Monday, September 29, 2014

Islay Birthday Trip

Helen and I have recently return from a 5 day tour up to Islay in Scotland for here 40th Birthday. She decided that she wanted to go over to Islay to visit the Laphroaig Distillery as they produce her favourite single malt whisky. We had a really good trip and only had proper rain on one day and the odd sprinkle here and there on some of the others.

Wednesday 24th Sept - Home to Stonefield Castle 
We left home at around 9:30am and travelled to towards Settle via our normal route through Sabden, Sawley and Wigglesworth. Just before Settle we turned right onto the A65 and headed towards Kirkby Lonsdale. We stopped at Devil’s Bridge by Kirkby Lonsdale for a brief rest.

Bikes ready for the off We then headed north on the A683 towards Sedbergh. We took our tried and tested route north via the B6256, B6257 and A685 to Tebay. Then the B6260 to Orton from here we joined the B6261 which passes under the M6 and eventually joins up with the A6 south of Shap. We then proceeded through Shap and towards Penrith on the A6. We passed through Penrith and continued on the A6 towards Carlisle. We then joined the M6 at junction 42 and headed north. We left the A74(M) at junction 22 about 12 miles later and headed for Dumfries on the A75. The A75 isn’t a great road and the only decent bit has now been replaced by several climber lane sections of road. We soon arrived in Dumfries and stopped at the Tesco store on the north side for fuel and lunch.

After lunch we headed north on the vastly better A76. It is a fast but nice twisty road with a few rises here and there. North of New Cumnock towards Kilmarnock the road straightens out and is less involving but still much better than a motorway. Just before Kilmarnock we turned off on the B744 to Galston. From here we took the A719 to the A77 and then joined the M77 at junction 6. We then followed it and the M8 to the M898 and crossed over the River Clyde on the Erskine Bridge. We then headed towards Dumbarton on the A82 and stopped at Dunglass Service Station for a rest. 

Stonefield CastleWhen then continued on the A82 passed Dumbarton and then started on the usually busy part that runs passed Loch Lomond. Although today it was mega busy and we where able to make decent progress. We soon arrived in Tarbet and joined the A83 and headed towards Inverary. We have never been on this stretch of road before, but as expected it didn’t disappoint. The road runs through Arrochar and around the end of Loch Long. He then heads through Argyll Forest Park before arriving on the shore of Loch Fyne. The road then follows the Loch to Inverary. From here the road continues to follow the Loch although sometimes the road is further inland and the Loch is out of sight. After a great long run without too much traffic we arrived at Lochgilphead, where we stopped to fill up with fuel. We then continued south on the A83 again following Loch Fyne closely. After about 12 miles we arrived at our hotel for the next two nights Stonefield Castle.

Stonefield CastleThe hotel is located about 2 miles north of Tarbert with a view overlooking the Loch. The hotel is set in a wonderful location. The restaurant and all public areas on the ground floor are excellent. However the horrible extension on the side of the Castle detracts from the beauty. The room size was fine however the furniture in the room and the fixture and fittings are old and of poor quality. The rooms and bathrooms really need a update to modern standards. We would recommend the restaurant and bar area but couldn’t recommend actually staying at the hotel for the prices they charge. It was a bit of a disappointment and we won’t ever go back again.

Thursday 25th Sept - Campbeltown  
It was forecast to be wet and horrible all day and overnight it rained very heavily. We awoke to drizzle and overcast and gloomy looking Stonefield Castle Groundsskies. We had a late breakfast and then decided to have a walk around the Castle’s grounds as the rain had eased off. We were able to have a decent walk around the grounds and over to the island. Thankfully the rain pretty much held off so we didn’t get wet. We then headed back to the hotel and decided to go out on the bikes for a short ride.

Stonefield Castle Grounds We left the hotel and it almost immediately started to rain a bit. We headed south to Tarbert on the A83 and then continued on the A83 all the way down to Campbeltown. It is a nice run and the scenery is fantastic although the road is not very challenging for the majority. We stopped by the ferry port in Campbeltown to use the toilets and then headed back north up the A83. It had started to rain heavier on the way back but it didn’t really cause us any problems. We stopped north of  Clachan to fill up with Campbeltownfuel so that our tanks would be full for the trip to Islay the next day. We carried on up the A83 and then stopped just south of Tarbert at Stonefield Farm Cafe. We didn’t realise till we got in the cafe how wet we had actually got. We had a lovely lunch at the cafe and were treated to excellent service and also given some free birthday cake for Helen. We then headed back to the hotel to chill before our evening meal.

Friday 26th Sept - Stonefield Castle to Islay 
We got up and left very early to catch the 7:00am ferry to Islay. It was very dark at the hotel and due to a recent failure of the floodlights it was very difficult to see properly to pack the bikes up. We left and headed in the  dark toKennacraig Kennacraig to catch the ferry. We never ride in the dark so it was a fairly new experience for us, the lights on the BMW easily lit up the dark rural road. We soon arrived at the port and checked in. The ferry berthed at Kennacraig overnight so it was ready and waiting for us to board. Unusually we where put on virtually last as we where to be  positioned in opposite corners at the rear of the ferry. After we had bordered we set sail on time and so we grabbed some coffees for the 2 hours and 20 minutes crossing over to Islay.

After a pleasant crossing we arrived in Port Ellen on Islay just after 9:15am. We disembarked and then headed straight over to the Laphroaig Distillery as we where booked on the Distillers Wares tour at 10:00am. We Laphroaig Distillery parked up and then booked are selves in and then got a free dram each for being friends of Laphroaig. We then had the tour around the Distillery before being taken into one of the warehouses to sample the whisky from three different casks. We chose to bottle the whisky from the 1999 and 2004 casks. We also got a small bottle each of the three individual casks as we where obviously both riding. The tour was £52 each but we came away with a great haul of whisky each, the majority of which was from single casks.

After the fantastic tour we left the distillery and headed east on the A846. After passing the Ardbeg Distillery the road narrows to a single track and becomes very rough and potholed in places. We eventually arrived at Kildalton and Kilnave Chapel & Cross parked up by the ancient cross. After the brief visit we headed back to the Ardbeg Distillery to have lunch, but it was extremely busy so we decided it was best to look for lunch elsewhere. So we headed back to Port Ellen and then continued north on the A846 towards Bowmore. Apart from two sharp corners the road is pretty much dead straight. We soon arrived in Bowmore and stopped by the Bowmore Distillery to have lunch in the newly opened Taste of Islay.

We left Bowmore and headed north to Bridgend where we joined the A847 towards Port Charlotte. We soon turned off and headed further north on minor roads and eventually arrived at Kilnave Chapel and Cross. We then headed back to the A847 and then continued west along Helen's Whisky Haul the coast road to Port Charlotte. This was the best road that we went on the whole of Islay. It featured some nice corners with dips and rises and followed the coast, so great views as well. We turned around at Port Charlotte and then headed back to Port Ellen on the A846. We then headed over to our lovely B&B for the night Laphroaig View, located about 1.5 miles east of Port Ellen. Instead of walking into Port Ellen for dinner we decided that we would get a picnic tea from the local Co-op in Port Ellen instead.

Saturday 27th Sept – Islay to Troon 
After a great breakfast we headed to the ferry port in Port Ellen to catch the 9:45am ferry back to Kennacraig. We had already seen the ferry pass by from the B&B so we Port Ellen Ferry Port knew it was on time. We arrived at the ferry port and this time we where put on first, although this was a slightly bigger ferry than the previous days crossing. Again we had a nice smooth crossing and felt relaxed and ready to go when we arrived in Kennacraig at around 11:55am. We left the port and headed on the A83 via Tarbert to Lochgilphead, where we stopped for fuel again.

We left Lochgilphead and continued on the A83 and followed it all the way to Arrochar alongside Loch Fyne. I knew the A82 alongside Loch Lomond would be busy on a weekend so I had planned to avoid it as much as I could. So in Arrochar we joined the A814 and followed the  excellent twisty and undulating road alongside Loch Long to Garelochhead. Here we joined the A817 and headed back towards the A82. We then Leaving Islayjoined the A82 and headed towards Dumbarton, I was correct with my assumption as the road was very busy. We soon arrived in Dumbarton and stopped at a Costa Coffee for lunch. We left Dumbarton and headed over the Erskine Bridge and continued on the M8 and got off at junction 29 and headed through Paisley to get to the B711 to Barrhead. From Barrhead we took the A736 via Lugton towards Irvine. In hindsight it would have been better to avoid Paisley altogether as it was very slow going getting through (lots of traffic lights), but I wanted to avoid the A737. Near Irvine we joined the A78 and headed past Troon towards Prestwick airport. We then joined the A79 and then turned back towards Troon on the B749. We soon arrived at Lochgreen House Hotel, our hotel for the night.

Lochgreen Hotel Malt Whisky RoomThe hotel is located in a very quiet spot over looking the sea and the Royal Troon golf course. Our room was as big  as the whole of the downstairs of our house. There was a wedding on at the hotel but it didn’t create and noise our disturb our stay at the hotel at all. They have a very impressive single malt whisky room within the hotel bar area. The meal in the evening was also excellent and we where very pleased with our stay at the hotel and will certainly stay there again.

Sunday 28th Sept – Troon to Home 
We left after another excellent breakfast and headed back to the A78. We then stopped at Monkton Services for some fuel. We then continued on the A77 past Ayr and then joined the A713 towards New Galloway. This is a great road and usually quiet as I would guess that drivers take the A70 and A76 to Dumfries. We did encounter the odd rain drop and some damp patches here and there but it didn’t spoil the run. We have used this road twice before and again it didn’t disappoint. We then joined the A712 another really good road and headed across to join the A75 to Dumfries. We stopped at the Tesco again for fuel and a brief rest.

We left the Tesco but I had planned not to use the A75 this time to get back to Carlisle. So instead we joined the A709 on the east side of Dumfries and headed towards Lockerbie via Lochmaben. In Lockerbie we joined the B7076 and headed for Gretna. This is a fast B road that follows the A74(M). Near to Gretna we cut across to the A6071 that took us across to the A7 at Longtown and back into England. We then followed the A7 to junction 44 of the M6. We followed the M6 down to junction 42 where we left the motorway and joined the A6. We followed the A6 all the way to Shap and then took the B6261 to Orton. We stopped in Orton for lunch at the fairly new Silver Yard Cafe.

We left the cafe and headed back towards Devil’s Bridge via the same route we came up on Wednesday. We then joined the A65 towards Skipton. After Ingleton we turned off the A65 onto minor roads and headed through Gisburn Forest to the B6478. We stopped in Slaidburn briefly to use the toilets and then headed home via Waddington, Clitheroe and Sabden.


Mark Batham,  22 September 2017 at 20:19  

Very interesting & detailed. Thanks for sharing your touring experience to world. Sharing experience or your tour is always a great felling. I was also on tour of Paris, when we reached at the Paris Airport, we have hired Shuttle to Disneyland Paris by Bluvan, a company offering Airport Transfer Services, it was fantastic to go with Bluvan, really enjoyed it, the driver was very helpful & also guided us to visit the Disneyland & Paris. But I don't have the blog so share such experience, could you please accept by journey story & publish it on your site?