Discover Scotland’s most famous whisky distilleries on this island-hopping cycling holiday, riding across the islands of Arran, Islay and Jura.
Catching the ferry from mainland Scotland to Arran marks the start of your island-hopping adventure. Well known for its stunning scenery ride through a landscape of jagged peaks, rolling hills and rugged coastal roads, Arran craft breweries produce excellent ales, perfect for quenching a cyclists' thirst.
From Arran catch the ferry to Kintyre and pedal across the peninsula to the Isle of Islay. Small whitewashed villages and vast empty beaches make the Isle of Islay a very special place. Home to the world-renowned distilleries of Lagavulin, Laphroig, Bowmore and Bruichladdich, Islay also boasts several smaller, independent distilleries such as Kilchoman that is worth a visit. The last island to explore is the remote island of Jura, excellent to spot red deer, explore wild Atlantic coastline and visit the famous Jura distillery. Rounding off each day in cosy, family run B&Bs and inns, enjoy meeting local islanders over a wee dram in the village pub!
Day 1: Arrive in Brodick and overnight.
Ardrossan is the departure point for the Arran ferry. It is easily reached from Glasgow by train (50 minutes) and has secure parking. You will collect rental bikes from here if required and then jump on the one hour ferry to Arran to begin your adventure.
Day 2: Cycling on the Isle of Arran
Cycling on the Isle of Arran is a delight. Often described as Scotland in miniature it is just packed full of things to see and do as you pedal the quiet coastal roads which ring the island. You have a choice of routes ranging from 14 to 42 miles. Machrie standing stones are just my absolute favourite place on Arran so don’t miss them.
Day 3: Cycling and Island Hopping to Port Askaig, Isle of Islay
The morning ferry from Lochranza takes you back to the mainland island of Kintyre and it is just a short five mile cycle over to Kennacraig for the 13:00 ferry to Port Askaig on Islay. We suggest a diversion to the Seafood Cabin at Skipness Castle for an early lunch. You just can’t beat fresh locally caught seafood done simply.
Keep your camera handy on the two hour ferry to Port Askaig as the views are splendid and dolphins, whales and basking sharks are all regular visitors to the Sound of Jura and Islay.
Overnight: Port Askaig
Day 4: Cycling on The Isle of Jura
Jura is the wildest and most remote of Scotland’s inhabited islands. It has no direct ferry to the mainland its 200 inhabitants and vastly outnumbered by the island’s 5500 deer.
There is no getting lost on Jura, the island’s only road runs up the eastern side of the island and the maximum round trip is 62 miles. The 21 mile round trip to Craighouse Village and the Jura Distillery is a great day out.
Keen walkers may also wish to pack their boots as a climb of the Pap’s of Jura rewards with panoramic views and red deer sightings are all but guaranteed.
Overnight: Port Askaig
Day 5: Wildlife & Whisky on Islay
A few white sandy bays pierce the steep cliffs of the Atlantic Coast of Islay. Relentlessly pounded by the Atlantic surf this wild coastline is a haven for bird and wildlife and exploring this countryside on quiet singletrack roads is enchanting. The choice of routes is endless and you can cycle for anything between 18 and 60 miles.
Overnight: Port Charlotte
Day 6: Port Charlotte to Port Ellen, Islay
Take the time to explore the Museum of Islay Life, the Islay Natural Heritage Information Centre and just stroll around this charming village before you head off to Bowmore.
Bowmore is the island capital and home to almost a 1000 people, the well known Bowmore Distillery and idyllically situated Round Church. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxed lunch before continuing to Port Ellen. (18—30 miles)
Overnight: Port Ellen
Day 7: Islay’s Whisky Coast
You are in for a real treat today! Islay’s southern coast is littered with islands, shipwrecks and three of the best distilleries in Scotland. Cycle west from Port Ellen for ten miles until you reach the golden sands of Aros Bay, the perfect spot for a picnic.
On your return you can visit Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Ardbeg Distilleries for a complete whisky experience.
Alternatively you may prefer to visit the Oa Peninsula to the South West of Port Ellen. This sometimes bleak landscape is nothing if not dramatic. Golden Eagles and corncrakes cab be seen at the RSPB reserve and the sea cliffs are home to Fulmars, Kittiwakes and razorbills in the summer. (6—20 Miles or more)
Overnight: Port Ellen
Day 8: Island Hopscotch back to Ardrossan, Onward Travel
An exciting Island Hopscotch via Kennacraig, Claonaig, Lochranza and Brodick brings you back to Ardrossan at about 18:00 where you can hand your rental bikes back and head home. (20 Miles)
We search out accommodation of character so that you can enjoy a genuinely warm welcome and authentic Scottish experience. This tour includes a mix of small family run B&Bs and hotels as well as some charming island hotels. All offer a warm welcome to cyclists, have secure bike storage, offer traditional hospitality and delicious local food.
Solo Cyclists & Single Rooms
This independent cycling holiday isavailable to solo cyclists but there is a solo supplement payable to cover the additional baggage transfer costs as well as a single supplement to cover the additional accommodation costs for sole occupancy.
If you require single rooms in your party we will of course try to accommodate your request, subject to availability but it can be difficult to source over two single rooms in one B&B or guesthouse.
We always book accommodation within walking distance of local pubs, shops or restaurants or that offer evenig meals. We will always try and accommodate you at the locations detailed in the itinerary, but because of limited availability we may have to accommodate you at an alternative location. Alternative details will be noted on your accommodation sheet.
A hearty breakfast is included each morning. Lunch and dinner are not included so you are free to choose from the available options. Most of your accommodations will more than happy to provide a packed lunch on request and this can be booked on arrival. Alternatively your info pack includes details of local shops and convenient lunch stops on the way. Dinner is available either at your accommodation or nearby pubs and restaurants and your info pack will of course have details.
When you are cycling between accommodation your main bag will be moved by our local crew. You will have to take your own bag on and off ferries and from your accommodation to the ferry terminal. With this in mind I would suggest you limit your bag to 15kg and personal experience suggest a backpack or pull along is the best option.
If you have a long way to travel after the trip I would recommend an extra night in Brodick or Troon on day 8. Port Charlotte is another great spot for an extra night so that you have more time to enjoy the West Coast of Islay.
We are happy to tailor this cycling holiday to suit you so if you wish to reduce the number of cycling days or overall lengh of the holiday just let us know and we will put together a custom itinerary.
The holiday is available in the months March to October and you can start your holiday on any date in the season.
Time of Year
This holiday is available from late March to late October. Spring and Autumn can be colder. May, June, July and August are the best time of year for this holiday.
Bikes & Equipment
On this tour it is recommended that you bring or hire a mountain bike. As the terrain is very uneven using either a hybrid or road bike is not advised. Although the whole route is on tarmac a mountain bike is still the best option. You will need a helmet, cycling clothes, waterproofs and warm clothes as well as casual clothes for the evenings. Your info pack will have a detailed equipment list.
We offer bike hire for this holiday and you can collect and drop off your bikes at your accommodation in Arran. We use excellent quality mountain bikes equipped with a rear pannier rack, repair kit, pump and lock.
Navigation, Route Notes & Maps
This trip is not waymarked however you will be supplied with route notes and detailed maps so you should have no problem following the route each day.
Grade & Terrain
This trip is graded easy to moderate as you have various choices of route ranging from 20 - 62 miles. You should have a good level of fitness as there are several ascents/descents along the way.
The distances and ascent/descents are approximations of the recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items, for example, proper rain gear (jacket and pants), sun hat and sunscreen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard cycling gear such as warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing for summer, and a daypack.
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity and emergency evacuation and hospital care.
Getting to/from Ardrossan
Ardrossan is 32 miles south west of Glasgow and 18 miles north of Prestwick Airport. From Glasgow trains (50 minutes) and buses (1h15) run regularly.
From Prestwick a taxi is the best option and takes about 20 minutes.
For detailed public transport information see www.travelinescotland.com
All your ferry crossings (apart from Jura) are included in the cost of your holiday. These are operated by Caledonian MacBrayne and you can find full details of services and timetables here: www.calmac.co.uk
We strongly recommend taking out travel insurance to cover cancellation or curtailment of your holiday.
- 7 nights in B&B's & guesthouses
- Baggage transfer
- All ferry travel (local Jura ferry can only be paid locally)
- A detailed info pack, route notes and map
- 24/7 emergency telephone support
- Travel to / from Ardrossan.
- Lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks
- Travel Insurance
- Personal Equipment
- Taxi transfers or public transport should you need to skip a stage
- Tours / entrance fees to attractions or distilleries
- Solo traveller supplement
- Single room supplement
- Bike Hire
- Extra Nights
- Accommodation upgrades
Frequently Asked Questions
We are often asked the following questions and I hope that you will find the answers useful.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more advice from our cycling experts.
How fit do I need to be?
Although the average daily distances are not that long there are a couple of longer days and the roads have plenty of up and down so this holiday is better suited to regular cyclists with a reasonable level of futness.
How busy are the roads?
The beauty of cycling on the islands is that the roads are generally very quiet.Often there will be a rush of traffic when the ferry docks but generally the cycling is relaxed and traffic light.
How far in advance do I need to book?
We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalised as the islands are extremely popular over the summer months. You will find up to date availability on our website and we will always try and accommodate your plans.
What personal equipment do I need?
You will need a helmet, normal cycling clothes, waterproof jacket and trousers and some warmer cycling clothes, a full detailed kit list will be included in your info pack.
When is the best time of year?
Traditionally April/May and September have always been the most popular time of year because the theory goes that the weather is better and the midges are not as fierce. Although having cycled in the western isles at all times between March and November I think it always offers a wonderful experience as long as you are properly equipped and clothed.
What are the midges like?
Midges are small biting insects (much like north American knats) which are prevalent in the summer months. They are particularly bad on still, overcast days but do not bother you if you are moving, the wind is blowing, sun is shining, it’s raining, or you are inside so as long as you carry repellent for the odd occasion you may need it they shouldn’t have any impact on your experience.
What happens if I can’t cycle a stage?
We use local taxis to transfer your baggage and they can normally move you, your bike and baggage to the next stop in case of emergency. Local buses can also sometimes take bikes.