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.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... the bowmore house ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

cycling on islay

we shall assume that you have clicked the link on the previous page because you've reached the end of the glen road and, instead of pedalling off to the left to travel to port ellen, you'd like to head off to the depths of bowmore and beyond. if you don't want to and clicked the link by mistake, here's another click to take you back from whence you came.

click

the road runs in the opposite direction to port ellen for about a mile before you reach the laggan bridge, a sort of modernish affair and not quaint at all. there is a track running parallel to the river laggan which comes out on the low road at corrary cottage which is only practical on a mountain bike. for reasons beyond my knowledge it is known as the 'burma road'. at some time, when time isn't a problem anymore, i shall type some stuff giving details about a rather neat offroad route into bowmore but, for now we shall continue on the road.

during certain months of the year, you will find persons, who should probably know better, fishing on the river. please note that, should you wish to try this yourself you will require a permit from dunlossit estate for the north of the river and laggan estate south of the bridge. i believe that they probably would prosecute at the drop of a hat so don't try this without a permit. you have been warned!

anyway, back to the pedalling. you should notice a road sign on the right of the road pointing to bowmore and stating two and a half miles. this is pretty accurate. this road is known locally as the cruach road. about three quarters of a mile along this road there is a hill (tallant hill) which would not normally provide much of a problem but, if you're heavily loaded, i'm letting you know.

it's pretty plain cycling from here on into bowmore and even downhill for the last part, past the tv mast that provides this part of the island with its terrestrial tv signal beamed from the receiving mast at port ellen. this road brings you out at the back of the famous 'round church' at the top of bowmore main street. when you reach the junction, turning right takes you into bowmore - turning left will take you off to port ellen along the low road and going via islay international airport.

continue here if cycling from port ellen

at the moment, we're concerned with going into bowmore so turn right here, go round the bend and here we are at the top of main street in bowmore. (just on a brief aside at this juncture, as you round the corner past the church, the housing estate on your left is known as stanalane and that's where i live and where you'd get your bike repaired. i mention this not to invite persons unknown to drop by for an espresso, but to let you know where i am, because i'm the only cycle repairer and spare parts person in bowmore.)

i've no real desire to go into intrinsic details about my home village because i'm sure other sites can make a better job than i can, so we shall deal with cycling related bits and pieces alone. as you turn down main street, bowmore post office is on the left. catherine mactaggart operates cycle hire from here and will be more than happy to either find me or phone me should you find yourself in dire need of mechanical assistance (bicycles only please).

at the bottom of main street is the square and situated within, adjacent to the royal bank of scotland, is the local tourist office from whence you can peruse local literature and, perchance, book your local accommodation. (should you wish web assistance with such, try www.islayinfo.com or www.lochsidehotel.co.uk or even www.bowmorehotel.co.uk and www.harbour-inn.com

the royal bank of scotland, mentioned only a few minutes ago, has an autoteller as has the bank of scotland in shore street, which is compatible with a variety of other bank cards but you might want to check with them first. opposite the tourist office is the mactaggart leisure centre (swimming pool, sauna, gym etc.) and you are unlikely to miss bowmore distillery since the leisure centre is housed in one of its old warehouses. the distillery has a visitor reception centre, shop and guided tours twice daily through the week.

if you're not hanging about, or have hung about and would like to press onwards, you'll need to pedal along shore street, past the celtic house at c&e roy. this road takes you past the islay whisky shop and then the lochside hotel on the left hand side with a large selection of malt whiskies.

otherwise if, like me, you have no interest in whisky whatsoever, keep going towards bridgend, about another three miles.

the road between bowmore and bridgend has not a lot to offer, other than a way of getting from bowmore to bridgend. during the winter/spring months october to may, there are thousands of geese overwintering on this hallowed isle and many graze on what's left of the pastures along this road. be careful of birdwatchers in cars who have a tendency to stop unannounced to see hitherto unviewed birds. not good for the front wheel. about two miles along the road, the port ellen road (high road) joins from the right and, on the hill in front can be seen the monument to iain og ile, always assuming that the gorse has not occluded it from view. you can get a better look at this by turning right on to the glen road just past islay estates office at ceannloch house (big white house on the right) opposite the extended and refurbished 'south lodge'. a few hundred yards up the road, opposite the episcopal church is the monument. you'll need to trudge across a field, so don't try this in 'look' cleated shoes, and probably not such a good idea at all if there are cattle in the field. if you didn't know already, cows are a mite unpredictable behaviourally speaking.

however, for this part of the story, we're carrying on into bridgend, only another half mile or so. on passing bridgend woods, the first building to appear is bridgend hotel on the right hand side. owned by islay estates, this is a very well thought of establishment. on the left is bridgend stores and post office where useful sustenance can be purchased along with papers and magazines. i shall assume you have no need to use the petrol station. behind the stone wall adjacent to the stores' parking area is bridgend bowling green, particularly well used during the summer months.

the road crosses a bridge over the river sorn and carries on to port askaig via newton, ballygrant and keills. we, however, are turning left and heading south(ish) towards bruichladdich and port charlotte. the first cottage on the port charlotte road on the right hand side is the gate house for islay house, formerly the residential home for the owners of islay estates but currently owned by an american former airline pilot. it is possible to cycle part of the way up the access road to snatch a look at this impressive building which has, so i'm informed, 365 windows.

watch the corner on which the gate cottage sits, opposite the cattle sale mart. cars often come round this blind corner faster than is absolutely practical. the cattle mart is used for regular sales throughout the year, and you will have little difficulty identifying a day on which a sale is taking place. the road winds on around loch indaal passing the grounds of islay house behind the stone wall. if traffic allows (who am i kidding) when you arrive at crosshouses (so called because the two houses at this point have large white crosses on their gable ends), stop and have a look to the right amongst the trees where it should be possible to see one of two existing stone towers.

the road bears round to the left at carnain where there is a fork in the road. go right and the road takes you by borraichill, coullabus and on to gruinart flats and the rspb reserve. eventually, there will be a link here to cover that part of the story but, for now, we keep bearing left and on towards bruichladdich. the most noteworthy aspect of this route is the spectacularly raised beaches on the left. if you look at a map of islay, you will notice that, at this point, lochs gruinart and indaal are very close to joining and, apparently, in the dim distant past, this was exactly the case. we are now in the rhinns (or rinns) of islay and this point was historically under water making islay two separate islands.

other than this, the most interesting part of your cycle from here to bruichladdich is trying to avoid sheep on the road and, depending on wind direction, either whizzing on your way or struggling like stink against the infamous islay headwind. it's about six from bridgend to bruichladdich, the latter part of which is a bit twisty turny but well surfaced. just at the end of 'the strand', an area that will be quite obvious when you're there, there is a road to the right signposted for sanaigmore (if the signpost is still there, that is. this is a single track road that rounds loch gorm. it is possible to leave on this road and arrive back at the same point. when organised is my middle name, there will be a link in place here to cover this part of the island. this is also the road to take if you wish to visit kilchoman distillery, a recently completed farm distillery in the grounds of rockside farm. however, the track leading up to the distillery is a gravel track and our colnagos didn't like it. if you're running 23mm treadless road tyres, i'd have second thoughts if i were you.

bruichladdich is dominated by its distillery, a large white building overlooking the pier and between the abbotsford guesthouse and bruichladdich hall. bruichladdich distillery re-opened in 2001 and welcomes visitors along with providing tours at times stated on the gate - i cycle past too fast to read it (believe that and you'll believe anything). other than this and the pier, still used for offloading coal and oil, there is little to distinguish the village. bruichladdich mini-market (or debbie's cafe, as we at vc d'ardbeg have affectionately christened it), serves eaily the finest espresso and cappucino on the island, along with desirable carrot cake and other fineries. this is a necessary stop on your way to somewhere else. just past the distillery buildings, on the right, is the road to conisby. the last part of bruichladdich is the gleaner oils depot on the right and supplier of petrol to all the island's filling stations. despite its being a shell fuel supplier, it also supplies the same stuff to the esso station in port ellen. weird or what?

the fuel is supposed to arrive by boat at the recently upgraded bruichladdich pier, but upgrading has made it less user friendly for anything bar the regular boat, and it's not all that regular. this could explain why there may have been a fuel tanker on the ferry when you came over.

next stop, about two miles down the road, is port charlotte.

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if you need any more information, feel free to e-mail before you come over to islay

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.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... the bowmore house ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................