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Colonsay is an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, located north of Islay and south of Mull. The ancestral home of Clan Macfie and the Colonsay branch of Clan MacNeil, it is in the council area of Argyll and Bute and has an area of 4,074 hectares (15.7 sq mi). 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.

Although Colonsay appears bare and somewhat forbidding on approach from the sea, its landscape is varied, with some sandy beaches, and a sheltered and fertile interior. It is linked by a tidal causeway (called The Strand) to Oronsay. The highest point on the island is Carnan Eoin, 143 metres above sea level.

The Colonsay Group, which takes its name from the island, is an estimated 5,000 m thick sequence of mildy metamorphosed Neoproterozoic sedimentary rocks that also outcrop on the islands of Islay and Oronsay and the surrounding seabed. The sequence has been correlated with the Grampian Group, the oldest part of the Dalradian Supergroup.

The arts

The 1945 film I Know Where I'm Going! directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger was principally shot on Mull and references the fictional "Isle of Kiloran", which was based on Colonsay. The American author John McPhee, descended from a Colonsay emigrant, spent a summer on Colonsay, out of which was published The Crofter and the Laird in 1969.

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.

Since 2011 the island has held a three-week "Festival of Spring" annually in May. Its aim is to encourage tourism onto the island, with events and activities led by both local inhabitants and visiting guest "speakers/experts".

A similar event occurs every Autumn, called "Connect with Colonsay", which runs over a three-week period in October.

In 2012 the island staged its first book festival which featured, amongst others, Alexander McCall Smith, James Robertson, and Scots Makar Liz Lochhead. The line up for 2013 was headed by crime writer Ian Rankin.


The island is home to a herd of wild goats, and is known for its bird life including black-legged kittiwakes, cormorants, guillemots, corncrakes and golden eagles.

Colonsay and Oronsay are home to about 50 colonies of the only native species of honeybee in Britain–Apis mellifera mellifera. The Scottish Government introduced the Bee Keeping (Colonsay and Oronsay) Order 2013 to protect the species from cross-breeding and disease. This bee has suffered serious declines on the mainland and from 1 January 2014 it has been an offence to keep any other species of honeybee on either island. Paul Wheelhouse MSP said: "The order is a targeted measure to protect an important population of black bees on Colonsay from hybridisation with non-native bees. We are working in close collaboration with the Scottish Beekeepers Association and Bee Farmers Association to deliver the ten-year Honeybee Health Strategy, which aims to achieve a sustainable and healthy population of honeybees for pollination and honey production in Scotland."

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