Its not often the fun starts before the pedals turn on a tour but that was the case on my latest Island Adventure with Jesse from Kansas.
I met him on the train to Ardrossan and we took our seats across from a lady that resembled Merida from the animated film. There followed a most bizarre and rambling monologue from the lady most of which I can’t recount here. It certainly made for an entertaining start to the tour a novel introduction for Jesse on his first visit to Scotland!
I picked up our ferry tickets and we made our way to the car loading ramp and onto the first ferry of the day. Living in landlocked Kansas I was to learn that anything to do with the sea fascinated Jesse. Arran is a very popular island with cyclists and the ferry is often busy with bikes, today proved no exception.
After storing our bikes we made our way up to the passenger lounge and some food and drink. While we were there I explained to Jesse about the three cycles and 2 ferries that were ahead of us before we reached tonights beds at Port Charlotte YH.
The first cycle of the day is the toughest, Brodick to Lochranza, a ride of 15 miles with 1200 feet of climbing very scenic and the descent into Lochranza is amazing. Jesse was riding a hired Whyte gravel bike and soon pulled ahead of me but, as was the case all of the tour, I took the chance to leapfrog him when he stopped to take pics.
Arriving in Lochranza we arrived smack in the middle of the village gala day. It made Jesse beam. Pipe bands, Viking warriors and of course the castle all combined to make Jesse a happy tourist! We made our way round to the ferry port and grabbed some food and drink as we waited on the ferry to Claonaig. A short crossing followed by a short ride saw us waiting at Kennacraig for our third and final ferry of the day. Upon arriving on Islay we headed for the YH at Port Charlotte. I had called ahead just to let them know we might a little late. Thankfully they kept reception open for us and had even made our beds!
With only one full day on the island we headed off to the south to Portnahaven seal searching. Unfortunately Jesse was to be disappointed as none were around!
We headed northwards on a short loop which brought us back to Port Charlotte and we headed north again to Bruchladdich and a café stop. It was a Sunday and the local bike club were in the café. It is a popular stop with good selection of coffee and cake!
After we were rehydrated we headed out to Kilchoman distillery for lunch and a visit. A farm distillery the visits are excellent value for money and the café has a good selection of food.
We had an hour before the next visit so we had lunch first and I whiled away an hour reading while Jesse was on the tour. He came back from the tour with a bottle of Machir Bay and I asked him if he wanted to visit he said yes so we set off to the beach at Machir Bay and the old church. We headed to wards Machir Bay on an almost deserted road and made really good time. The car park had a few cars but the beach is so big that the visitors just got swallowed up. I said to Jesse that if he had 50:50 vision and the earth didn’t curve the next landfall was Canada!
We headed back to Port Charlotte and after a wash, some rest and a quick change we headed to the Port Charlotte hotel for some Traditional Scottish music and real ale.
The next day we headed off to the ferry for Kennacraig. Not so busy with bikes this time! We then cycle to Cloanaig via Skipness Castle and smokehouse.
The castle although a ruin is sturdy enough to allow some scrambling on its walls and battlements. Something Jesse took full advantage off.
We purchased fish at the smokehouse and headed for the final ferry of the day to Lochranza and the YH there which, to Jesse’s delight was about 500m from the castle.
Arran is one of the few islands with a road the full way around the island and although it had been on Jess’s list of things to do he had bigger fish to fry. We had an early night and got up the next day and headed to Brodick and the Ardrossan ferry post haste. Once we landed we were travelling to Glasgow and then Jesse was heading to Edinburgh along the canal network he was in for a long day!