Cicerone's Caroline has a holiday on Islay and Jura and enjoyed some mountain biking, walking (and whisky tasting) in the typical Scottish weather.
We travelled to Islay and Jura via the Gouroch-Dunoon, Portavadie-Tarbert and Kennacraig-Port Askaig ferries. We had chosen to base ourselves in Port Charlotte on Islay and, as the weather was mixed, we mostly explored the islands by bike with some shorter walks here and there. The roads are lovely and quiet with stunning coastal views full of natural beauty and birdlife. The cycling is easy with few significant hills but the wind factor can make it tough at times! It’s a quiet friendly, relaxed place.
Tarbert on the mainland
Bike rides on Islay and Jura
A breezy circuit from Port Charlotte to Bridgend, then the High Road to Port Ellen and out past Lagavulin, Laphroig and Ardbeg distilleries. We stopped for a picnic just past the historic Kildalton Church at Claggan Bay near Ardtalla and enjoyed splendid views of Jura. Beware the full force of the wind heading back up the main road though!
The second route we followed was to explore the Rhinns of Islay, up lovely single-track roads to Ardnave at the head of Loch Gruinart, Sanaigmore Bay, Saligo and Kilchoman distillery. Tempting though it was we just stopped for tea and cake and then got back on the bikes. We pushed the bikes over around the coastal track to Kilchiaran and carried on to Portnahaven and up the coast road back to Port Charlotte. This was an excellent ride with lovely beaches, ancient ruined chapels, choughs, hen harriers, a golden eagle plus many smaller birds flitting about…. And very few people!
We took the Port Askaig-Faolin Ferry to Jura and rode from Craighouse to Ardlussa. The sheltered Ardlussa Bay is a very pleasant picnic spot. Today's ride was altogether hillier, wilder and more remote with fabulous views of the famous Paps. Loch Tarbert almost cuts the island in half near Tarbert Bay and there are wonderful views.
Looking across Tarbert Bay and the Sound of Jura to the mainland from Jura
Walks for wet days:
We spent a lovely couple of days birdwatching at the RSPB centres at Loch Gruinart and the Oa Peninsula. There are plenty of shorter walks, including one to the American Memorial. The visitors' centre in Gruinart is also very welcoming, as is their hot drinks machine! Ardnave Point was another excellent place for coastal views.
A woodland walk at Islay House near Bridgend provided welcome shelter from the rain and, at the right time of year, is carpeted with bluebells. The Woollen Mill is also en route.
Shopping and a microbrewery
Another enjoyable alternative is Islay House square where there’s a collection of craft shops and the excellent Islay microbrewery. If you fancy it there is also a community walled garden.
The Paps of Jura