Viral vlog of UK’s ‘least used airport’ angers islanders

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A YouTube video titled ‘Flying to Britain’s least used airport’ on the Isle of Colonsay, viewed 130,000 times in a week so far, has angered islanders for mistaking a barren car park for the community garden.

Colonsay Airport, run by Argyll and Bute Council with flights operated by Hebridean Air Services, recorded just 49 passengers in 2020, the year Covid-19 and lockdowns hit, the video reported.

However, a council spokesperson said that 447 passengers had, in fact, used Colonsay Airport in 2020, compared to 550 in 2019 and 298 in 2021, and that the flights provided lifeline access to school and healthcare, and carried critical cargo during the pandemic.

The 21-minute travel video log, or ‘vlog’, was posted on January 2, 2022 by aviation reporter and pilot Noel Philips, whose other videos include flying on ‘Mexico’s most dangerous airline’, and spending ’13 hours on the UK’s longest sleeper train’ – a trip from London Euston to Fort William, posted on Boxing Day.

A week later Mr Philips, who lives in Derbyshire, posted another video from Scotland’s Highlands and Islands, this time taking the 30-minute flight from Oban Airport to Colonsay, which, depending on the weather, flies three times a week on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays in the winter schedule.

The night before in his Oban hotel room, Mr Philips sampled ‘traditional Highland cuisine’, a deep-fried battered pizza and a can of a ‘local beverage’ (Tennents lager), before flying to Colonsay on the ‘budgie’ – Hebridean Air’s yellow Islander light aircraft – with two other passengers, as well as the pilot, who recognised him for his aviation vlogs.

After landing at Colonsay terminal building, no more than ‘a hut and a wind sock’, Mr Philips explored the ‘tiny, little Scottish island’. However, with no taxi, bus, car rental or Uber, he discovered Colonsay’s true scale on an hour-long walk to ‘the capital village’, Scalasaig, where he recovered his strength with a Red Bull and Ginsters’ pasty from ‘the best wee shop in the Hebrides’.

He said in the vlog: ‘One thing I have found so far since I’ve been here on Colonsay is just how nice the people are,’ he said. ‘On my walk from the airport I think I had four or five cars stop and ask me if I want a lift.’

But, touring the capital, Mr Philips has angered some islanders by confusing an overspill car park for the community garden beyond it, deeming it sarcastically ‘delightful’, ‘lush and wonderful’. Islanders created Colonsay Community Garden from wasteland a decade ago, and maintain it as a recreational space by the village hall.

‘Maybe the most disappointing travel video of Colonsay ever made!’ wrote one islander on the Colonsay Community Noticeboard. ‘I’m maybe a bit over-protective of the garden due to all the hard work that was put into making it happen.’

The vlog received mixed reviews on the local Facebook page. ‘The aeroplane/airport was his focus but the rest was superficial and patronising’, said one.

‘Now I want to see a video where someone from the Hebrides does a day trip to Luton airport, walks into Luton, eats a Ginsters pasty by the roadside and then goes home,’ added another. ‘I just kept going in the hope that he might discover that there’s more than that one stretch of road…and more than five sentences,’ concluded another.

However, another noted: ‘If even only a tiny proportion of his spotter following go off and google Colonsay, it could be a bumper season for Heb Airways.’

Global comments on the vlog bore this out. ‘Excellent video and stunning scenery! I hope to visit Colonsay sometime,’ enthused one, echoing many others. ‘This is where my mum grew up before her and my dad married and immigrated to Canada 60 years ago,’ reflected another.

‘That must be some sort of record for the number of times a person has said Colonsay in 21 minutes,’ mused one person, while another wondered if you could make a drinking game out of it. (Health warning: your correspondent counted at least 30 times – a fatal number.)

The elephant in the room was finally addressed by one plane spotter: ‘You realise that by encouraging others to fly there it will no longer be the ‘least used’ airport’.