Hiking on Islay

With its wild and rugged hills, dramatic coastlines and golden sandy beaches, Islay offers some fantastic hiking opportunities. Whether you enjoy ambling along the coastline, exploring hidden coves and beaches. Clambering across the mossy boggy wilderness, circumnavigating your way across crystal clear burns, bubbling down the hillside. Or climbing the heather clad hills, as beautiful panoramas unfold across the vista. If you are a keen walker, a stay at Persabus, and lots of fabulous adventures and hikes are close by.

During the pandemic and times of lockdown my daughter and I headed over the hills. Join us for a flavour of what a fabulous day’s hike across Islay’s beautiful landscape entails. Journey with us, read on….

Little Moments

Yesterday was a day for lacing up the hiking boots, packing a flask of tea and a picnic, and heading out across the hills to explore Islay’s north coast. With huge blousy blue skies, the hills and the sea were calling. Eldest, announced, rather last minute, that she was heading off on this epic hike and threw in the option that if I was quick, I could accompany her. I didn’t need persuading. Everything was thrown together in haste and before I knew it, we were literally heading for the hills. Social isolation at its very best. The Happy Farmer of course opted for plan B. Someone needed to stay home and prepare the roast apparently. In his defence, he did walk out much later to meet us, and did cook up the tastiest venison dinner for our return.

Dog in sea

Islay’s North Coast

To reach Islay’s north coast involves a jolly good hike. It is only accessible on foot, except if you are a shepherd or gamekeeper and have access to a quad bike or Argocat. Or if you happen to have a large boat handy, but that would spoil the fun, unless of course you’re the Happy Farmer, who thinks these modes of transport make far more sense.

Waves on sandy beach

In bygone days, at clipping time

The Happy Farmer’s father and grandfather would head off from Persabus at four in the morning, and walk all the way across to Bholsa.  Bholsa is even further along the headland from where we were hiking to. The old boys would spend a day with their fellow farmers shearing the sheep. Clipping would start early. At the end of the day those hardy men would walk all the way home to Persabus once more. In the Happy Farmer’s words, “those were the days when men were men and sheep were scared”.

Persabus provides an excellent starting point for these explorations.

With its perfect location on the north west of Islay, the single-track road handily leads through the farm heading onwards to Ardnahoe Distillery and then Bunnahabhain Distillery. Here the road ends and the footwork commences. For the exceptionally hardy, the trek starts from Persabus. Under normal circumstances this has the added bonus of allowing for a dram stop at each distillery along the way, and maybe, another one or two on the way home as well.

The Adventure

Yesterday the sun was shining brightly, and the sea and the skies were such a perfect deep blue. There was a gentle cool breeze, and that gorgeous refreshing salty sea air, that just envelopes itself around you in a great big hug. A moment of calm, the perfect tonic.
The walk out across the headland in dry weather is easy underfoot. A well-worn quad bike track to follow with just a few burns and the odd peaty bog to circumnavigate.

Girl hiking with sea in background

For company just the seals and the deer

With an odd lizard wriggling hurriedly through the heather, enjoying the burst of spring sunshine. The track stops at Rhuval lighthouse. The terrain beyond is more challenging, but with a good set of boots to protect the ankles,

the true treasures of this rugged landscape reveal themselves.

The extra effort adds to the adventure. Dramatic cliffs surround white sandy beaches, laced with craggy rocks and caves, worn by the almighty seas and storms over time.

There was a lot of clambering, and tough uphill hiking, followed by scrambles down the gullies. Finally, the reward of sitting on a deserted beach, a warm mug of tea to hand, listening to the gentle lapping of the waves washing over the shoreline, and life just doesn’t get much better.
Much later, rosy faces, tingling with wind burn, a lovely glass of red wine, a candle lit roast dinner, the fire roaring, and you realise

It is the little moments that really count.

Take care and stay safe.
Until next time…