Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Islay, 4th-7th August 2017 Part 4- Haste Ye Back


In contrast to the picture perfect conditions of the previous evening, Sunday morning brought an overcast sky and heavy rain. Albeit, being Scottish summertime, at least the rain was warm. Despite waking fairly early and hearing Russell up before me, I was naturally feeling a little fragile and dosed on and off until just after 10am before finally mustering the energy to get up. Few others were to be found. I wanted a post race recovery run and knew that the weather was due to improve by early afternoon. However, experience has told me that if I linger, I'll either delay a run for ages or not go at all so I ventured out to brave the elements. I negotiated a rain soaked 10 miles in just over 68 minutes, heading out on the half marathon route then diverging onto another narrow road before the airport. After 5 miles, I turned round and ran back the same route in reverse to Bowmore. I endured a headwind for the first 5 miles but had a helping hand from it on the return.

Like Saturday afternoon, the day was really your own until that evening's barbecue. Russell was going home which meant not only did I have the room to myself that night but I could also remove the gallon of whisky from under lock and key! Newly weds Andy and Lorraine Buchanan were also homeward bound though, unlike Russell, did not pose such a strong threat to my race spoils. A few folk took a trip to one of the other beaches. I expressed an interest but alas, there were not enough seats in the cars. I wasn't too bothered though because I felt content to potter about in and around the cottages. A few of us watched the tail end of the men's marathon at the World Championships and I remembered that I hadn't replied to my friend who had texted the night before. The phone signal had disappeared on re-entering the village hall. I found the main square in Bowmore to be a telecommunications hotspot and managed to stand in the correct position for long enough to convey how the previous day and night had gone. Said friend, freshly back from a 5 day family break in Prague, seemed suitably impressed and wished me well for the rest of my stay.

The weather did indeed clear up and, while sipping a cup of tea in the kitchen with Billy Buchanan, Frances, Kenny and Eddie, they unhatched a plan, a la Mary Poppins, to "let's go fly a kite." The kite was in the style of a pirate ship. I accompanied them to the beach behind the cottages though left the kite flying strictly to the experts.

Above: kite flying on Bowmore beach. Left to right- Eddie, Frances, Kenny, Billy.

Meanwhile, I had my second self taught lesson in stone skimming. There's certainly a knack to it, one I struggled to discover. Eventually, about a dozen stones later, I managed to successfully skim one. It bounced back up off the sea surface once. A mini triumph! Remarkably I repeated the feat with another one before my luck ran out.

Above: a stone skimming practice session. Photo courtesy of Frances Ferguson.

The subject then turned to swimming because the Harriers boast a few proficient open water swimmers in their ranks, including Sandy. In a moment of bravado, I declared that I was getting into the sea and ran into the cottages for my swimming shorts. I approached with caution. Feet first, then knees, then waist, then, much of my amazement, full immersional baptism. My goodness it was cold!! I acclimatised and swam about for a few minutes to my heart's content (ok, until my skin turned blue). 

Above: it's alright once you get in...sort of! My open water swimming debut. Photo courtesy of Frances Ferguson.

I emerged feeling extremely triumphant.

Above: post swim, feeling chuffed, and a little chilly.

In the meantime, the pirate ship had eventually sunk. I headed in for a much needed hot shower then opted for a dressed down look for the rest of the day, Islay race t shirt, swimming shorts and trainers with no socks.

Above: a view of the harbour in Brodick. Thanks to one of the locals for taking this photo.

The barbecue proved to be a successful affair and my compliments go to those responsible. As far as I'm aware, those co-ordinating operations were Jim Holmes, Eddie and Kenny. If I've missed anyone I apologise but if you were involved, consider yourself thanked as well.

Above: just some of the barbecue grub on offer.

Gradually as the night wore on, the buffoonery levels increased. The back garden became a games zone, co-ordinated by Stephen Phimister and family, with various timed challenges including "Tennis Ball Keepie Uppie Around The Quadrangle." Experienced tennis player Allan McLellan set the standard here. Indoors, once the midges had come out to play, traditional party games ensued including Musical Chairs and the well known classic, "Catapult Your Face With Shaving Foam." Not as proficient at such activities as I am at running, I came off pretty badly in both. I bailed out for the night at about 1am. I can't speak for others!


Alas, all good things must come to an end and unfortunately Monday finally dawned for those of us who were still in Bowmore. Checking out time was 10am and I forced myself out of bed early enough to squeeze a 5 miles run in at 8.30am. Thankfully some time still remained in hand before the afternoon ferry. Gordon, Sandy, Alex and I were sailing out of Port Ellen and we took a trip to the beach at Kintra campsite in Port Laggan. The journey got delayed somewhat when we got stuck on a single track road behind a lorry delivering what looked like a new washing machine to a farmhouse. Island world problems! We were only grateful the wee wifie didn't invite him in for a cup of tea as well. Our patience was rewarded by the beauty awaiting us. Beyond the campsite there lay a beautiful beach. The photos say more than I can.

Above: the beach at Kintra, Port Laggan. The 3 people seen, from back to front, are Alex, Sandy and Gordon.

Above: why do we have to leave? Thanks to Gordon's friend Alex for taking this photo.

Above: the beach looking towards Kintra campsite.

After a hard 30-45 minutes milling about (and paddling on Sandy's part), we drove back to Port Ellen and stopped in at The Islay Hotel for cakes and tea or coffee. All too soon, it was time to board the ferry to the mainland and the most beautiful, dream like of adventures was over for us all.

Above: a "selfie" in Port Ellen. I used the timer on my camera to take this photo. Any photos in this or previous posts where no-one is credited have been taken by me either personally or using the timer setting.

Such was the perfection of this trip that one post could not do it justice. Yes, it included a race  but you will see that running actually played very little part over the 4 days. I can truly say this was one of the best trips I've done anywhere in many a year. Words cannot do it justice. My first visit to Islay will certainly not be my last. Haste ye back indeed!

If you've read up to this concluding part, thank you for doing so. I hope it was worth reading.

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