Mark Allardice contacted me a few days ago and pointed out his fantastic travel report of a group of ten cycling from mainland Scotland to Port Charlotte on Islay. Their trip started in Dunfermline and on day one they headed to Lochranza where they took the ferry to Arran. From there they went to Islay and stayed two nights in the Islay Youth Hostel in Port Charlotte. Below are a few fragments of Mark's great write-up which has a personal touch for him as well as you can see him portrayed in the picture on the right many years ago in Bowmore.
Mark: "The day had finally arrived. 8 months in the planning with various changes along the way and now the morning of the CC Ecosse trip to Islay via Arran had dawned, not sunny but dry at least. The germ of this idea had grown in the dark days of January when daydreams of endless summers leads to imaginative cycle planning. It was decided early on due to the numbers involved we would utilise the Scottish Youth Hostel Association accommodation (the irony of the word Youth is not lost), and rather than a long trip to Islay in one go we would stay on Arran for the first night with 2 nights on Islay completing our 4-day tour."
The first glimpses of Islay: "My much anticipated first sight of Islay was sweeping rain and wind – not what I had imagined in my dreams. Seeing the climb away from the Port Askaig ferry terminal dispelled any remaining romantic island notions – this was going to be hard work. We had a 15-mile ride to our overnight accommodation in Port Charlotte and it wouldn’t be pretty." Continue reading....
Day 3 Port Charlotte to Bowmore and back: "The first 8 miles round the bay were negotiated easily enough, the RoadWarrior now freed from panniers and catching a tailwind to Bridgend but then the headwind hit and the next 3 miles to Bowmore was perhaps the hardest 3 miles I’ve done, the wind pushing the bike one way then the other with the traffic not overly keen to give a cyclist a break. However we made it to Bowmore and finally got my picture of the High Street.. It was a poignant moment for me and how I wished my dad could have been there with me, however it was made better for sharing it in the company of friends.
It was while stuffing my face with a chocolate bar I got chatting to a man outside the Co-op called Willie MacNeill (“they call me Ginger Willie” he told me, with no hint of irony) – I told about my dad being a butcher from Glasgow and him working in the Bunnahabhain distillery on Islay in the 60’s – “what was his name?” Ginger Willie asked in his beautiful island lilting voice, “Tam Allardice” I replied – “Tam from Glasgow eh, I think I remember him!” Ginger Willie was a nice guy and I desperately wanted to believe he remembered a “Tam fae Glasgae” from 50 years ago…. When I told Ginger Willie why we were there and about the photo he gleefully informed me he had Bowmore High Street tattooed on his arm so he “never forgets where he comes from” – I was falling in love with the place but wasn’t about to go that far!
A well earned relaxing afternoon was had by all while we recounted our tales of derring-do, the strength of the wind increasing with every re-telling. An early dinner at the Port Charlotte was enjoyed by all and this being our last night some retired for rest and final packing and others (who shall remain nameless) stayed to enjoy the refreshment and traditional music. It had been a good day and a fun evening, and I think this island was having an effect on all of us.
The trip ends on day four with a video taken by a friend when they leave Port Charlotte, in which you can see the back of Mark in his yellow jersey the first few minutes! Enjoy!
Mark's full write-up can be read in the Cycle Chat Forum