Sat 29th May - Mon 31st May, 1999
BH Islay & Jura
'A tale of bicycling, walking and boating on unvisited Scottish islands.'
Tony (yellow jersey) Gask, Mark (on your bike) Harrod, Michelle (keep on pedalling) Harvie, Andy (mainly on his bike) Croughton, Lester (left his bike at home) Payne, John (no bikes at the Stretford end) Thorley, Not to mention Capt. John (Onedin) Dobson and Sue (shiver m' timbers) Brooke.
My dramatic early morning entry from the chest high wet bracken, my soggy tent draped about my shoulders, was lost on Mark, Michelle & Andy, not surprisingly so as they had spent just a few hours sleeping, in a metal box, next to the ferry terminal, at Kennacraig on the Kintyre peninsular. They had arrived late Thursday night, to find these curious metal bins just right for a kip, only to be rudely awaked at 5 am and informed they were intended for Islay's daily supply of bread! (This incidentally set the tone for the weekend, with many half-baked puns rising from it) I had arrived on Thursday afternoon, and did a bike ride before getting chips in Tarbet, then camping on a scrappy bit of ground near the ferry; heavy rain and the spot lights meant I too had a poor nights sleep. All the gear, except the bikes, were loaded up in my car, piles and piles of it, including assorted plastic boxes. I am told that climbing gear was somewhere.
By 8 am the land was left far behind, as the ship headed across misty seas, and the canteen was in full swing selling delicious bacon butties, and mugs of steaming coffee. 2 hours crossing, no views, no wrecks, nobody drowned. Landed in Port Ellen, Islay, and by 10 o'clock arrived at our bunk house at Kintra Farm, to unload our stuff, ruck sacks, boxes etc and wonder what to do on a rather dull/ misty day. A bike ride! You can't go far on Islay without passing a distillery, and we felt it our duty to support the local economy on the way back from a rather midgey Lochside picnic; dozens of large seals basking on the rocks made up for any discomfort however. Our cycle ride returning to Kintra was a bit wobbly, after the inevitable wee dram or two at the end of the distillery tour. Unfortunately I had to be restrained, so that I could drive up to the other end of the island to pick up Lester and John off the evening ferry. There is a six mile straight on the main road but it is so bumpy no one goes at more than 50 mph, however we soon back at Kintra, unloading all their things, including even more boxes. All these boxes caused a diplomatic incident, since there is a bye law, dating back to Viking times, which prohibits plastic and cardboard boxes being placed on window sills. Otherwise the bunkhouse owners were very pleasant. Adjoining is an easy campsite, next to the beach, a bit like Glen Brittle.
Windy but dry, so a long walk was taken out to the south western tip, Oa, much of it unpathed, with superb views and dramatic cliffs and sea stacks, with numerous sea birds. There is meant to be some climbing here but it was not exactly obvious where. Prominent and thought provoking is the large American monument, commemorating 1918 ship wrecks.
To Jura, with no less than seven of us in my car, which we took over to the island on the little ferry from Port Askaig. Unfortunately due to the ferry times we only had time to do one of the baps (sorry Paps) After the inevitable bogs, the ground was not that rough, despite what the book says, but parts of the island are obviously remote and rugged. It is normally very quiet but this was the fell race weekend, so it was fairly busy. The near and distant views from the top of Beinn on Oir were brilliant, tiny boats in the sea lochs on either side adding to the grandeur of the setting. On return to our car we found a note attached to the windscreen: No parking, by order of The Laird, I thought would be message, but no, it was John Dobsons visiting card! Not being namby pamby like ourselves, courtesy of Caledonian Mac Brayne, he and Sue had sailed over in their 16 foot Wayfarer dinghy in rough conditions, then camped on the beach Incidentally the fell race was the reason why I could not get accommodation that weekend on Jura. I'd like to return to Jura. There was a superb sunset that evening, at Kintra, and about 10.45pm we went down to the beach and ran along in bare feet. Great.
The day we had to leave, and of course it was the best weather, but we had time to do a bike ride in the north of Islay (John and Lester stayed on for an extra day) before catching the afternoon ferry from Port Askaig. It was a great boat ride back, looking at the hills of Jura from the sea certainly was most satisfactory. Its a long way round from the ferry terminal before you get to Glasgow and the M74, so I had thought to break the journey and do the Cobbler, but the timing was all wrong, and the once pleasant camp side at Loch Long had been taken over by caravans, so I kept on driving. Meanwhile our intrepid mariners, John & Sue had a long, slow but tranquil sail back in their dinghy, accompanied by dolphins at times.
By way of a summary a few sound bites: mist, bikes, whisky, plastic boxes, sea cliffs, sea birds, seals, bumpy roads, more whisky, boats and things. Any climbing I hear you ask: don't be daft. The End.
PRELIMINARY NOTICE (May 28th - June 1st):
A few facts/ideas by way of an advance notice, so that I can get feed back, particularly as there may be a need to book accommodation, etc.
JURA has the best hills, not that high, but rugged. Little accommodation. 5 minutes ferry from Islay.
lSLAY. Interests include tough low-level walking, dramatic coastline, antiquities, whisky, a little sea cliff climbing (anyone got a guidebook?) bike hire. Possible accommodation: private hostel/camping at Kintra 3 miles from Port Ellen where ferry goes to, in south west corner of island. Also youth hostel.
Transport: 2-2½ hours DRIVE from Glasgow to Kennacraig (Kintyre). About 2 hour ferry crossing. From the l998 brochure ferry times are 0715 (P. Ellen) and to Port Askaig in the east: 1250, l800. Cost: £35 for car, £6.65 per person.
Idea: camp/doss on Thursday night, get first ferry Friday morning (28th May) piling luggage into one car (per five people) to Port Ellen (only 10 minutes to Kintra) Return on the Tuesday maybe. Again from 1998 book: return times are 0955 (from P. Ellen) or from P. Askaig: 1530, 2015. NB P. Ellen to P. Askaig is about 20 minutes. Straight road.
Do tell me what you think.
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