The Scottish Isle of Islay is part of the southern Hebrides and is inhabited by 3,228 people (census 2011). The Isle of Islay is also called Queen of the Hebrides. With 9 working whisky distilleries, the stunning scenery, amazing wildlife and all the friendly people, Islay is a five star holiday destination.
Islay Info aims to be the ultimate online guide to the Isle of Islay. There is a wealth of information and high-res pictures available, all accessible through the pull down menu above. Alternatively you can use our Discover Islay Map
If you like to stay up to date with news and events on Islay the Islay Blog is the site to visit. Before planning a holiday to Islay make sure to visit the Islay Bookshop for a complete selection of available maps and books about Islay's rich history, the wildlife and whisky.
The Isle of Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Southern Hebrides of Scotland and lies in Argyll and Bute. The Isle of Jura, the Kintyre peninsula and Northern Ireland are Islay's neighbours. By the way, the proper pronunciation for Islay is Eye-la.
The earliest known reference to the Isle of Islay comes in Adomnan's, Vita Columbae, a biography of the Irish Saint, Columba in about 720 AD. St Columba visited the Isle of Islay on his way north, prior to founding the famous monastery on the Isle of Iona, off the south-west tip of the Isle of Mull. Adomnan, St Columba's biographer, wrote Islay's name as "Ilea", describing Islay as an inhabited island, which was later transformed to Islay through anglicised spelling. In Gaelic the island's name is spelt Ìle and pronounced EE-leh by native Gaelic speakers.
The Isle of Islay has 3,228 people (census 2011), covers an area of 600 square kilometres and has an impressive 130 miles of coastline. Islay is famous for its single malt whisky and has nine working distilleries on the island, making the single malt whisky industry one of the most important sources of income for the island. Famous names like Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain and Ardbeg are the established brands and well known all over the world. Other main industries are farming, fishing and tourism. A lot of people visit Islay for the distilleries, the wildlife and the spectacular scenery. Birdwatching is another popular activity throughout the year because of the large flocks of wild geese which visit the Isle of Islay every winter (October to May) and the huge variety of rare birds seen on Islay such as the corncrake and the chough.
Islay has a very long and rich human history. Evidence has been found to prove that the Isle of Islay was inhabited by very early settlers who came to Islay in Mesolithic times after the last Ice Age in around 7500BC as fishermen and hunters. In later Neolithic and early Bronze Age times many standing and carved stones were raised. The Cultoon stone circle dates back to this time. The Isle of Islay was once the main seat of power in the west of Scotland and became known as the home of the Lords of the Isles. The remains of their settlements are still visible at Finlaggan which is a very important archaeological site on the Isle of Islay. Remains of Islay's religious history and carved stones are visible at several locations on the Isle of Islay. The Kildalton High Cross is the last unbroken ringed Celtic cross existing in Scotland, dates to around 800AD and a fine example of this early history. Other high crosses can be found at Kilnave and Kilchoman, and carved grave slabs can be seen at Kilchoman, Kilnaughton, Keills, Bridgend, Finlaggan and Nereabolls.
Islay's climate benefits from the warm Gulf Stream, bringing cool winters with little frost or snow and mild summers. The driest, most pleasant weather, on average, is often from April to July when the sun makes the most hours and rainfall is less than in most other months. November to February are the wettest and windiest months although not seldom with crisp winter days and snowfall, especially on higher grounds.
There are many things to see and do besides visiting the distilleries and enjoying the scenery and wildlife. Golf, cycling, fishing, horseriding and hillwalking are only a few of many possible activities or you can take the car and select one of our five Driving Tours. Several annual festivals on the island attract many visitors, especially the Islay Festival of Malt and Music, which is held in May. Other festivals are the Islay Jazz Festival, the Rugby Festival and the Cantilena festival.
There are several remarkable hand craft businesses on Islay. The Persabus Pottery, Islay Woollen Mill and Islay Quilters should be on every visitor's itinerary. Some of these handcraft businesses can be found in Islay House Square, Islay Ales is one of them, and is Islay's only Brewery. Islay offers many wonderful and quiet sandy beaches all around the island, some more suitable for swimming than others. Most beaches on the shores of Loch Indaal and Laggan Bay are safe for swimming, but it's always best to check for currents, tides and weather before dashing off into the sea. The Atlantic west coast of Islay is particularly beautiful because of stunning bays at Machir, Saligo and Sanaigmore. Saligo Bay is a must to enjoy one of the most impressive sunsets and some go as far and say that Saligo Bay offers the most beautiful light in Scotland. Interesting and beautiful villages like historic Port Charlotte, Bowmore with its Round Church, Port Ellen and Portnahaven will make your stay complete. Also not to be missed is the Museum of Islay Life where the visitor gets a good impression of Island life in earlier and historic times.
Islay has an excellent choice of accommodations to suit everyone's needs. There are quite a few four and five star Guest Houses, Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels and Self Catering Cottages as well as an excellent Youth Hostel. Most other properties are of a high standard as well. Furthermore Islay has two campsites, one is suitable for motorhomes.
In addition to the website we have a Smartphone App which is ideal to discover Islay with a touch of your fingers. When on Islay it's something you can't do without. It has listings of ALL the touristic sites on Islay and includes timetables for all the ferries, opening hours and tour times for distilleries, info on all the restaurants, petrol stations, playgrounds for the kids, beaches and LOTS more.
All the pictures on our website, unless stated otherwise, are provided by Island Light Photography. We provide Digital files for Self Printing and for publishing in Magazines. We also provide prints and canvases which we ship worldwide. Visit www.island-light.photography for a selection.
Port Ellen in Spring
Related Islay Books in association with Amazon. for a complete selection of available maps and books about Islay, wildlife and whisky, visit the Islay Bookshop
Norman Newton - Islay guide
Andrew Jefford - Peat Smoke & Spirit