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What Islay Offers
Islay, the 'Queen of the Hebrides', is probably best known for its peaty, smoky whiskies. Some say they are the best in the whole world. Home to eight working distilleries, Islay definitely has the process of making the stuff down to a fine art. Sláinte!
Even if whisky's not your favourite drink, (though it soon will be!), Islay still promises an amazing experience with its birdlife, seafood and dramatic coastal seascapes, and who knows, you might even develop a taste for it after your visit!
Peat is still cut from the mosslands, giving the 'Islay malts' their distinct flavours. The island is perfectly placed for whisky production, with its pure water source, sea spray and fertile lands for growing barley. The distilleries welcome visitors to watch the production process and, even better, sample their delights.
Whisky Tour Map
Islay is one of many small islands off Scotland’s west coast but it certainly stands out from the crowd. Just 25 miles in length, its rocky bays and sheltered inlets house eight active distilleries. It is perhaps only fair then that industrious Islay has long been crowned Scotland’s ‘whisky island’. Most of Islay’s original distilleries – some long since lost to history – started as farm distilleries, retreating to secluded glens and caves when excise duty was first introduced on whisky in the 17th century. In actual fact, the exciseman didn’t dare set oot on Islay for over 150 years because of the fearsome reputation of the islanders, who were regarded at the time as wild and barbaric. Nothing could be further from the truth nowadays, with Islay being well noted for its warm hospitality.
The Scottish Isle of Islay is part of the southern Hebrides and is inhabited by 3,228 people (census 2011). The Isle of Islay is also called Queen of the Hebrides. With 8 working whisky distilleries, the stunning scenery, amazing wildlife and all the friendly people, Islay is a five star holiday destination.
Islay Info aims to be the ultimate online guide to the Isle of Islay. If you like to stay up to date with news and events on Islay the Islay Blog is the site to visit. Before planning a holiday to Islay make sure to visit the Islay Bookshop for a complete selection of available maps and books about Islay's rich history, the wildlife and whisky.
The Isle of Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Southern Hebrides of Scotland and lies in Argyll and Bute. The Isle of Jura, the Kintyre peninsula and Northern Ireland are Islay's neighbours. By the way, the proper pronunciation for Islay is Eye-la.
How to get to Islay
Getting to Islay can be done quickly via a short-hop flight – if the weather is good – or the long way involving anywhere from one to three separate ferry rides. Once on the island, it’ll come as no surprise that I recommend renting a car. You can either ferry it over from the Mull of Kintyre or rent one after you land at Islay’s airport.
The ferry terminal at Kennacraig is about 2½ hours from Glasgow; you should aim to be there 45 minutes before the boat leaves as spaces may be allocated to standby vehicles during busy periods. Ferries leave 4 times a day on weekdays and the timetable can be seen at:
Note that there are different sailings on Wednesdays and the winter timetable differs from the summer. The ferry takes 2 hours to Port Askaig or 2 hours and twenty minutes to Port Ellen. You can eat on board and there are places for dogs to sit.
Loganair operate a scheduled service from Glasgow airport and the short 35 minute flight offers spectacular views of the rugged west coast of Scotland. For flight information, visit:
Upon arrival on Islay you can either arrange to be transported to Bowmore by one of the local taxis services (see Islay taxis, carol's cabs, Fiona's taxis or Bruichladdich taxis) or have a hire car waiting for you at the airport (see Islay car hire and Mackenzies).
To get to Bowmore, turn left out of the airport car-park and travel 5.5 miles north east on the A846. Bowmore is first village you enter and after turning left to go down main street, take a right onto shore street. The Saddlers is located on the left hand side of road across from the bank of Scotland, next to No.26.
If flying is not for you, Caledonian Macbraynes run a frequent ferry service to Islay. The relaxing two hour sailing provides equally stunning views from the sea. For timetables, please visit: www.calmac.co.uk.
You will arrive on Islay at either port Ellen or port Askaig. A single 'main road' (the A846) directly connects port Askaig and port Ellen with Bowmore roughly half way between the two villages. When entering Bowmore from port Askaig direction, continue until you see the bank of Scotland on the left hand side, The Saddlers is located on the opposite side of the road. From port Ellen turn left onto the main road by the Islay hotel and continue. You will pass the airport and can follow the directions given above.
The Island of Islay is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, between Scotland and Ireland; it enjoys mild weather throughout whole year. Any time of the year is a good time to visit Islay and enjoy its Whisky…