Monday, May 16, 2011

Rothesay Castle

Some photos of a day trip (by bus) to Rothesay, where there's a very, very old castle. First erected in 1204, it's gone through some owners since then. Vikings captured it in 1228, then the Scots got it back around 1263. Additions and renovations since then, but it's now a museum. Closed at lunchtime, which is why all the photos are from the outside. The moat is fantastic, complete with swans (which aren't in any pictures, oops).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Islay of Scotch

View Islay for one night in a larger map

Bike camping! We finally made it out of town, after being here for a month, and braved the wind and rain to do some whiskey tasting on the Isle of Islay (pronounced eye-luh).

Joshua and the bikes - loaded. We didn't take everything. In fact I forgot some important stuff, like my sarong aka the towel and the scarf I use as a pillow case. Bummer. Oh well, not a big trip really.

Just two ferries. The first was a tiny thing. Not sure what the new camera was focused on in this photo...

But they had a bar and ropes just so we could tie up the bikes.

And the second was a bit bigger. We were early and spent some time in the ferry terminal where we met a group of Rabbis who were going on their 10th annual Whiskey tour. They were from all over (London, Scotland, Los Angeles, etc) and were quite curious about our cycling adventure. We also met a fellow cyclist waiting in the Kennacraig terminal, on a solo trip through the Hebrides of Scotland. Hugh, age 70, got a rare photo of the two of us as we came into the Sound of Jura.

And here's Jura itself, the mountains are called the Paps of Jura.

But we didn't go to that island, we went to Islay, right next door. Islay is most famous for the Scotch Whiskies Laphroaig and Bowmore, but there are a total of eight distilleries on the island, and one on Jura.

What they say about the islands is that you never know what the weather will be like, except that it's going to be windy. And windy it was. We managed to avoid getting rained on, just barely, but there was nothing to do but fight through the wind all the way to the campsite. We managed to convince Hugh to join us at Port Mor, just past Port Charlotte, especially after he found out there was no food at the campsite he had planned to stay at. We had some insider information from some locals who said Port Charlotte is the nice place to go - so we went west and got pounded by the wind.

Just as the rain started to fall, we approached the town of Bruichladdich, where I knew there was a distillery to visit. Joshua stopped, thinking we'd put on some rain gear. I convinced him and Hugh to go on another few hundred feet, until we reached the distillery, where we were met by walls of Scotch. After the beating we'd taken from the wind, a wee dram was just what we needed. We tasted something old and something older. It was all delicious. Hugh mailed home a bottle and we decided we'd come back again the next day.

Once the rain stopped, we went outside to a beautifully sunny and quiet day. The change in weather was unbelievable, especially the lack of wind that we were met with. We made it the extra 3 miles or so to the campsite and got set up just as the wind started to blow again. Apparently some folks had broken a tent pole the night before, so everyone was camped behind the fence. We followed suit, although it meant sleeping on a slant.

Here's Hugh and his amazing solo set up:

We set up shortly afterward, and we decided to walk back down the road to the town of Port Charlotte for dinner at the Port Charlotte Hotel - which was fabulous. Of course, while we had dinner it rained and the wind was crazy. And when we were walking back to the camp the weather was threatening but not wet.

Joshua and I had thought to stay a second night, after spending Tuesday riding around without gear, tasting whiskies. But due to the intense wind, we decided to ride east and not bother coming west at the end of the day again. We visited Bruichladdich again, to taste the rum cask whiskey and the organic whiskey, and we bought a small bottle of the organic to take with us. We also ran into the gaggle of Rabbis who we'd met on the ferry. They had just completed the tour and were thrilled to see us again. Rabbi Ari from London asked that we take some photos with him. He even got on my bike and rode around the parking lot. Impressive, considering it wasn't quite his size.

We then decided that instead of another wild night of wind and rain, we'd catch the afternoon ferry back and head home that night. So I took some pictures.

And we pedaled for all we were worth. Again avoiding rain, we made the ferry just before it started to come down again, but got some stunning views with the tail wind that took us there.

And again, when we arrived back in Tighnabruiach, we were in the house only a few minutes before it started raining. Then we got this amazing view of a sun dog out above the point.