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Islay

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Scotland : Hebrides : Inner Hebrides : Islay
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Islay, "Queen of the Hebrides" is a large island in the Inner Hebrides.

Understand

Despite the spelling of the name, Islay is pronounced 'I-la'. Locals are offended when they hear the name pronounced as it is spelled.

Talk

Everybody speaks English. Around 30% of the population speak Gaelic as their native language.

Getting there

The Islay has two ferry ports, Port Ellen and Port Askaig. The ferry journey is a 2 hour 20 mins trip from the mainland and leaves from Kennacraig, near Tarbert (Loch Fyne), on the Mull of Kintyre. Caledonian MacBrayne operate the ferries and Citylink coaches from Glasgow and Campbeltown connect with some ferries at Kennacraig. There are two or more trips per day, with more ferries going to Port Ellen than Port Askaig.

CalMac also operate ferries from Oban and Colonsay to Port Askaig on Wednesdays between March and October.

British Airways also runs two return flights per day between Glasgow International Airport and Islay Airport.

Get around

Islay Coaches runs buses which serve the main towns and villages.

Hitchhiking is easy and relatively safe on Islay.

Bicycle hire is available in Bowmore (next to the Post Office) and two companies on the island offer car hire - Islay Car Hire and MacKenzies

Remember to wave to other road users, whether it be vehicle drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians.

See

Do

  • Take a distillery tour. Even if you don't like whisky it's really interesting to learn about the distilling process and see how the distilleries have shaped island life. If you do like whisky you generally get a free taster. All distilleries on the island offer tours, and Ardbeg and Kilchoman also have cafés.
  • Use the swimming pool, sauna and gym at the McTaggart leisure centre in Bowmore.
  • Sit on the beach at The Oa.

Eat

The cafe at Ardbeg distillery is wonderfully rustic with some great menu choices including good soups and home baking.

There is a good Indian restaurant in the centre of Bowmore.

Port Ellen has limited options in the evening - the White Hart serves bar meals and there is an Indian restaurant in the main street. The Machrie Golf Club, approx 3 miles away (near the airport) is a better option.

An Taigh Osda in Bruichladdich offers fine dining but its small dining room (it also has B&B) means that booking is essential at weekends and during the summer months.

The Port Charlotte Hotel does good bar meals and often has live music. The Port Mor Centre, on the road out of Port Charlotte towards Portnahaven, serves lunches and snacks, with a family-friendly play area outside.

The Ballygrant Inn does good home baking and evening meals.

The Port Askaig Hotel is a pleasant pub which does average bar meals.

Drink

With its eight distilleries - Bunnahabhain, Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Kilchoman - it is easy to see why Islay is probably most famous for its whisky.

The Port Charlotte Hotel is a lively venue which does meals and often has live traditional music on Wednesday and Sunday evenings from 8:30pm onwards. There is a beer garden at the back. Even if you are not a whisky drinker, ask to see their whisky menu - a remarkable list of different bottlings from the island's distilleries. If you want to try - beware, as some of the rarer ones are as much as £50 a dram!

In Port Ellen, the White Hart Hotel has a bar and pool table - you can also take your drinks outside to the grassy area across the road.

The Islay Ale Brewery opened in 2004.

The Port Askaig Hotel is one of the island's oldest inns and has picnic tables at the front.

An Tigh Seinnse, 11 Queen Street, Portnahaven PA47 7SJ, An Tigh Seinnse. Cosy bar and restaurant serving local food. Child (and pet!) friendly, outdoor seating.


Sleep

  • The Bay self catering cottage, King Street, Portnahaven, Isle of Islay, PA47 7SP, 01496 860 338, [1]. checkin: Sat; checkout: Sat. Comfortable self catering cottage overlooking picturesque Portnahaven bay. Sleeps 4. (email info@islayholidayhome.com) £250-£375.

Hostels

  • Port Charlotte Youth Hostel [2], Port Charlotte, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA48 7TX, 0870 004 1128. SYHA Hostel in old whisky warehouse in the village of Port Charlotte. An excellent conversion of the building about 15 years ago giving a 30 bed hostel with good common room facilites. Wildlife Centre Exhibition in the downstairs part of the building.

Stay safe

Islay is a pretty safe place and any crime here is likely to be big news.

Photo Guide

Get out

The Isle of Jura is a five minute ferry journey from Port Askaig. Note that the ferry terminal on Jura is 8 miles from the main village and that public transport only meets certain ferries.

CalMac ferries run to the Isle of Colonsay on a Wednesday (summer only) and this is an enjoyable day trip.

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