Right in the heart of Bowmore, directly next to the Bowmore Distillery and the shore of Loch Indaal is the MacTaggart Leisure Centre. A modern looking building with a beautiful 25 metre swimming pool, fitness studio, sauna & sunbed, launderette, activity room and sports shop. It's position here is not by accident, the centre is located in a former warehouse of the neighbouring distillery. This is however not the only connection with the distillery. The waste heat from the distillery is used, through a modern computer controlled system and underground pipes, to heat the water of the pool, giving it a year round pleasant warm temperature. This makes the pool a very innovative and environmetally friendly one.
The building itself, a gift to the local community by Morrison Bowmore Distillery, and everything in it is owned by the people of Islay and Jura; they raised the money to build it and now run it through their own company, Islay and Jura Community Enterprises Ltd. It wasn't at all easy to get this centre up and running in the first place. Being surrounded by water the people on Islay felt a need to teach their children to swim, which at the time was only possible in Lochgilphead, two and a half hours on the ferry and a 60km drive. In the early eighties experienced swimming tutors were hired to teach the children to swim in the open sea, but with the weather turning bad this was no easy task for the children.
Around that time Bowmore Distillery was planning to empty warehouse three, the only one in the centre of the village. The Islay Swimming Pool Association, formed in 1981, was bold enough to ask the management if they could use the warehouse to build a pool. Much to their surprise the owners of the distillery agreed, providing they were able to raise the required funds. Later in the nineteen-eighties big donations were received from Sir John MacTaggart and his family, the HIDB (Highlands and Islands Development Board), the Argyll and Bute District and Strathclyde Region. Also a surprising personal donation from James Howat, former chairman of Morrison's Bowmore, and his wife Christine completed the needed amount. Local builders, Woodrow Brothers, began work in March 1989 to transform the former warehouse in a modern wel equipped leisure centre for the total cost of £950,000. June 29 1990, was a day of celebration for the island, an Islay child cut the ribbon to open the MacTaggart Leisure Centre in Bowmore. Since that time the pool has had many improvements and the Islay and Jura Community Enterprise Ltd has earned four national awards.
MacTaggart Leisure Centre is open for locals and visitors alike. The swimming pool is sometimes reserved for special groups, so always check in advance if swimming is possible. The fitness centre, on the first floor, has around ten fitness machines, enough for a good work out, and offers the best view from any gym in Scotland: Loch Indaal. In case of darkness, a big television screen, installed in spring 2008 makes the work-out even more pleasant. Images Courtesy of Islay Studios.
Mactaggart Leisure Centre - School Street - Bowmore - Tel: 01496-810767 - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fitness Studio on the first floor