While we don’t know when, if it’s going to be this year or next year, at some point we will be able to go walking in the beautiful wide open spaces of Islay, Jura and Colonsay again. Until then we have to watch videos like this, showing walking on mainly Islay, but also Jura and Colonsay, in all weathers, from beautiful sunshine to pouring rain:
There are many ways to walk on Islay: you can go on organised walking holidays like in this video with About Argyll, you can come for the Islay walking week or you can go just for yourself whenever you want and wherever you want.
Unless you live in a cave (or the Big Brother house in Germany) this post probably won’t contain any huge surprises. With a heavy heart I’ve just cancelled my upcoming Islay visit in April. Regular readers and anyone who knows me will be aware how important in particular that visit is to me in the annual calendar, as it is the Islay walking week. I also fear my usual visit in June might not happen.
This whole situation is obviously also very bad and concerning for many small businesses on Islay, in particular in the tourism sector and related other businesses. If tourists don’t visit Islay these businesses lose their income, in worst case they might even go bankrupt and lose their business. I understand all of the Islay distilleries have closed their visitor centres until further notice, another hit to Islay’s tourism industry. I don’t know what the answer/ solution to this is, all I know is that continuing as if nothing was happening is not an option. I don’t think anyone would want the UK to be in a situation similar to Italy where hundreds of people die and medical staff in the hospitals have to make decisions who they are going to save and who they are going to let die because they simply don’t have the capacities.
What I do know is that the money I’m not spending now will find its way to Islay at some point. As soon as it is safe and possible to travel again I will return to catch up.
Just a quick heads up tonight, the details for the 2019 WalkIslay Islay walking week have been announced/published today. I’ll write up a more detail personal preview over the coming days with some pictures and thoughts which walks I’ll probably participate in.
To read up on the walks head over to www.walkislay.co.uk for the details of all of them (well, as of writing this less one, where the details are still being finalised).
Having had to miss out on the 2018 edition through my leg injury I’m very much looking forward to catching up this year (fingers crossed nothing goes wrong this time…).
Earlier today I posted the first picture on my Islay photo blog for almost three weeks. The reason for that is that almost three weeks ago I badly injured my right leg and spent the first two weeks almost entirely in bed as I was unable to walk. Last weekend I started to take my first tentative steps again, well, let’s call it some very bad limping.
While there has been improvement over the last week I’m still limping and expect it will take at least another week or two until I can walk normally again, let alone drive. Going on long and strenuous walks will probably take me several more weeks if not months. With this year’s Islay walking week only a week away now it became painfully (pun intended) clear to me over a week ago that I would not be able to participate.
I’m very disappointed that I will not be able to join this year’s walks and meet old and new friends. It is also frustrating as to my knowledge I am the only person who has completed at least one walk on every single Islay walking week since they started 15 years ago. Obviously this run will now come to an end. I wish those able to go fantastic walks, great weather and a wonderful week. Depending on how my recovery goes I’m hoping to be back on Islay in June or later during the summer.
If I counted correctly the 16th Islay walking week will be taking place in just over two months. Starting on the 8th of April 2018 there will be 6 days of walks on Islay, Jura and Colonsay. The detailed programme will be published soon, as of writing this you can find an overview of the planned walks on the Walk Islay page.
Some of the walks which caught my eye:
Walk 2 – Beinn Dubh and Sgorr nam Faoileann – the rarely visited eastern peaks of Islay
Walk 5 – Across the sea to Colonsay for a circular walk to the Arandora Star memorial and Pig’s Paradise
Walk 8 – Across the Sound to Jura and over the hills to Craighouse with a ride back!
Which walks caught your eye and will make you reach for your walking boots?
Cottage and ferry are booked, I’m looking forward to be back on Islay walking in the beautiful landscape. Hoping to meet many old and new friends during the walks and elsewhere!
In April I went to Islay for the Islay walking week and more. For various reasons I haven’t got round to write about the week so far, better get my act together now. As hoped it turned out a great week, even the weather largely held up.
Not having been on Islay for a year due to my heart operation I only went on three walks this time, freeing up some time for other activities. One was taking pictures of the remaining red phone boxes on Islay before they disappear. Here’s one of them at Ardbeg:
But back to the walking: As mentioned I went on to three walks, the opening walk on the Oa, the long walk out to Bholsa and the excursion to Jura. I had considered going to Colonsay and Oronsay, but having been so many times already I changed my mind and in the event the ferry was cancelled that day anyway.
The walk on the Oa was beautiful, the weather turned out better than expected and the Sun came out for the most important part of the walk along the steep cliffs (a very heavy rain shower arrived just as we got back to the road and were arranging transport back to the cars, couldn’t have timed it much better). While it was hazy for most of the time the views were impressive. It even cleared up for a short time and we could see over to Ireland.
The walk to Bholsa in the far north of Islay was educational, as it was led by geologist and book author David Webster. He explained how the landscape had formed, where the rock formations came from and much more. Some of the rocks are of volcanic origin, were once 1,800°C hot and located in what’s Iceland today (hope I remembered that correctly).
The last day took us over the Sound of Islay to Jura for a walk north along the shore. From Carragh an t-Sruith lighthouse we looked over to the construction site of the future Ardnahoe distillery. Unfortunately some quite heavy rain set in soon after we left the lighthouse after lunch, ruining some of the best photo opportunities. I’ll have to revisit this during my next visit. Luckily the rain stopped and by the time we returned to Port Askaig the Sun had come out and we could sit out in the garden for an after walk drink and look back at a great week.
On my non-walking days I was busy with a variety of other activities, including catching up with friends, visiting Bruichladdich and Laphroaig distilleries, visiting Islay Ales brewery, trying out the new Peatzeria pizzeria, walking on the beach in Machir Bay as well as Saligo Bay and birdwatching at Gruinart.
In summary, a great week! Looking forward to both my next Islay visit in June as well as the Islay walking week 2018.
I’m getting a bit nervous now. Soon I’ll be leaving for my first Islay visit in a year, the longest gap between visits for over a decade. The reason for the long gap was the heart surgery I had in October 2016, the run-up to it as well as the following (and to an extent still ongoing) recovery. This visit is of course for the Walk Islay walking week, a goal I’ve been building up to over the last few months. When I started with a rehabilitation class in December I had a review with the nurse and she asked me about fitness goals I had. My first one was to start with some light jogging in January (which I did and have since increased), the second one was participation in the walking week (now coming up).
The Walk Islay event started in April 2003, kind of a chance encounter for me as I only found out about it while I was on Islay for a long Easter weekend. I joined one of the walks (walking north from Saligo Bay, a walk I’ve since repeated several times, on my own, with my late mother as well as most recently with my sister) and very much enjoyed it. So I returned the following year for the full week (taking my mother with me as well). Since then I’ve participated in every single walking week, as far as I know by now I’m the only person who has completed at least one walk in every single walking week. Which was obviously further motivation to return this year in order not to break the chain.
I don’t know yet how many of the walks I will participate in this week, some of it I’ll decide on short notice depending on weather and how I feel. Starting point will be the walk on the Oa on Sunday, a walk I’m planning to complete. After that I might take a break on Monday, depends on how tired I’ll be. I’d like to go on to the walk to Bholsa on Tuesday, I’ll probably make that dependent on how the weather looks. Wednesday is Colonsay day, after not having been for a while I’m currently thinking of going. Thursday would be Beinn Bheigier, normally I’d go, this year I’m probably only going to go if the weather is fantastic. Not sure yet if I’ll have enough energy to go on a bad day. Friday is Jura day, I’m planning to join that walk fitness permitting.
Of course I also need to visit some of the beaches, drop in at some of the distilleries and hopefully meet as many old and new friends as possible. If you’re around please get in touch and I’ll see what I can do. If you’re thinking of joining one of the walks check the the Walk Islay walking week website, all the details are there.