Islay's Atlantic Coast Feature Page
How to get to Islay's Atlantic Coast
The B8018 or Kilchoman Road, which starts a mile north of Bruichladdich, gives access to some of Islay's most beautiful coastal scenery, being Sanaigmore, Saligo and Machir Bay. This beautiful single track road takes you uphill passing Foreland House where you'll find magnificent views over Loch Indaal, the Atlantic coast and Loch Gruinart, with the mountains of Mull in the distance. Lossit Bay and Kilchiaran Bay can be reached from the centre of Port Charlotte where a quiet single track road takes you over the Rhinns of Islay to the west coast.
Islay's Atlantic Coast
The West Coast of Islay stretches roughly from Portnahaven's Frenchman's Rocks in the south-west to Ardnave Point in the north and is about 30km in length. The major part of the west coast consist of cliffs, battered by the continuous waves of the Atlantic Ocean, and lovely sandy bays, most of them rather easy accessible. Swimming or bathing however is not advised because of strong currents.
Sanaigmore Bay is located in the north-west and can be reached at the end of the B8018. The car can be parked next to the Exmouth Memorial Cairn at Sanaigmore road end. The cairn is erected in memory of the 241 victims of the Exmouth disaster. From here a little walk over grass-lands brings you to this lovely bay, watch out though for the Bulls. Since this bay is facing north it can be somewhat sheltered compared to the other bays, due to the prevailing southwesterly winds.
Nine Kilometres south of Sanaigmore Bay is Islay's most beautiful bay, according to many, called Saligo Bay. The bay is accessible through a gate halfway between Machir and Ballinaby farm west of Loch Gorm. For access cross the dunes with numerous rabbits and descend to reach the breathtaking beach. Saligo Bay offers one of the most beautiful light conditions according to some photographers and is a favourite spot for people to watch and photograph an Atlantic Sunset. North of Saligo Bay is a distinctive rock formation, locally known as the "Sleeping Giant".
More to the south the beautiful Machir Bay can be found. This bay is easy accessible and there is parking space close by. Visitors find here almost two kilometres of beautiful sandy beach, a great bay to watch sunsets and a fabulous place for a walk. Bathing can be dangerous because of the strong currents and is therefore not recommended. On the south end of the bay is a track going up the cliffs to Kilchiaran Bay, passing Dun Chroisprig, an Iron Age fort.
A bit further south is Kilchiaran Bay and Chapel, where St. Columba set foot on Islay. Kilchiaran Bay is easy accessible through a gate close to the chapel. The chapel itself is worth visiting and just outside the chapel is a cup marked stone. Kilchiaran cross can be found in the Islay museum.
One mile south from Kilchiaran Bay is Lossit bay. Lossit Bay is a beautiful bay with a wonderful sandy beach, stunning cliffs and views towards Frenchman's Rocks. Lossit Bay is also a good place to spot Choughs on the cliffs and the bay is part of the Chough protection area on the Rhinns of Islay. Please be aware that there is no car parking here.
Further south, close to Portnahaven and the Wavegen Power station, are the Frenchman's Rocks. The rocks consist of three stacks, 500 metres off the coast, and this particular part of the west coast is considered to be one of the best wildlife observation spots on Islay. During heavy winds this is one of the best spots to observe the huge waves rolling in from the Atlantic.
Use the controls on the dynamic map below to discover the road following the Atlantic coast using Google Streetview. The start location is Sanaigmore which you can see behind you.
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