Driving Tour Information
Area: West and north-west Islay
Total Distance: 19-35 Miles, 31-56Km
Total Time: 2-5 hours
Nearest Petrol station: Bridgend
Map: Islay Landranger Map
Highlights & Other Info
Discover the stunning west and north-west of Islay on a circular tour around Loch Gorm with detours to Sanaigmore and the west- and east shore of Loch Gruinart. A visit to Machir Bay, Saligo Bay and Sanaigmore Bay can be included in this tour.
Bridgend to Loch Gorm
From Bridgend follow the main road, A847, to Bruichladdich which takes you past the walls of the Islay House grounds on your right and the cattle market on the left. The road follows the lovely shore of Loch Indaal with numerous places to pull off the road and stop to enjoy the magnificent views and abundant wildlife. Parts of this road take you over raised beaches, remains from the last ice age, and still rising today.
Halfway, near Uiskentuie, is a gravel bank stretching out into the sea for almost hundred metres called 'The Spit'. This is the most northern part of Loch Indaal and an excellent place to explore the beach and look for lovely shells. The grass-lands were once a nine-hole golf course. Close to Uiskentuie farm is a large standing stone on the right side of the road, dating back to the Bronze Age.
A mile before Bruichladdich, on your right, is the start of the Kilchoman Road, the B8018, well sign posted. As you drive along this winding single track road you pass Foreland House before you reach the summit of a wee hill. It is here that you have almost 360 degrees views of Islay, Colonsay and even the Isle of Mull. Continue your way downhill and go straight ahead at the t-junction on the unclassified road. A mile after the t-junction is a track that leads to Kilchoman Distillery. They also have a good shop and cafetaria where they serve snacks, coffees and teas.
Machir and Saligo Bay
The views over Loch Gorm and the Atlantic Ocean on your right are breathtaking in places. As you reach the end of the road there is a row of white washed terraced houses. Keep to the right of them and you can access Machir Bay. Take the road on your right 100 meters before these houses and you continue in your circular tour around Loch Gorm. At the nearest point near the Atlantic Ocean is a gate where you can park your car and access Saligo Bay behind the dunes.
Machir Bay on Islay's west coast
Follow the road until you reach the T-junction with the red phonebox near Carnduncan. Go left to take and pick-up the B8018 again for a 6 mile detour to Sanaigmore Bay and the Outback Art Gallery. It will add around 30 to 60 minutes to your tour. Keep right and go left at the first t-junction to continue the tour. As the road goes up you drive along a wall on your right. Take a moment to get out of the car, look over the wall and admire the views over Bowmore. When the road goes down again you can see the Gruinart Flats in the distance. At the T-junction is the RSPB visitors centre and the possibility for another detour, the road to Ardnave, which adds 8 miles and 30 to 60 minutes to your journey. Highlight on this detour is Kilnave Chapel near the end of the road. Cross a closed gate to get access to the chapel.
Tin Roof Cottage at Loch Gruinart
From the RSPB visitor centre cross the Gruinart Flats over the B8017 until you reach yet another T-junction with a sign to Killinallan. This rather deteriorated single track road offers stunning views of Loch Gruinart. At the end of this track, at the closed gate, are various options for walks. This detour adds 8 miles and 30-60 minutes to your tour. Back on the main route there is another T-junction, 100 meters from the previous one. You can go either right or left to return to the main road from Bruichladdich to Bridgend. Everywhere on this road are fantastic opportunities observe Islay's Wildlife. Golden and White Tailed Sea Eagles frequent this area and so do buzzards, hen harriers and others birds of prey. Also chough, waders and many other birds can be observed as well as Roe Deer.
Detours described above are marked grey on the map. It is highly recommended to bring binoculars on this trip. Choose your time of day carefully. This tour is very suitable to do in the last two to three hours before sunset due to the nice light conditions, to observe and photograph sunsets and to observe the wildlife.
Overlooking Loch Gruinart from Kilnave Chapel