An island dream: discovering Tiree by bike
Markus Stitz, founder of Bikepacking Scotland and round the world cyclist, recently visited the isle of Tiree with his bike, the most westerly of the Inner Hebrides in Argyll, on the west coast of Scotland.
White sandy beaches, lush green rolling hills, all dotted in white and yellow. Early summer or late spring, I am not sure what season it is. After a long winter this is a welcome change to the system. A deep blue sea and open, blue skies on the horizon. I sit on the beach and dip my toes into the warm sand. I wonder if there is any other place in the world that has fascinated me more than Tiree?
As often when I am out on an adventure, I don't want to leave. But this time I really don't want to leave. It's been a magic experience resting my bones a few days here. Sleeping under the stars, swimming in the sea, daydreaming and watching magnificent sunsets.
A more mellow, enjoyable rhythm
I cannot remember a holiday with almost unlimited sunshine on no midges on the Scottish islands. A few years ago I spent a few days on Colonsay, mostly basking in sunshine, but this time everything has fallen into place perfectly. After a busy week giving talks, workshops and attending events this is the perfect opportunity for a few days chilling out, and a very stark contrast to the crowds and the hectic in the South of England. Life on the Hebrides follows a more mellow, for me, much more enjoyable rhythm.
The business of life drifts away with the waves
The ferry journey alone is a blissful experience, passing the majestic shores of the Isle of Mull, while tucking into some delicious food and soaking of the sunshine and the fresh breeze on deck. The moment I got on the boat the hectic business of everyday life drifted gently away, and disappeared with the waves.
Perfect for cycling
With mostly singletrack roads, Tiree is made for road cycling. The most westerly of the Inner Hebrides is relatively small, about twelve miles long and three miles wide island, and very flat. It's not the miles that count here, it's the many astonishing views and the perfect opportunity that waits around almost every corner to leave the bike on the beach and go for a swim.
The northwest of the island offers great opportunities to cycle off the bidden track. It's not that the rest of the island is anyhow crowded, but it's tricky to meet anyone here while I enjoy the small ups and downs the riding along the beaches offers. But things don't get too easy either as I pedal my singlespeed bike up one of the hills near Balevullin. In fact, this is a real test for the legs. The reward for the brief outburst of sweat are brilliant views over the island.
Barbeques and sleeping under the stars
And what better way to end the day then with a barbecue on the beach. Watching the surfers riding those waves that attract hundreds in October for the Tiree Wave Classic. And the sunset that follows makes that an evening I'll remember for a while, before I climb into my bed, outside and under the stars. The midgies haven't made it that far west.
Friendliness inspired by the island
Tiree is an island which attracts residents that really want to be here. People like Dot Sim, who I meet on the next day, whose jewellery is inspired by the island. She left Fife and settled here. While we talk over a cup of tea and tuck into our oatcakes, I admire the simple lines of her work, which blends in perfectly with the vibe of this place. Dot is warm and welcoming, like everyone else here, locals and tourists alike.
And while I would love to stay much longer, reality calls me back into the Central Belt, already plotting my return to this magic place. Once the magic of the last few days has worn off again, and I need to unwind once more, I can't think of any better place than Tiree.
Follow Markus' adventures at www.markusstitz.com or on twitter @bikepackingscot, @reizkultur on Instagram and twitter