Islay Travel Guide

  • One of many lighthouses on Islay shot in gloaming
    One of many lighthouses on Islay shot in...
    by Paisleypaul
  • Boat on the sea near Port Ellen
    Boat on the sea near Port Ellen
    by Paisleypaul
  • 3 storeys high Atlantic rollers break at the cove
    3 storeys high Atlantic rollers break at...
    by Paisleypaul

Islay Highlights

  • Pro
    shrimp56 profile photo

    shrimp56 says…

     scenery, sheep, single malts, historic sites 

  • Con
    hayward68 profile photo

    hayward68 says…

     Lots of whisky distilleries 

  • In a nutshell
    leojhawt profile photo

    leojhawt says…

     Moderate/strenuous walking, wonderful coast, and everyone waves at you. 

Islay Things to Do


    Along the southeast coast, north from Port Ellen, lie three distilleries all within a mile of each other. Ardbeg might be the least known of the three, but the people here are out to change that. Of all of the Islay whiskys, Ardbeg features the smokiest and peatiest flavor of all which is saying something. The history of the distillery - begun in...


    Bowmore Distillery is prominently set along the eastern shore of Loch Indaal and takes up half of the village of Bowmore. The distillery dominates the town, especially appreciated when looking across the loch waters from the western shores near Bruichladdich. Bowmore is one of the distilleries on the island that still malts and kilns a substantial...

  • Lords of the Isles

    Be sure visit Finlaggan -- where the Kings and then the Lords of the Isles held sway over varying amounts of territory. The MacDonald clan figures largely in this history..It is now maintained by a private trust.Here are a few helpful...


    Port Charlotte is another planned village founded by William Frederick Campbell in 1828 to house workers involved in the Lochindaal Distillery operation which was also begun in that year. The village was named after his mother. Strung out along Loch Indaal, the town is maybe the most scenic on the island. There are two hotels and a youth hostel -...


    Port Ellen is the second largest town on Islay with a few less people than Bowmore. It is a main ferry terminal - along with Port Askaig - and is situated prettily enough around Loch Leodamain. The town - there are a couple hotels, b/b's, an internet cafe and a dive center in place - was founded in 1821 by William Frederick Campbell (the same who...


    Built in 1767, the Round Church stands high atop Main Street in Bowmore. Round because within there are no corners for the Devil to hide in. The church was built on orders of Daniel Campbell who wanted to have a new church for the villagers he was going to displace around his manor house. The idea for both the town and the Round Church came from...


    The Campbells of Cawdor became the lords of Islay with the fall of clan Macdonald. At first, the Campbells lived in the ruins of the Dunyvaig Castle but moved to a new manor house, the Islay House, near present day Bridgend. At that time, there was a small village known as Kilarrow next to their new home. when it came time for new landscaping, the...


    Standing on a rock on the north side of Lagavulin Bay is the old stronghold of the Macdonalds - long holders of the title, Lords of the Isles. Dunyvaig Castle was besieged in 1615 and 1647 which goes a long way in explaining the ruinous state of the castle today. With the fall of the Macdonalds on Islay, the castle became the center of power for...


    Finalggan was the site from which the Lords of the Isle ruled their updated version of the older Dal Riatta kingdom from. The site is a few miles up the hill from the ferry port of Port Askaig and about a mile west from the village of Ballygrant. There never was a town here only a few buildings of which there is only a few remains left. Towns never...


    Two ships carrying American troops to the battlefields of the First World War went down off the shores of Islay in the months of 1918. Feb 5th saw the SS Tuscania torpedoed four miles off the Mull of Oa peninsula. Luckily, the weather was decent enough and most of the 2397 men aboard survived, but some 266 died, many due to accidents when the...


    Driving on for six miles past the Ardbeg Distillery on a single lane road - something very few people seem to do - you come to a lane leading off to the right taking you a short ways to the ruins of the Kildalton parish church. Set among the graves is a magnificent ringed Celtic cross of the 8th century in a much more intact form than its more...


    Islay is a major wintering spot for huge numbers of geese who spend their summers in Greenland. Estimates of 15000 white-fronted and 40000 barnacle geese have been given. The geese come from near the end of September and stay through mid-April. They like to spend their day's out chowing in farmers' fields and flock together at night here in at the...


    A mile further west from the Kilchoman Distillery is the ruins of another parish church set amongst another graveyard with another great example of a standing Celtic cross - this one dating to the 14th or 15th century. Kilchoman was one of the residences of the Lord of the Isles though nothing remains. There are four hollows on the base of the...


    On the west side of Loch Gruineart, a mile or two from the road end, you'll notice an old roofless abandoned parish church out in the pastures on the loch side. Go through a cattle gate, shutting it behind you, and walk over to the church which sits in an active graveyard. The church dates to about the 12th century - Kilnave means 'church of the...


    Lagavulin began operation one year after its neighbors, Laphroaig and Ardbeg, in 1816. The distillery occupies a magical location on Lagavulin Bay. Rocky crags protect the bay's entrance with a prehistoric fort on the southern rocks and the ruins of a medieval castle - Dunyvaig - on the north. Lagavulin has a very strong name among whisky...


Islay Restaurants

  • Casual, local and GOOD!

    This is a very casual space with an open kitchen, a small display area for books and a shop for local crafts..Appearances are deceiving though -- this was the best food I ate on Islay! Scallops on a tasty, spicy nest of julienned veggies.

  • Local is the word here

    The restaurant here provides quite a varied menu and local foods are given a priority. Oysters come from nearby Loch Gruineart and most of the meat is produced on the island as well. One of the local bus drivers mentioned to me that the Bowmore was a place of choice for him when he and the missus strayed from the home fires for a meal.

  • And whisky too!

    Excellent cafe type soup and sandwiches adjacent to the distillery gift shop. The "leek and tatty" soup.


Islay Transportation

  • Fly to Glenegedale airport

    The airport on Islay is operted by Highlands & Islands airports andy is called Glenegedale with international airport code ILY.It is between Port Ellen and Bowmore, about 5 miles from either.It is well served by a Loganair operated FlyBe flight twice a day from Glasgow GLA, and if booked 4 weeks or more in advance costs from about £41...


    Local buses connect the villages together. Bus lines run from Portnahaven-Port Charlotte-Bowmore-Port Askaig-Port Ellen-Ardbeg. Service is fair during the week but only a couple of buses run on Sundays.


    My original intent was to rent bicycle and use the local buses to see Islay. There are several places you can rent bicycles on Islay - the post office of Bowmore, the Playing Fields at Port Ellen and another place or two as well as one place in Port Charlotte. Islay is reasonably flat, though you will run into the occasional 15% grade, but normally...


Islay Shopping

See all 4 Shopping in Islay
  • Local pots make good

    Well - I started shopping on the internet. After all there MUST be shopping on a 20 by 25 mile island ;) And there was indeed!.A Google search for Islay revealed several options including the website for Persabus. An inquiry about the bowls they showed on their website led to an email exchange where they said they would have the bowls ready for me...

  • Everything Islay!

    Here you will find books about and maps of Islay, jeweltry based on local designs, glassware, local crafts using historical images as well as some local woolens. It's just about as "one-stop" as you can get -- they even carry a small sample of Persabus pottery! Whatever you prefer!I bought a "stained-glass" round seal of Islay for hanging in a...

  • A sampling ..

    It was an awful lot of fun to compare the different distilleries, including a few that are no longer active, such as Caol Ila. Of the three small bottles pictured here I hanker after the middle one, Bruichladdich.


Islay Local Customs


    Buy a bottle of Laphroaig single malt whisky at home and go online with the bar code from the bottle in hand. Then you, too, can become a member of the worldwide Friends of Laphroaig club. You are given a certificate of membership and a virtual plot number which identifies a specific square foot of boggy pasture just across the road from the...


    Another rainy day option would be to take a swim in the local Bowmore pool. The MacTaggert Pool is housed in one of the old warehouses of the Bowmore Distillery. The pool is heated via the whisky process next door - water tubes used to cool the wort in the mash tuns run into the pool heated from cooling the wort and return cold again after giving...

  • Islay Hotels

    0 Hotels in Islay

Islay Warnings and Dangers

  • mtncorg's Profile Photo
    The sun is shining and the wind is whipping

    by mtncorg Written Sep 29, 2007

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Come prepared for harsh weather. I was on Islay for four days and on the best day by far was the morning that I left. Two days of pelting rain were intermixed with one gorgeous sunny day but with 35+ mile per hour winds. That quickly ended my thoughts of bicycling here. So, bring your Gore-Tex because umbrellas will probably be of little use and think about renting a car for a day or two. Rainy day options include a visit to the Museum of Islay Life in Port Charlotte or any of the whisky distilleries.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Wine Tasting
    • Historical Travel

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Islay Off The Beaten Path


    In 1598, Sir Lachlan Maclean of Duart Castle on Mull came to Islay to discuss the possession of the area called the Rhinns (the peninsula upon which Port Charlotte lies) with the old landlords of the area, the Macdonalds of Dunyvaig. One thing led to another and the outnumbered but better armed Macdonalds routed their foes along the southeastern...


    Driving north from Kilchoman and Machair Beach, you will find a road branching off on the north side of Lake Gorm which heads past several farms before ending at Sanaigmore Beach, another wild version of what you saw at Machair. And as above Machair, here you will find another monument to shipwreck victims. This monument was erected by the Irish...


    One of the most scenic beaches on Islay is the Machair Beach. This beach lies at the end of the single track road that leads past the Kilchoman Distillery and the Kilchoman Church. Set in a little bay, the sand is laid out in wide fashion. There are a few days when the wind does not blow - or so I am told - and it must be pleasant to walk here...


Islay Favorites

See all 4 Favorites in Islay
  • The Queen of the Hebrides

    Friendly people, stunning scenery, time stood still, interesting wildlife, great whisky, stunning bays and beaches, oh and did i mention friendly people? Islay isn't your one time destination. Once on Islay makes sure you will be back!

  • Civilized Remoteness - Unpronouncable...

    Get high above the Sound of Islay anywhere near Port Askaig for spectacular, timeless views dominated by the Paps of Jura. Dawn on the little jetty at Bruichladdich - the photo's cannot do justice to the awesome changes in light in an awesome setting.

  • History everywhere!

    The wild land, the sea and the remains of ancient cultures. That's several! The remnants of ancient cultures such as this chambered cairn burial site near Port Charlotte on Loch Indaal.


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Explore Deeper into Islay
Off The Beaten Path
Things to Do
Things to Do
Things to Do
Visit a whisky distillery
Things to Do
Wet your lips with some whisky!
Things to Do
Kilchoman Cross
Things to Do
Unexpected Pleasures
Off The Beaten Path
Whisky, of course:)
Wade through the bog and into the ditch!
Off The Beaten Path
The Paps of Jura ...
Things to Do
You can't miss Port Ellen ...
Things to Do
Machir Beach
Off The Beaten Path
A cross from the 8th century!
Things to Do
A church with a view
Things to Do
Distilleries everywhere too!!
Eating well on Islay
The Bowmore round church
Things to Do
For Peat's Sake!
Things to Do
Everybody rides CalMac
Ferry Fun
Map of Islay

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