Finlaggan, headquarters of the Lords of the Isles, with the Paps of Jura in the distance
Finlaggan, headquarters of the Lords of the Isles, with the Paps of Jura in the distance

A perfect early summer day, the landscape looking wonderful in the warm sunshine, deep green grass contrasting with the blue sky and the sea. We returned to Bridgend, pausing on the way to photograph a pair of barnacle geese that had failed to migrate. This time we called in on Islay Ales for a free sample of the light and refreshing Finlaggan Ale. I was tempted to buy a mixed case but the carriage charge of £10 discouraged me. I enjoyed an interesting chat with Paul, one of the owners. 80% of their output is bottled, one of the few draught outlets is back in Port Ellen, a pity I didn’t know that when we were there, but we’d be returning so I noted the name of the Ardview Inn. Islay House Square is also home to a florists with a café, but the custodian was too busy chatting on the phone in the adjoining room so we had a coffee at the gallery, which unfortunately did not serve cake. There were some tempting paintings and prints, but we’re currently spending lots of money on the house so there’s none to spare on expensive non-essentials.

We called at Finlaggan, looking round the Finlaggan Trust visitor centre after our picnic. This really is a fascinating island, with its varied wildlife, its clan warfare through past centuries and its revived distilling and brewing industries. On we rode to Port Askaig, arriving just in time for the ferry. Already on board was Steve, a Birmingham man living in London, currently working as a part-time postman. We cycled with him after docking on Jura, stopping off at Jura House Gardens where a genteel English lady serves tea and home made cakes from a marquee and you can sit down at a table in the garden, more like Sussex than the Hebrides.

Soon after this little glade, the landscape opened out again for views of hills and sea, and we cycled to Craighouse, the only settlement of note on this sparsely populated island. It was hard to get going again after the languid afternoon tea, so we all opted to camp at the Jura Hotel, with the scent of the Jura distillery wafting over us. There’s no charge, another fine example of highland hospitality… or perhaps they know that the midges will drive the campers into the bar to spend their money! Christine and Rowan went off again for an evening ride after our camp dinner, while Steve and I chatted over a couple of drinks.

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