After a restful sleep we wandered down to breakfast. The manageress told us that the Indian is a doctor and has had the hotel for 15 years, she’d only been working there for a month. The owner was very fond of money and paid her very little. She said we’d done the right thing in bringing our bikes inside.
Our first cycling day was a misty one with occasional bursts of light rain as we rode along quiet, gently undulating roads through lush vegetation. We called in on Susie’s Tearoom at Tighnabruich, not one of the better examples of the type but Christine needed a hot drink to warm up. The wind stirred as midday approached. After Kames the landscape turned to scrubland as we rode into a headwind, arriving at Portavadie in perfect time for the short ferry trip across to Tarbert. Soon after we berthed it started to rain again as we pressed on into the wind to Kennacraig. The ferry service to Islay is infrequent, the next one not being until 18:00. The waiting room hosted plenty of cyclists. We were informed to our chagrin that the Port Askaig to Colonsay ferry service is suspended because of work at the terminal which should have been completed last month, forcing a slight revision of our plan.
The ferry arrived late, so we wouldn’t reach the island until 21:00 and we’d not booked accommodation as we were hoping to camp for the three nights we’d spend at Port Ellen. The increasingly wet and windy weather allied to the cold made this an unattractive option so Christine tried phoning, to no avail. A local overheard, and told us it was the last day of a music and whisky festival, and that we’d be lucky to find a spare bed anywhere on the island! We ate on board, Caledonian MacBrayne cuisine is cheap, basic and filling, the macaroni cheese would sustain us until morning.
We disembarked to heavy rain and called at the first B&B we saw – no chance! So then we tried the White Hart Hotel, who were also full but there was a possibility of a room as two people hadn’t yet turned up. They offered us their coffee lounge floor to sleep on if not, it was heartening that traditional highland hospitality was still alive.
As we surrounded ourselves with wet waterproofs and panniers in the coffee lounge, which adjoined the main bar, two cyclists from London joined us for an enjoyable evening’s conversation. They’d flown up with their bikes from Gatwick via Glasgow to Islay for a four-day break taking in the whisky festival. They’d planned it a year ago, and apparently lots of people book their accommodation for this annual event a year ahead!
As midnight approached, we were told we had a room, so Christine and I squeezed into a single bed while Rowan had the other one to himself.