When entering Bridgend from the Bowmore direction at first there are some houses, then Bridgend Hotel on the right and shops on the left including a petrol station and general store and Post Office. Just beyond these buildings is a T-crossing. The road to the left is the A847 going south to Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Portnahaven on the Rhinns of Islay. Straight ahead after a few hundred metres is a little road to the left, taking you to Islay House Square. Here you can find a new parking space where you can park your car.
Islay House at Bridgend
Opposite the road is the entrance to the beautifully sheltered Bridgend Woodlands, famous for its natural displays of wildflowers, with thousands of Snowdrops, then Daffodils and finally Bluebells in the Spring. This woodlands provides a haven for many biords throughout the year and offers many miles of wonderful walks over well maintained tracks, with beautiful flora and fauna to be seen. The lovely river Sorn flows through these woods, giving wonderful views. About a mile further in the direction of Port Askaig is the Islay Woollen Mill which is owned and run by Gordon Covell, and produces an fine range of high quality woven fabrics.
Bridgend Local Shop and Petrol Station Opposite the Hotel
In former days Islay House Square was a hive of activity, with up to 120 estate workers. With the sale of the principal house on the estate in the mid-1980s and changes in working practices, the adjacent Square, spread over an acre or so, gradually fell into disrepair. The square was originally built to host the stables for Islay house and some workers' houses. In 2001, the second Lord Margadale, James Morrison, chairman of the Islay Estates Company Board, was ready to sell the Square. Estate manager Malcolm Younger and Tim Kirkwood persuaded the board that it was possible to retain the Square and convert the buildings into smaller, self-contained units ideal for local businesses. From that time on the redevelopment of Islay House Square, just behind Islay House, began and is now the location of several shops and the Islay Ales brewery. One of these shops is the Islay Quilters where faboulous quilts are made and nextdoor you can find Elizabeth Sykes with her beautiful Batiks. The Square is even home to a very special little garden centre and shop called Blue Lupins. Here the visitor can browse at leisure and then enjoy coffee and home baking while sitting on comfy sofas around a big open fire - a very sociable bit of retail therapy. Other shops are Susan Eastwood's glass works and art gallery and a gift shop with cards and home decorations. Islay House Community Garden, which has been created in the old kitchen garden of Islay house is located behind the square and sell seasonal fruits and vegetables. Visitors are welcome to view the garden, and even to help in the garden as a volunteer.
When facing the Islay Ales Brewery you will find a short passage out of Islay House Square on your right. If you follow the track you can actually see Islay House, which is normally practically invisible from the road. Islay House was built in the late 17th century, but has been much altered and extended by successive lairds. The house is not open to the public, except for concerts during the annually held Cantilena Chamber Music Festival.
A short distance along the road towards Port Charlotte is the Islay House Lodge, a small white cottage on your right. Behind this lodge on the right of the little track stands the octagonal East Tower or Bridgend tower, which was built in the 1760s. Beside it are several former ships'cannon, one bearing the cast insignia of George III (1760-1820). This is one of three such batteries installed for the defence of Islay House after John Paul Jones, and American privateer, had sailed into Loch Indaal in 1812 and sunk a number of boats. The other armaments were at Battery Hill by Bowmore, of which no traces remain, and by the West Tower, further along the road to Port Charlotte. Also lying beside the East Tower is the lower part of a 14th or 15th century carved cross shaft.
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