over ambition

Of all the things I’ve learnt about being in the hills over the years, one of the simplest is just don’t try and pack in too much into an itinerary, especially when you don’t have a lot of time to play with. But somehow I got sucked into such a scenario last week when my sister was over from Canada, and we had three days to make good use of a precious car hire.  From the moment she said she was coming over, I thought that perhaps we would be able to make it to Cruib on Jura, which is by far the most logistically difficult place I have yet to visit to complete the full round. Not only that, the place is a new jewel in the MBA crown of island bothies, which was renovated and opened in 2011.  I had become pretty focused on it, and also thought that if I could chivvy her along, perhaps we could sneak in a walk up the coast to the end of Loch Tarbet and look in at Ruantallain, and if the ferry times fell correctly clean up An Cladach on Islay, which is only a few miles down the coast from Port Askaig. My sister was up for it, and we realised that in all the times she’s visited she had yet to take a Calmac ferry, which sealed the deal.  Perhaps a bit relentless? Well funnily enough yes, as it turned out.

Fortunately, one of the other top tips I always take into consideration when hatching some plan or other, is always have a coherent plan b. In this case it was to just leave Jura for another occasion, and spend a couple of days at An Cladach just chilling out. After all it is another idyllic place to spend some loose time, even if you don’t get the weather. So, when it became glaringly obvious that despite getting up at the crack of dawn, there was just no way we were going to get the one o’clock Islay ferry from Kennacraig, a simple decision was made to book on to the next sailing, and hopefully make it in to An Cladach before it got too dark. In the end even that proved a little beyond us. Having parked up and left the car just after 7, the first mile and a half to the coast took us over and hour, and picking a way the final 500 yards along the beach to the bothy took a ridiculous 45 minutes! A serious underestimation of the terrain, especially under the light of a rapidly fading head torch.

Arriving at Port Ellen on Islay

The next day we were up for the dawn, and were really thankful that we hadn’t pushed too hard the previous morning. We spent the day meandering about, combing the beach for wood, and just unwinding from what we realised for both of us, had been a pretty stressful few weeks.

Dawn over the eastern extremities of Jura

An Cladach, with Jura in the background

Waterfall just down from the bothy…

View of the ferry returning to the mainland from the bothy door

Jura in the gloaming

Sun setting on the hills above the beach

Reading by the fire

On the third morning the weather was extremely kind to us, and we made our merry way back to the ferry in good time…

Benefit of being an early riser…

Early morning light on the bothy

Time for a cup of tea

Bothy is really like a wee little hostel

Local blackberries

Some OCD stuff going on here…

Picking a way along the shore on the way back to civilisation

A final look back

Jura ferry heading out across the sound

I will be back…


4 thoughts on “over ambition

  1. 99percentchimp

    Nice to find your blog – great read and some great ideas in there too… I pedalled in to An Cladach from Port Askaig too this year and then onwards south along the shore the following morning – hard work to say the least but a fantastic bothy and great views of Jura. I plan to cycle the coast of Jura too next spring (well maybe not the far north – that looks like too much hard work!). Couple of great coastal bothies to aim for there too… will be trawling your blog further for trip ideas. Thanks!
    Few photos of myIslay trip if fancy seeing more of the coast south of An Cladach anytime (I got back to the Port Ellen ferry port this way in about 5 hours by bike/pushing/carrying).

    1. bothiesonabike Post author

      Hi Mark, glad you like the blog…your pictures look great too, thanks for the link, and will take a look at your wordpress site to see what else you’ve been up to! Islay is one thing but I’ve heard that that north coast of Jura is pretty nuts, not only the terrain but also the remoteness. I haven’t been to Cruib yet, or Ruantallain, but Glen Garrisdale is an amazing spot if you get there. In fact perhaps your just the man I need to get a bit of gen about Fat biking ( is that the term?!)…in my article I need to put in a line about them, the premise of the piece is cycling from train station to bothy, between ten and twenty miles on a couple of routes…I assume that is slightly more hard work with those massive tyres but I need to know if its still feasible…I actually use slicks and hope for the best off road…Geoff


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