Cycling Around Islay
As a keen cyclist I was delighted to learn that Islay is hospitable in every way to bike lovers. From an annual not so sportive, weekly organised outings for locals and visitors alike, to whisky tours on two wheels! I can’t wait until we take a trip to Islay by bike. What a great way to meet our lovely clients and take in the spectacular scenery at 15 miles an hour, in pouring rain and challenging crosswinds! Bring it on.
Here I thought I would share some key cycling resources for those of you who are new to visiting the island and want to explore by bike. Or maybe you are looking for a new place to cycle and wonder what Islay to offer.
Weekly Islay Wheel Spins
It’s natural to start with Brian Palmer, a local biking legend who organises weekly meets each Sunday. Gathering at 10am at Debbie’s Coffee Stop by Bruichladdich Distillery riders will cover about 18 miles, all are welcome to join and enjoy a brew back at Debbie’s at the finish.
Brian also runs an entertaining blog about his own adventures on the Washing Machine Post.
Take off on your own adventures
Most roads on Islay are single track and are idyllic for cyclists, being reasonably flat, tarmacked and traffic free. Brian Palmer offers cycle repairs if you are in Bowmore.
Local artist Jim Lutomski runs a cycle hire and repair business over at Port Ellen called Islay Cycles. This is handy if you don’t want to travel up with your own bike and want to hire once you are on the island.
To save you pouring over maps for hours on end, here are 20 bike routes of varying degrees of difficulty that you may like to try.
Here is a handy printable cycling guide for cycling on Islay and Jura.
As a lover of all things bike, I am personally frustrated that throughout the UK a lot of cycling events are competitive, although that has started to change in recent years. It is a breath of fresh air that Brian has organised an annual cycling event called The Ride of the Falling Rain, that takes place on the first Sunday in August.
In this Guardian article, Brian stipulates that it is an anti-sportive event and there are no entry fees, timings or ‘winners’, just eager participants to cycle 100 miles in the rain. Amusingly, it is almost guaranteed to rain on that day each year, hence the name. The most participants it has had, has been 108, when a group of 30 arrived from the Czech Republic.
This is definitely one for my bucket list because this is the pure spirit of cycling that I love to see. The enjoyment of the bike and the scenery and nothing more. Even better the only charge is a suggested £10 donation to World Bicycle Relief.
For a more fun element to cycling over more unusual terrain, how about Fat Biking? Kayak Wild Islay have started to offer organised bike rides along the beaches and coastal paths of Islay, on bikes that have fat tyres to withstand the sand and pebble earth.
Choose from the 5 mile long Big Strand beach, the 3 distilleries pathway, Kintra Hill Track or Kilnaughton to Port and Eas. Their routes take around 2 hours to complete and there are refreshments en-route of a hot drink and a flapjack. The rides operate in groups of 4 and are £50 for half a day.
Island Hopping Adventure
Why not take in three of Scotland’s most beautiful islands Arran, Islay and Jura? Wilderness Scotland offer a 1-week island hopping cycle trip across all three, which incorporates the 3rd largest whirlpool in the world.
Check out the itinerary and booking details here.
There is certainly plenty to choose from that is fun, unusual, and full of adventure, Happy cycling!
Andrew & Caroline