This was the first full day of our bike and barge trip to the Islays of Scotland, after a terrible travel experience the day prior. We had a nice combination of bikes provided by the tour company, I think it was about a 60/40 ratio of e-bikes to conventional bikes.
We started out the ride South from Oban through Scotland’s rolling hilly landscapes and along the shores of a small highland lake.
After a few miles of riding, we returned to the edge of the Atlantic and crossed over Clachan Bridge.
Just on the other side of the Clachan Bridge, we stopped at the delightful Tigh an Truish pub for a break and a snack. The food was very good here, especially the locally caught Langostines. The name Tigh an Truish comes from ‘house of the trousers’ and marks the period after the 1745 Jacobite rebellion when kilts were banned. Islanders heading for the mainland (then without the benefit of the bridge) stopped here to swap their kilts for trousers.
From here we traveled south along the remote peninsula of Balcivar before embarking on the Cuon Ferry which took us to the island of Luing. Luing is made up primarily of slate and the mining of the flat, gray, glistening rocks played an important economic role in the area’s history. The University of Edinburgh for instance, is largely constructed out of the slate off of this small island.
At the South end of Luing we found the Toberonochy dock, and the Flying Dutchman waiting to whisk us across to Crinan where we spent the second night. Crinan is a tiny, picturesque fishing village with only 80 registered inhabitants. It’s also home to the Crinan Canal, known as “Britain’s most beautiful short cut”, a 9 mile route across the peninsula through 15 locks to Ardrishaig on the West, which allowed boats to cut off over 100 miles and avoid the dangerous trip around the Mull of Kintyre.
Crinan is also well known for the Crinan Hotel, a very nice spot that’s been the heart of the village for more than 200 years. The hotel is also home to the Crinan Seafood Bar, a very nice little pub with outstanding seafood (especially prawns and lobster), and an amazing view of the Crinan Harbour.
Just above the Harbour is the trailhead for the Crinan Trail, a four mile round trip through a very wooded “rain forest” area.
The trail climbs past the ruins of the medieval Castle Dounie, and on to a couple of outstanding overlooks of the town, the harbour and the Sound of Jura.
Close to the end of the trail, it again descends to the level of the town. The trail pops out on the Crinan Canal towpath close to town for an easy and scenic walk back.