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


Despite the spelling of the name, Islay is pronounced 'Eye-la' (identical to that of the female name Isla). Locals are offended when they hear the name pronounced as it is spelled.


Everybody speaks English. Around 30% of the population speak Gaelic as their native language; the local dialect has a lot in common with the Ulster dialect of Irish.

Get in[edit]

By ferry[edit]

Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) [6] runs a number of vehicle ferries per day between Kennacraig (on the Kintyre peninsula, around 105 miles from Glasgow and 6 miles south of Tarbert) to Port Askaig or Port Ellen on Islay. Vehicle bookings should be made in advance as these sailings are often fully booked. The crossing takes around 2 hours to Port Askaig and 2 hours and 10 minutes to Port Ellen.

For those arriving by bus, the Kennacraig ferry terminal is served by the Citylink [7] 926 service linking Glasgow with Campbeltown, and the West Coast Motors [8] 448 service linking Lochgilphead and/or Tarbert with Claonaig (for Arran) and Skipness. In addition, an infrequent West Coast Motors bus, service 449 (Lochgilphead - Campbeltown), stops at the end of the causeway linking the A83 with the ferry terminal.

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

A small car ferry operates across the Sound of Islay between Feolin Ferry, on Jura, and Port Askaig. The ferry runs roughly hourly from 0600 to 1830 every day [9] (though Sundays have reduced hours). The ferry often leaves up to 15 minutes before the scheduled time, so get there early!

By plane[edit]

Loganair operates two return flights per day (one on Sundays) from Glasgow International Airport to Islay, and Hebridean Air Services [10] operate two return flights a week from Oban to Islay via Colonsay.

Get around[edit]

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[edit][add listing]

  • Islay Woollen Mill, Bridgend, Isle of Islay, PA44 7PG, 01496 810563, [1].  edit
  • Museum of Islay Life, Port Charlotte, Isle of Islay, PA48 7UA, 01496-850358, [2]. The Museum of Islay Life is open from Friday March 25th to Friday October 28th, every Monday to Friday, 10.30 am to 4.30 pm.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

  • 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[edit][add listing]

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.

An Tigh Seinnse in Portnahaven serves food every day unless otherwise advertised. Currently Friday through Tuesday from 12noon to 8pm, then Wednesday & Thursday 12noon to 4pm. A small but varied menu which includes snacks such as baguettes and pizzas alongside more substantial home cooked meals and local seafood. A selection of homebaking is also available all day.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Caol Ila Distillery, as seen from Feolin

With its eight distilleries - Bunnahabhain (Boo-na-HAHB-en), Bruichladdich (Brook-LADDY), Bowmore (Ba-MORE), Caol Ila (Coo-LEE-la), Ardbeg (Ard-BEG), Laphroaig (la-FROYG), Lagavulin (la-ga-VOOL-in) and Kilchoman (KIL-ho-man) - 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 onward. 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 bottling 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 friendly, although the terms of the premises licence mean that any children under the age of 16 are not allowed on the premises after 9pm. Dogs are not allowed inside although there are seats outside (for the better weather!) and staff are usually happy to provide a bowl of water and a biscuit for your dog.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

The Islay Hotel in Port Ellen is recently reopened and offers 13 newly refurbished bedrooms.

  • The Bay self catering cottage, King Street, Portnahaven, Isle of Islay, PA47 7SP, 01496 860 338, [3]. checkin: Sat; checkout: Sat. Comfortable self catering cottage overlooking picturesque Portnahaven bay. Sleeps 4. (email [email protected]) £250-£375.  edit
  • The Lodge - Islay (The Lodge Islay), 83 Frederick Crescent, Port Ellen, Islay PA42 7BG, United Kingdom, +44 (0) 1496 300409, [4]. Located in a picture perfect sea front setting overlooking the beautiful golden sandy beach in the sheltered cove of Port Ellen. The Lodge is an historic fisherman’s cottage that dates back to the early 1800′s. It became the Masonic lodge in the 1960′s. Now newly converted and renovated The Lodge offers the enjoyment of staying in a period cottage with all the comforts of modern day life. High quality holiday cottage accommodation is provided with three en-suite bedrooms that can sleep up to 6 people. Bed & Continental Breakfast or Self Catering Facilities are available. (55.629262,-6.18427) edit
  • Islay House Hotel, Bridgend (Take the road leading to Bruichladdich and about 500m down on your right is the entrace, not very easy to spot in the dark!), +44 1496 810287, [5]. Very nice old refurbished country house. Comfortable with good service but in a relaxed atmosphere. £150+.  edit


  • Port Charlotte Youth Hostel [11], 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[edit]

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

Photo Guide[edit]

Get out[edit]

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. Ferries depart roughly once an hour, the timetable is printed at the ferry terminal. Note that the ferry ramp on the Jura side is very steep (and varies with the tide!) so it's not suitable for low riding vehicles. Worth the trip over though, and can be done for a morning or afternoon trip.

CalMac ferries run to Colonsay on Wednesday and Saturday (summer only), en route to Oban and returning to Islay in the evening. The return trip from Islay to Colonsay is an enjoyable afternoon out.

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