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ritchey chicane stem ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

this is cambridge

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rapha roll top backpack

rapha roll-top backpack

a commuter is generally defined as one who travels some distance to work on a regular basis. it is, i think you'll agree, a rather lax definition, open to some considerable (mis)interpretation. for starters, while it's possible to google an online conversion for kilometres to miles, or grams to ounces, try as i might, i couldn't find one that would allow me to convert 'some distance' to any meaningful or useful set of numbers. each monday morning, i arrive at the office, and occasionally, someone will ask how far i cycled at the weekend. assuming it to have been an equitable couple of days, my answer will generally be north of 100.

rapha roll-top backpack

since everyone else travels to work by car, i reckon they would find half my weekend perambulations to be more than 'some distance'. having covered only a few kilometres on saturday, cycling out for a collective lunch, the monday morning answer is likely to be a tad less than hoped for. you will notice, however, that while the definition includes at least some affectation towards kilometreage, there is no mention whatsoever, of location. i would take minor exception to the notion that commuting expressly concerns travel to and from work, but i think we'd both consider that to be nit-picking.

the general implication is, however, by regular usage of the word, that the archetypal commuter inhabits an urban, or inner-city jurisdiction. in the mind's eye, we can picture a fleet of disparately hued waterproof jackets on bicycles, heading in the same general direction, surrounded by a phalanx of motor vehicles intent on carrying out the same journey. when the word 'commuter' is mentioned, that hypothetical picture rarely, if ever, conjures up open fields of golden barley, itinerant sheep and lambs crossing the road and farmer john, in his john deere doing whatever it is farmers do with john deere tractors.

rapha roll-top backpack

yet those of us in the rural idyll also have need of commuting; city life scarcely holds a monopoly on regularity or the daily travail.

sadly, having carefully constructed this idyllic picture of country life, i must excuse myself from its reality. for i live but a matter of minutes from the office and it would surely take longer to remove the bicycle from the shed, than it does to walk. if i were to commute to work by bicycle, it would be a rather redundant exercise, though it would allow a certain level of collateral to inhabit the moral high ground.

rapha roll-top backpack

so why, then, do i have need of rapha's new roll-top backpack? framed in the strict definition of a commuter, i don't suppose i do, but like many a modern-day cyclist, i have occasional need of transporting stuff from a to b. wednesday evenings, for example, i regularly pedal a round trip of four kilometres to teach at the community pipe band, a trip which requires that i carry the tools of the trade. since contemporary, high-tension pipe band snare drums, feature woven kevlar drumheads, cranked far tighter than any self-respecting kit drummer would ever dream of, a standard rubber practice pad bears no comparison to the drum head on which the aspiring percussionist will eventually be called upon to perform.

rapha roll-top backpack

therefore, i have a 14" diameter pad with a similar kevlar surface on which to practice my paradiddles; it's not small and it's hardly what you'd call lightweight. it is accompanied by one or two drumsticks and beaters, along with a drum key or two and some exercise books. all the foregoing fitted comfortably into the backpack to be ergonomically and safely transported by bicycle to the venue in which noise-making takes place.

the backpack's substantial internal space is divided into two discrete sections, one of which is padded to cosset up to a 15" laptop. when used as a pedestrian means of transport, it swallowed my 13" macbook air with ease, even when held inside a rapha for apple padded cover. the larger part of the division, floored with fluorescent pink to ease internal identification of items, also allows access to a smaller, zipped pocket into which documents may be placed for safekeeping. you'd scarcely want your ef education first professional contract to be crushed by a 14" pipe band practice pad, now would you?

rapha roll-top backpack

i thought it odd that the ergonomically shaped shoulder straps were bereft of the almost mandatory chest strap to keep everything in place while challenging for the king of the mountains jersey, but only a few ascents over a few kilometres were sufficient to note that such a strap has been all but rendered unnecessary, by the carefully shaped and padded backpack shoulder straps. for ease of access to keys, wallet, passport or other documents, there is a capacious zipped pocket on the lower rear section, negating any need to continually open the roll-top in poor weather.

rapha roll-top backpack

the closure buckle is similar in function to that employed by brooks on its roll-top backpacks, where a thin 'spike' slides laterally into a cordura loop, placed midway between the strap tops. the buckle and strap is retractable and does so automatically every time the roll top is opened. the bag also features a fabric handle for ease of carrying. there is a central fabric strap affixed to the outer panel of the backpack, running from top to bottom and featuring a number of loops into which a d-lock might be fitted for carrying purposes.

this constituted the one, simple failing in the backpack's constitution. though truth may be that the majority of commuting cyclists possess the archetypal d-lock, my own, seldom used, bicycle lock consists of a heavy length of chain, fitting into a tube-style lock. the loops incorporated into the strap are too small to allow the chain to fit through, so i'd to loop the chain through the closure strap. this meant, of course, that everytime the bag was opened, the chain fell to the ground. it would have required only one of those loops (and there are half-a-dozen of them) to be double-sized, and owners of locks such as mine, would be able to carry them in a similar manner that of d-lock owners.

rapha roll-top backpack

art lies in the details.

the outer fabric feels rubberised, offering a measurable degree of waterproofing, at least partially tested while riding along the less than pristine farm track leading to gartbreck farmhouse, at one time destined to be the site of yet another islay distillery. the potholed track was rife with muddy puddles, the contents of which were liberally sprayed onto the backpack by my bicycle's rear tyre.

whatever type of commuter you figure yourself to be, there will always be a time when stuff has to be carried, safe, sound and comfortably. there are many reputable backpacks on the market capable fo achieving the latter, amongst which rapha's version ranks as one of the best, despite a prevalence for d-locks.

rapha's roll top backpack is available in a 25 litre size, in black/pink, dark green, or black. retail cost is £100

rapha roll top backpack

sunday 16 june 2019

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rouleur magazine ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

a head start

cyclo_helmet

it was only a matter of years after moving to the inner hebrides that i opted to purchase a bell helmet, one that featured a less than aesthetic lump of white polystyrene covered with a more attractive lycra cover. i based my choice to wear a helmet, rather than let the atlantic breeze ruffle through my hair, on the premise that it was better to be a fungus than a vegetable. several of you may recall that early adopters in the nascent helmet market were frequently referred to as 'mushroom heads', as though wearing polystyrene on one's noggin was a purely sartorial choice.

cyclo_helmet

my own choice was determined by the daily cycle route to islay's west coast, a rugged location that provided an almost endless supply of subject matter for my less than promising artistic career. midway between home and destination, on a less than pristine singletrack road, was a short, sharp, hill, featuring gravelly descents on both sides, no matter the direction of travel. in the winter months, after slogging through perennial winds, after crawling to the top of that hill, the enjoyment of free speed on the downhill was too good to refuse.

the downside to this effervescent glee was the amount of loose gravel scattered about the bends, miniature stonework that i feared might throw me unceremoniously into a nearby ditch, should gravity outweigh my bike-handling skills. were this unfortunate set of circumstances to have come to pass, it could have been many a long hour, or even day, before i was found, chittering, at the roadside. perhaps the sensible option would have been to slow down, but wearing a helmet seemed like an appropriate compromise, offering the best of both worlds.

cyclo_helmet

helmets have moved on considerably since those days; international standards have come and gone, while even volvo have initiated testing that promises to be more 'real world', than the laboratory conditions that currently prevail. there are helmets synced to a mobile phone app, conditioned to call for assistance should the very problem outlined above befall you on a bike ride, ventilation has improved considerably, as has the means of keeping the helmet securely attached to your head. yet, there are still folks who have not succumbed to helmet wearing, preferring to feel the much vaunted 'wind in their hair'.

cyclo_helmet

the latter is a perfectly acceptable stance to adopt; but, if i might refer you to the volvo mentioned above, get hit by one of those, and a cycle helmet will offer little in the way of protection. however, surveys will confirm that, in the fairer sex at least, one of the principal reasons for not wearing a helmet is, believe it or not 'helmet hair', closely followed by the salient fact of having nowhere to put the helmet when it's not being worn. the folks at 'cyclo helmet', think that they may at least have taken care of the latter.

cyclo_helmet

a cure for helmet hair is probably as close to realisation as that of nuclear fusion.

launching on indiegogo at the end of june, the organic-looking 'cyclo helmet' is fabricated from plastic waste reclaimed from the sea, simultaneously providing almost unassailable ecological credentials into the bargain. from a safety point of view, according to cyclo founder, josh cohen, the helmet surpasses both european and usa standards. its cleverly foldable nature ensures that it will comfortably fit in the majority of backpacks and possibly even a largish handbag. favourably, the manufacturing process has led to an economic price tag; early adopters on indiegogo can look forward to a starting price of around £25.

take a look at cyclo technology

saturday 15 june 2019

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hot chillee ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

stop me if you've heard it before...

national bike week

there is a marked distinction between the two notable type of cyclists, and though there might be slight fuzzing around the edges, the distinction still remains, more or less, black and white. though i know i should always be wary of assumptions, i'm presuming that the majority of you reading this are type a (as they shall be heretofore be known), as opposed to type b.

the former are those for whom the bicycle is a principal interest in their lives, a machine that may well constitute an obsession and of which there are more than just a few in the bike shed. cyclists such as this, and i count myself amongst their number, probably watch more than one grand tour each year, know exactly who ned boulting is and own more than a single pair of bibshorts. type b cyclists are those for whom the bicycle is simply a means to an end; a method of transport, if you will. though there's every possibility that members of this group may migrate to join their counterparts, if contracting the bug through increased use of their perhaps, more modestly constituted velocipedes, in general, the separation persists.

this is most likely why, despite my consistent perambulations of the principality, there has been minimal uptake of the bicycle on the island in the thirty plus years i have lived here. my average weekly distance over the summer months, regularly exceeds 160km, a lot farther than the average gap between the island's villages. in fact, from port ellen in the south all the way to port askaig in the north, is a 'mere' 34 kilometres, the sort of distance that may of us would knock off before consuming a hearty breakfast.

yet my office colleagues, who live a darned sight closer, would never, ever consider cycling to work. and the majority of those who live and work in bowmore would probably find it far simpler to walk to work, but in most cases, the car is far too convenient to even consider pedestrianism. it's an attitude of mind that seems not to have been touched by the prospect of dramatic climate change, one that i suspect, will be very hard to alter. and though i'm using my own place of domicile as an example, i'm pretty sure it's a situation that repeats itself all across the nation.

getting the velocipedinal message across, to state the obvious, is going to take a great deal more than a few irate words from a scottish bloke with a ponytail, inhabiting a few black and yellow pixels. perhaps if a national cycling body were to become involved, things would move at a more considered pace. what about cycling uk for instance?

i am, of course, being somewhat disingenuous, for the above named organisation has been responsible for organising and publicising national bike week for quite a number of years. but my use of the word 'publicising' also carries a rather sarcastic tone; i figure that very few of you will have realised that, even as you read, national bike week 2019 draws to a close, the publicity for which has either been non-existent, or seriously misdirected. i like to consider myself reasonably well informed about most matters velocipedinal, yet i confess i did not realise this was national bike week until yesterday morning. at one time, the wednesday of this designated week, constituted 'bike to work day', but that seems now to have been moved, for whatever reason, to early august.

one might ask, therefore, what the point is in holding a so-called national bike week at all? what, in essence, does it achieve? with apparently less than efficient marketing, the answer might conceivably be 'nothing at all'. however, no matter whether you consider yourself a 'type a', or 'type b' cyclist, you would be well within your rights to ask "what have you done for (me) lately?" it's easy to sit on the sidelines and snipe at the efforts of others; perhaps i should get off my soap-box and put my efforts where my mouth is?

well, in my defence, i have done so many times in the past (easy evening bike rides, cycle instruction and rides for kids, bike doctor etc.), but the spontaneous burst of indifference from the local populace, rather undermined my enthusiasm for so doing, particularly when none of those efforts would appear to show any increase in the number of individuals riding bicycles either for leisure or transport. i have even spent days riding my italian taurus sit-up-and-beg across the isle, in the vain hope it might inspire others that bendy bars and skinny wheels were not necessary accoutrements for cycling. the bicycle gained great approbation, but nobody followed suit.

as i have said every year for longer than you'd consider polite, a national bike week is never going to achieve anything meaningful. that week needs to be expanded to a month, and far more people need to be made aware of its existence in the first place. thewashingmachinepost has been around for twenty-three years and appeared in the top ten uk cycling blogs for several of those years, yet i did not receive a single prior communication from cycling uk advising of bike week's imminent approach. i would have been more than willing to play a small part in spreading the velocipedinal word.

at present, national bike week seems simply to exist in isolation from the society that surrounds it. checking the website's events list, brings a list of almost 100 specifically related to bike week, many of which professed themselves suitable for beginners or families; the very audience at which the week is aimed. but those could surely be made far more relevant if everyone knew to look for them in the first place? and if newcomers to the daily commute could be persuaded to particpate for a bike month, there's every likelihood they'd be hooked for life.

let's hope next year is different.

cycling uk

friday 14 june 2019

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riding is the answer ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

all change

cycle commuters

during the last decade, i inadvertently invented the word 'pelotonese', while searching for an alternative to the well-used, but much-hated (by me) epithet, 'weekend warrior'. i fully understood what was meant by the latter, but knew of few sunday ride participants who would answer to the word 'warrior'. in my opinion, it's a word that arrives with connotations of belligerence, a trait i would be most reluctant to adopt, even in the face of a non-reversing motorhome. 'pelotonese' seemed an altogether, potentially less aggressive moniker.

that said, i do recall a personal retrenchment to an ashamedly antagonistic interlude, when obstructed by two mini-bus loads of bird watchers, vehicles that we had, only a few minutes previously, allowed clear passage by dipping into a nearby passing place. they drove but a few metres past, then stopped in the middle of a singletrack road, to view a lesser-spotted something or other. on that occasion, i was a bit overly loud against the driver's window.

however, by obfuscating the warrior thing in favour of a more pelotonic noun, i figured i might have more subtly identified the nature of our sunday peloton in the public eye. oddly enough, i have come across the word 'pelotonese' in articles, not written by me, over the course of the years, but then, imitation is allegedly the sincerest form of flattery, so i can live with that.

ever since the late lord carlos of mercian passed away, we have been of a singular mind when meeting up on the patio outside debbie's each and every sunday morning. lord carlos spent many a long year valiantly attempting to simply remain a bloke with a bike, rather than admit to being a cyclist. the rest of us, on the other hand, have cheerfully adopted the way of the bibshort, happy to appear as refugees from the peloton, even when popping into the co-op for some cinnamon and raisin bagels.

i'm sure you well know of which i speak.

however, despite perusing websites purveying state-of-the-art garmentage and receiving regular e-mail bulletins for same, there are times and situations when the latter would very quickly make the hapless cyclist, persona-non-grata. sartorial elegance undoubtedly has its place in modern society and quite frequently, sportwool and lycra is simply not it.

if i might personalise this discussion just a tad, this coming weekend, i will be joining several of my work colleagues for lunch at a local (almost) hostelry. this is located several kilometres from the croft, and, keen not to make my own contribution to climate change, i intend riding my bicycle to get there. choice of machinery has been pretty much made for me; the access road to the hotel consists principally of gravel and must be perilously close to a kilometre in length. given that i'd scarcely subject the ritchey logic to such 'loose underfoot, i will be riding my rather 'in your face' coloured cyclocross bicycle.

but, meantime, i am confused as to appropriate apparel that might straddle the boundaries between cycling and dining. mistake me not, i do have a sufficiently stocked cycling wardrobe to cope with the situation, it's simply a case of feeling a tad out of sorts, wearing civvies, astride a brightly coloured specialized. and i figure that i am not alone in experiencing this situation. during my now less than frequent visits to london town, i have seen more than a tour de france peloton of riders heading to work of a morning, dressed exactly as they would have been on sunday morning.

i comprehend their need to remain within the comfort zone, despite heading for a day in the office. there are more than just a few apparel purveyors who offer particularly stylish and practical clothing for just such a journey, allowing the incumbent to look, for all the world, like a normal person, yet still i/they persist in bibs and three rear pockets.

you will doubtless think less of me, but it's the sort of thing that keeps me (and others) awake at night. yet there are only two more sleeps before the decision has to be made. surely one of the world's great philosophical dilemmas? amswers on a postcard please.

thursday 13 june 2019

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endura cycle clothing ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

summit's up

mont ventoux

at the very start of the islay whisky festival, the neighbouring isle of jura, the very location in which george orwell wrote 1984, holds its annual fells race. this pre-dates the festival by several years and consists of running up and then down, each of the three paps of jura, whacking great hills best seen from islay, the gradients of which consist of large quantities of scree. it is presumably the latter that makes this a substantial challenge, one apparently much-loved by those who enjoy such activities. personally, having attended both pre and post fell race celebrations, i think they're all completely nuts.

alpe d'huez

as a part of the invasion of scotland's west coast from parts that are not scotland's west coast, the race is apparently organised and administrated from south of the border, though it continues to be sponsored by jura distillery. it is many a long year since i visited jura on the occasion of the hill-running, but i did once pick up a t-shirt on which the words 'i came, i saw, i summitted' were printed; most likely the very reason for its acquisition.

it's a t-shirt that would not have found favour or purpose during my sole visit to french provence, purely for the purposes of riding italian bicycles through, across, up and down the surrounding countryside. provence is a region of france in which the ventoux exists, the mountain which features an almost lunar landscape and a red and white, art deco styled weather station at the summit. the second day's riding was to have included an attempt on reaching the top, but, fickle as ever, the mountain denied that endeavour, due to serious cloud cover near the pointy bit.

box hill

this may have been more of a travesty for several of my cycling companions; for my part, i found the alternative route altogether more palatable and attractive. there's little doubt in my mind that timekeeping for my own ascent of the ventoux, would have been equitably catered for by a calendar, as opposed to a more conventional timepiece. at very best, i fear i would have been heavily inclined to conceal the statistics relating to my ventoux-inspired grimpeurship. however, there is no denying that the mountain is one which features highly on the annual box-ticking list of the pelotonese, those who hold greater pride in their mountain climbing abilities than do i.

for those very folks, and thankfully not confined to the ventoux, the adventurously perspicacious people at cumbria's the northern line are about to make your day. and, in a simultaneous moment of generosity towards the less grimpeurly inclined, our day too can be made. they will shortly add to their extensive range of stylishly designed posters, a series of eleven, celebrated hills and mountains on both sides of the channel. the joyous part of this venture is surely the option to have your very own climbing data appended to the poster of your choice (or not, as the case may be)?

box hill

the current list of a3 or a2 posters includes alpe d'huez, box hill, the croix de fer, fleet moss, the col du galibier, hardknott pass, the col d'izoard, de koppenberg, passo del stelvio, col de tourmalet, rounded out by the mountain mentioned above, the ventoux. as with pretty much every other poster available from the northernline, these are very close to the cutting edge of graphic art, a contention that is surely reinforced by the examples illustrating this feature. prices for the smaller, unframed, a3 size, begin at £21, while the framed edition retails at £38. personalised editions carry a £10 surcharge.

should you have proudly summitted a climb not included in the above list, the northernline are more than willing to consider individual commissions, including an amalgamation of several summits in one poster. doubtless there is many a tour de france rider who has them on speed-dial for an end of july purchase.

the northernline

wednesday 12 june 2019

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specialized bicycles ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

not the nine o'clock news

pink_sofa

i believe i may have reiterated this particular anecdote on a previous occasion, however, it's one that (sort of) fits today's programme, so here it goes once again.

in the very early days of broadcasting cycle racing over the internet, there was cycling.tv, an intriguing adventure based on the top floor of a rather none-descript building in central london. despite frequent trials and tribulations with the web interface, which, on a mac at least, was prone to do precisely the opposite of that fervently hoped for, commentators anthony mccrossan and brian smith, made an excellent job of bringing many of the world tour classic races to a small screen near you.

ushering in the era of punditry, many of the one-day races were introduced by rebecca charlton, who would host a notable worthy from the world of cycling on the eventually notorious couch, in a studio adjacent to the shoebox from which messrs. smith and mccrossan would eventually present the day's event. though i thoroughly enjoy my cycle racing, i am not noted for my appreciation of the various attempts to bring it into parity with soccer, by providing incessant prognostications as to the eventual outcome. in my humble opinion, far better to watch until the end and see who wins.

however, in a conversation with mr smith, i mentioned that the very notion of being the incumbent on rebecca's couch, debating the whys and wherefores, was one that filled me with dread. though i might occasionally be able to tell you the marque of bicycle ridden by a potential victor, or even the brand of clothing sponsor, the likelihood of my being able to offer any snippets of wisdom concerning race strategy was perilously close to zero.

you can, therefore, imagine my feelings of dread but a few days later, when i received an e-mail from miss charlton, enquiring as to whether i might like to join her in the studio prior to the broadcast of liege-bastogne-liege. those chaps from paisley have an odd sense of humour. it also transpired that brian had neglected to inform rebecca of my rather remote location.

yet, far from shuttering myself entirely from the world of unconstrained punditry, i have subsequently dedicated myself to a more long-term project, one which concerns cycling not one whit, but a subject far closer to home. over the years of plying my graphic trade at our local newspaper, i have had many a published volume cross my desk, featuring the amber nectar. the number of books concerning the production of single malt whisky is legion. if evidence of this were needed, a quick search of amazon for books under the heading of scotch malt whisky, returned a total of just under 700 results.

however, as i have made perfectly clear to all within earshot, i do not drink alcoholic beverages of any description, yet my avowed intent is to write 'the teetotaller's guide to the islay malts'. i confess, i have yet to decide quite how to go about this self-imposed task, and whether the resulting volume will be slim or substantial. or, perhaps more to the point, whether anyone would actually want to read it. but, the word processor wants, what the word processor wants.

there's every danger/likelihood, however, that it will end up just as informational as my 'guide to the 2019 tour de france', a hypothetical, non-existent pixelated publication that currently does not exist. and for those who might have experienced a sliver of anticipation at this announcement, i wouldn't advise holding your breath. those domiciled in the mainland will already have been assailed with thick, yellow covered magazines, probably captioned along the lines of 'the ultimate guide to the tour de france'. these are invariably published by cycling magazines that will, in fact, include the parcours and prognostications within their regular publication schedules, creating something of an information overload concerning the world's biggest annual cycle race, around which the seasonal planetary system currently revolves.

as with every other year, for as far back as i can recall, i will be avoiding any mention of the french race across each and every one of the twenty-one stages. this is no reflection upon the event itself; i too will be watching as many hours of racing as the next man or woman, but it seems pertinent to offer a refuge for those suffering from tour shell-shock, where it may be possible to indulge in velocipedinal reverie without a yellow jersey in sight.

pass the word around.

tuesday 11 june 2019

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galloway cycling

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showers pass ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

campagnolo

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wabi woolens ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................

tell them we sent you

quick mention for those intending to visit islay's shores on a bike during the summer. velo club d'ardbeg recommended coffee/tea stops - in no particular order.

club headquarters at the old kiln cafe, ardbeg distillery. excellent food as well as designer coffees with froth. the single malt is apparently just ginger peachy. open monday to saturday from easter to september, seven days from june to september.

debbie's cafe

kilchoman distillery features a rather inviting café and restaurant, sited just off the road overlooking loch gorm on islay's west coast. now retailing a particularly attractive cycle jersey all of its very own, it's the very distillery to drop into while perambulating the atlantic coast, for both coffee and perchance a tour and a dram.

opened in april 2019, ardnahoe distillery features a particularly expansive visitor centre, with superb views over the sound of islay and the paps of jura. on a clear day you can see north to colonsay and mull. ostensibly open seven days with a particularly attractive menu in the illicit still restaurant and café and an espresso to be proud of. for single malt aficionados, it's unlikely there will be any homegrown product available for several years yet.

bruichladdich mini market (debbie's cafe), a few hundred yards from the distillery. highly commended designer coffees with outside tables. we like. open all year round with a cycling wall in the coffee corner.

welcometogreatcoffee.co.uk

and recently opened in islay house square, bridgend in the islay studios photo gallery, a fine selection of designer coffees are now available while you admire the surrounding imagery.

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as always, if you have any comments, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

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.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... thewashingmachinepost

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