Isle of Islay

Submitted by Owen McCafferty on Wed, 2010-01-13

Famous for its numerous whisky distilleries, Islay is a beautiful island with a dozen beaches, several historical sites and not too many tourists. On a clear day you can see over to Ireland.

Leisure facilities include a swimming pool in Bowmore, tennis courts in Port Ellen, a golf course at Machrie and diving around some of the many local wrecks.

By the way, Islay is pronounced ‘eye-la’ (you don’t sound the letter y).

The population of the island is around 3400. Figures given in December 1996 spoke of 14% unemployment. By the year 2000, it is estimated that the island will be home to some 60,000 geese!

The Islay Mod takes place on June. On August, the Islay, Jura and Colonsay Agricultural Show held.

Islay has a number of villages with terraces of small, single-storey houses lining the foreshore, such as Port Ellen, Port Charlotte, Port Askaig. Bowmore, Islay’s main town, has a unique, round church, said to have been designed to ensure that evil spirits had no corner in which to hide. Relics of a bygone age abound, with stone circles, carved stones and crosses, fine forts and castles and evidence of Bronze Age settlements.

Islay offers many wonderful and quiet sandy beaches all around the island, some more suitable for swimming than others. Most beaches on the shores of Loch Indaal and Laggan Bay are safe for swimming, but it’s always best to check the tides and weather before taking off into the sea. The Atlantic west coast of Islay is particularly beautiful because of stunning bays at Machir, Saligo and Sanaigmore. Saligo Bay is a must to enjoy one of the most impressive sunsets in Scotland.

Islay is famous for a number of things: Mainly probably for its excellent Islay Single Malt Whiskies from the eight working distilleries. Islay is also very popular among birdwatchers, in particular for the Greenland Geese. There are a number of important historic sites included several Celtic crosses and Finlaggan, home to the Lords of the Isles. Islay has a number of beautiful beaches as well as some impressive cliffs and some beautiful nature all round.

Islay Natural History Trust Wildlife Information Centre. Information and displays on Islay’s natural history, hands on activities, excellent natural history reference library and shop. The Trust publishes an annual report on the birds and other wildlife as well as checklists of birds, butterflies and dragonflies, mammals and reptiles, and wild flowers. The Islay Natural History Trust Main Street, Port Charlotte Isle Of Islay PA48 7TX Scotland Tel: +44 (1496) 850288

E-mail: fio…


Museum of Islay Life Port Charlotte occupies a former church in the village of Port Charlotte. Houses both the extensive library and most of the archaeological material. A gallery has been constructed at one end to act as an office and store. A small shop area sells books and pamphlets about Islay as well as a range of gifts. Museum of Islay Life Port Charlotte, Isle of Islay PA48 7UA Phone/fax: + 44 (0)1496 850358


How to get to Islay

By ferry
There are two ports on Islay: Port Ellen (tel: 01496 302209) in the east and Port Askaig in the north. Both are served by vehicle ferries from Kennacraig (tel: 01880 730253) which is located on the Kintyre Peninsula 100 miles north of Glasgow. Crossing time is approximately 2 hours.

On Wednesdays it is usually also possible to travel between Oban and Port Askaig. A ferry leaves Port Askaig at 10.40am and reaches Oban at 2.50pm. The ship leaves Oban at 3.15pm and returns to Port Askaig at 7.30pm. The journey is made with a 10 minute stop at Colonsay.

Vehicle reservation is required on all these ferries (tel: 0990 650 000 / fax: 01475 635 235).

There’s talk of starting a 17-car ferry direct from the mainland to Jura. It is part of a proposal by a group of Islay-based businessmen who would then like to see tourists driving 20 miles across Jura and taking the short ferry over to reach Islay which would be shorter for them than the current ferry from Kennacraig to Islay.

By air
Flights are available in light aircraft from Glasgow (35 minutes). The airstrip is near Machrie Bay, 4 or 5 miles from Port Ellen. Prince Charles almost crashed his plane here a couple of years ago. Glenegedale Airport telephone number: 01496 302022. These flights are now operated by Loganair working as a franchise partner of British Airways.

Isle of Islay Tourist Information Centre; experts in the local area – this is the ideal place to go for advice on what to see and do while you are in the area. As well as providing free advice, this Tourist Information Centre sells maps and guides for the area.

Isle of Islay Tourist Information Centre The Square Bowmore, Isle of Islay PA43 7JP Scotland Tel: +44 (8707) 200617

E-Mail: Click here

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