Driving Tour Information
Area: Central Islay
Total Distance: 24 Miles. 39Km
Total Time: 2-3 hours
Nearest Petrol station: Port Ellen
Map: Islay Landranger Map
Highlights & Other Info
Drive over Islay's on peat floating road between Port Ellen and Bowmore, visit Islay House Square and Community Garden and enjoy stunning views from the High Road on your way back to Port Ellen
Start in Port Ellen
From Port Ellen drive along Port Ellen Maltings and follow the main road, the A846. This road is built on peat and your car's suspension are tested when you drive at a good pace. After a few miles is Islay's airport at Glenegedale and the famous Machrie Golf Course, both on your left. This is a long and straight road, also referred to as the 'Low Road'. If you fancy a coffee or snack you can stop at the Airport. Inside you will find Fly Cuppa, an excellent cafe! Both on your left and right are peat banks where some of the distilleries extract the peat for their whisky making process.
As you cross River Laggan and enter Bowmore make sure to not overlook the Round Church on top of Main Street, a visit of this lovely church is not to be missed. Bowmore is the capital of Islay and has many shops, restaurants, a swimming pool, the largest super market and the oldest distillery on the island. If you drive down Main Street and continue all the way down to the pier you'll find parking spaces and the famous view of Bowmore Distillery on the shore of Loch Indaal.
Bowmore to Bridgend
A mile outside Bowmore is the Gaelic College on your left. While you drive along Loch Indaal make sure not to get distracted by the beautiful views and wildlife. In the wintertime there are thousands of geese roosting on the mudflats at the head of the loch. Before Bridgend is a hill on the right with a monument erected for John Francis Campbell, known for his 'Popular Tales of the West Highlands'. This monument, in the shape of an obelisk, was an initiative of the Glasgow-Islay Association and is in fact the second monument. The first one was blown away in a gale in about 1911. The views from the hill over Loch Indaal are breathtaking.
Bridgend is situated at the t-junction where the A846 and A847 roads meet, and is located in a very central position on the Island. Bridgend has a hotel and bar, an excellent shop, a petrol station and Bridgend Woods where you can have a lovely walk and stretch your legs. Also in Bridgend are Islay House, occupied by an American Navy pilot, Islay's community Garden and Islay House square with the local brewery, Islay Ales, and other interesting shops.
You take the Low Road, I take the High Road
Referring to the song "Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond" there is a Low Road and High Road on Islay as well. While many drive the Low Road, I always prefer the High Road, the B8016. Coming from Bridgend drive back to Bowmore. Right after the monument on the hill, which is now on your left, go left on the single track road. The Low Road is single track and usually very quiet. The views over the central part of Islay are beautiful and on the higher parts of the road there are stunning views over Laggan Bay as well as towards the Rhinns of Islay and the Oa.
The High Road near Port Ellen