Met the Glasgow man who is driving Islay’s first tuk tuk taxi

The colourful transportation is more often seen on the streets of countries in Asia, but one has now popped up on Islay.

A bright green and yellow tuk tuk is not a sight you expect to see on a Scottish island, but for owner of Islay Tuk Tuk, Calum, there are similarities between Asia and Islay.

Speaking to the Scotsman’s Scran podcast, Calum explained why he set up his business: “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 of the roads on Islay are actually worse than in India and Sri Lanka. I think tuk tuks would do really well there. I also thought that tourists would love travelling by tuk tuk on Islay as you can connect more with nature, and it’s just fun.”

The vehicle came from the not-so-exotic location of Yorkshire and in 2019, Calum 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’s only just launched. It’s fortunate timing though, as the end of May saw the return of Feis Ile festival, and Calum’s tuk tuk was a popular mode of transport for those travelling between events and distilleries.

“It has been immense”, said Callum of Feis. “I’ve been really busy. On Laphroaig day I was just constant from 9 in the morning until 11 at night. People are really enjoying the festival and getting around by tuk tuk.”

During Callum’s pitch to the council for a licence, he explained how he wants to bring something new, saying: “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).” Calum’s aim is to offer tours of Islay and Jura, but he can also be called upon like a normal taxi.

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For those worried about any inclement weather or midges, the tuk tuk has clear plastic sides that are secured by velcro, and an eye-catching interior featuring tartan and lights. “The west coast of Scotland can be quite wet so the council were keen to know how I was going to keep my customers dry,” explained Calum.

With tourism once again picking up on Islay, Calum is enjoying seeing visitors again and chatting to people, 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.”

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