do it again.