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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: email@example.com. 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.firstname.lastname@example.org. 16 year old Lagavulin belongs like Caol Ila to the Classic Malts.
- Laphroaig. daily Mar - Dec. tours from £5.
- Kildalton cross, Kildalton Port Ellen PA42 7EF (It's a ten minute drive from Ardbeg along the main road.). Celtic cross from 8th century AD and a church ruin.
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. Most distilleries now offer advanced tours where you can taste different bottlings. All distilleries on the island offer tours, and Ardbeg and Kilchoman also have cafés. Remember to book tours in advance.
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
- Islay Festival Feis Isle, e-mail: email@example.com. Held in the last week of may every year all over the island and Jura. The island gets really crowded during the festival, so book a year in advance.
- An Taigh Osda, 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.
- An Tigh Seinnse, Queen Street, Portnahaven.
- The Ballygrant Inn (Halfway between Bridgend and Port Askaig). Good home baking and evening meals.
- The Old Kiln Café, Ardbeg. 10.00 to 16.30 (last orders 16.00). The cafe at Ardbeg distillery is wonderfully rustic with some great menu choices including good soups and home baking.
- The Port Askaig Hotel, Port Askaig. a pleasant pub which does average bar meals.
- The Port Charlotte Hotel, Main Street, Port Charlotte. 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.
- Taj Mahal, Shore Street, Bowmore. A good Indian restaurant in the centre of Bowmore. They do not serve alcohol, but you can bring your own. Only cash payment.
- The White Hart, Charlotte Street, Port Ellen. The White Hart serves 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.
- 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 friendly, although the terms of the premises licence currently mean that any children under the age of 16 are not allowed on the premises after 8pm. 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.
- The Bay self catering cottage, King Street, Portnahaven, 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.
- Bowmore Cottages, School Street, Bowmore, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Six cottages located at the Bowmore Distillery. Modern kitchen and up to date furniture inside and right at the centre of Bowmore and Islay. Comes with complimentary bottle of Bowmore 12 and a free tour at the distillery if you stay for a week.
- The Harbour Inn, The Square, Bowmore, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Hotel with seven rooms as well as a restaurant and a small but nice pub with good selection of whisky.
- 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.
- Isle of Jura — A short ferry trip from Port Askaig lies Jura. It has its own Jura destillery in Craigshouse and is a popular place for walks.