A bright green and yellow tuk tuk is not a sight expected on a Scottish island, but for owner of Islay Tuk Tuk, Callum Gallagher, there are similarities between Asia and Islay.
“I did a lot of travelling in India in 2008 and in 2010 I was on holiday in Sri Lanka and was travelling a lot by tuk tuk. I was looking at the roads and I thought, ‘some on Islay are actually worse than in India and Sri Lanka. I think tuk tuks would do really well there’.
"I also thought tourists would love travelling by tuk tuk on Islay as you can connect more with nature – and it’s just fun.”
The vehicle was bought from the not-so-exotic location of Yorkshire and in 2019, he set up his business, Islay Tuk Tuk.
But it took a while for the council to grant him a taxi licence and then Covid hit, so he has only just launched. It is fortunate timing though, as the end of May saw the return of The Islay Festival – Feis Ile – and Callum’s tuk tuk was a popular mode of transport for those travelling between events and distilleries.
“It has been immense,” said Callum. “I’ve been really busy. On Laphroaig day I was just constant from nine in the morning until 11 at night. People were really enjoying the festival and getting around by tuk tuk.”
During Callum’s pitch to the council for a licence, he explained how he wanted to bring something new.
“It was like going into Dragons’ Den with all the councillors. But I was prepared with stats and information on Scottish tourism and return trade coming to Islay. Of course you get your whisky pilgrims but when they come year after year, I wanted to offer something different (to these visitors).”
Callum’s aim is to offer tours of Islay and Jura, but also to be called upon like a normal taxi.
For those worried about any inclement weather or midges, the tuk tuk has clear plastic sides secured by fasteners , and an eye-catching interior featuring tartan and lights.
“The west coast of Scotland can be quite wet so the council was keen to know how I was going to keep my customers dry,” explained Callum.
With tourism once again picking up on Islay, he is enjoying seeing visitors again and finds that the tuk tuk breaks the ice.
“So many people are really happy at being here and just want to talk and (in the tuk tuk) there’s no social barriers that you may find in other situations. They are really engaged and want to explore,” he said.
For more information on Islay Tuk Tuk or to book a tour, which can also include a picnic hamper from a local business, visit www.islaytuktuk.co.uk