Islay, "Queen of the Hebrides" is around 20 miles by 20 miles. With its eight distilleries - Bunnahabhain, Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and newly opened Kilchoman - it is easy to see why Islay is probably most famous for its whisky. Port Ellen closed its doors in 1983. In 2004, Islay's first ale brewery opened.
The Isle of Jura, five minutes 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.
Islay has two ferry ports Port Ellen and Port Askaig, the ferry journey is a 2 hour 20 mins trip from the mainland, it leaves from Kennacraig, near Tarbert (Loch Fyne) on the Mull of Kintyre, which is about 2 and half hours from Glasgow by car. Caledonian MacBrayne operate the ferries and Citylink coaches connect with some ferries at Kennacraig. There are two or more trips per day, with more ferries going to Port Ellen than Port Askaig. Occasional sailings go on to Colonsay.
Islay Coaches runs buses which serve the main towns and villages. There is no Sunday service.
Hitchhiking is easy and relatively safe on Islay.
Remember to wave to other road users, whether it be vehicle drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians.
- Ardbeg, Port Ellen, PA42 7EA, ☎ . Daily - not winter weekends, 9:30-17:00. Visitor centre and distillery tours Tours from £5.
- Bowmore Distillery, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Mon - Sat 9:00 - 17:00. Visitor centre and distillery tours. 12 years old Bowmore is one of the most popular Islay-Whiskys. tours from £5.
- Bruichladdich. Daily Easter - Oct, Mon-Sat in winter. Distillery producing both whisky and gin. Tour from £5.
- Bunnahabhain, Port Askaig, PA46 7RP. Mon - Fri. tours from £6.
- Caol Ila Distillery, Port Askaig, Isle of Islay, PA46 7RL, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily in summer, Tue-Sat in winter. 12 years old Caol Ila is one of 13 Classic Malts. tours from £6.
- Kilchoman, Rockside Farm, Bruichladdich, PA49 7UT. Mon-Sat. Farm distillery established in 2005. Visitor centre, tours and cafe. tours from $5.
- Lagavulin Distillery, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, PA42 7DZ, ☎ , e-mail: Lagavulin.email@example.com. 16 year old Lagavulin belongs like Caol Ila to the Classic Malts.
- Laphroaig. daily Mar - Dec. tours from £5.
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.
You can sit on the beach at The Oa, and watch as Highland cow stroll past
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.
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 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. Cosy bar and restaurant serving local food. Child (and pet!) friendly, outdoor seating. Update - This pub is NOT pet friendly - I booked a weeks holiday in Islay choosing Portnahaven because of it supposedly having a pet friendly pub and was devastated when going in on the first night they told us we could not stay. The holiday was ruined because of incorrect information online.
- The Bay self catering cottage, King Street, Portnahaven, Isle of Islay, PA47 7SP, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: Sat, check-out: Sat. Comfortable self catering cottage overlooking picturesque Portnahaven bay. Sleeps 4. £250-£375.
- Port Charlotte Youth Hostel, Port Charlotte, PA48 7TX, ☎ . 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 facilities. Wildlife Centre Exhibition in the downstairs part of the building.
Islay is a pretty safe place and any crime here is likely to be big news.