Cycling World Magazine July 2017 - Page 109

July 2017| 109 ROUTE 3 Bruichladdich – Port Charlotte – Kilchiaran Portnahaven – Port Charlotte – Bruichladdich I make no excuses for starting a second ride from Bruichladdich it s always nice to start with a coffee and a bun, or finish with the same. The prevailing wind on slay, while it might seem to come from pretty much every direction you’re headed into, is actually southwest. Assuming this to be the case more often than not, then you are likely to experience a headwind most of the way to Portnahaven. Also bear in mind that you will be cycling down the Atlantic Coast and there is absolutely nothing (and I mean nothing!) to break the wind before it hits the Islay coast. You may think you’ve experienced headwinds before, but as the saying goes, ‘you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.’ Of course, yours may be one of those unnaturally calm days. There may also be a blue moon or rain going up! Head south past Bruichladdich Distillery going towards Port Charlotte, taking you past St Kiaran’s Church on the right-hand side about mid-way along this five-kilometre road. As you come into the village of Port Charlotte, the Museum of Islay Life is up on the right, the Croft Kitchen on your left before crossing the small bridge. Straight past the Youth Hostel and the Islay Wildlife Centre on the left-hand side, then ort Charlotte otel and along Main Street. Keep well into the left, in case something comes wide past the parked cars. Nobody wants to come off before they’ve actually started. On the right-hand side is the ochindaal otel ust before the junction where we turn right up the hill towards the ex-village hall, which, in years gone by, was also the village school. The current school is in to the right. Carry on past the hall – a bit of an uphill drag for a mile or two, not too steep but not too at either. ass ort Charlotte Waterworks on your right, still pedalling uphill a bit, but when the road starts to venture downhill it’s a welcome relief (unless you’re particularly keen on uphill cycles). About a kilometre half-a-mile or so before reaching Kilchiaran, the road heads seriously downwards. If you haven’t already sussed, Islay is an agricultural island, with farms dotted all across the landscape. With these generally come herds of cattle and it might not have escaped your notice that they seem to spend almost as much time on the road as they do in the attendant fields. And cattle never clean up after themselves. So, as you’re hurtling down this 14 percent gradient and turn the bend at Kilchiaran Farm, please be aware that you are just as likely to run slap bang into cattle on the road as you are to freewheel on past the ruin of Kilchiaran Chapel on the right. Or a car heading towards Port Charlotte. Or large quantities of mud and dung which may have an adverse effect on braking efficiency. You have been warned (though it is such a great downhill that you may just be tempted to ignore all the above). The track on the right ust prior to the chapel leads up to a point known as ‘Granny’s Rock’ and there is a piece of singletrack that will take you round the coast (all downhill from the top) to Kilchoman and Machir Bay. Also, atop the hill are the remnants of a ‘listening station’ used during the war to track ships in the Atlantic. However, only venture up this way if you are on a suitable (mountain or cyclocross) bicycle. Assuming we have not chosen this latter option, the worst is yet to come. Having sped down a 14 percent gradient, now you have to climb one, and if you can muster the energy to look to your right, there are wonderful views of Kilchiaran Bay and beyond (next stop eastern Canada). Granted, if it’s a lousy day, you won’t see much at all, though if that’s the case, you may not have made it this far. After such a heavy climb, the road levels out a bit, though it doesn’t get any straighter. A few kilometres along the road is a track leading to Tormisdale Croft, which still indulges in many traditional forms of rural craft such as spinning, knitting and carving. If you’ve time, it could be a nice idea to drop by. Failing that, carry on towards the south, past Cultoon farm on the left and the remains of the mysteriou