Enter Bridgend from Bowmore and the Bridgend Hotel is on the right with shops on the left. There’s a petrol station, general store and Post Office. Just beyond these is a T-junction. The road to the left is the A847 south to Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Portnahaven on the Rinns of Islay. Continue past the turning for a few hundred metres and there’s a small road to the left that takes you to Islay House Square. You can also find a car park here.
Opposite the car park is the entrance to the beautifully sheltered Bridgend Woods, famous for natural displays of wildflowers, with thousands of snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells in Spring. These woodlands provide a haven for many birds throughout the year and offer miles of wonderful walks over well-maintained tracks, with beautiful flora and fauna. The lovely river Sorn flows through these woods and gives wonderful views.
Islay Woollen Mill
About a mile further towards Port Askaig is the Islay Woollen Mill. This is owned and run by Gordon Covell and produces a fine range of high-quality woven fabrics. See https://islaywoollenmill.co.uk/.
Islay House Square
Once a hive of activity with up to 120 estate workers, the square was originally as the stables for Islay house and some workers’ houses.
In 2001 estate manager Malcolm Younger and Tim Kirkwood persuaded Islay Estates to retain the Square and convert the buildings into smaller, self-contained units ideal for local businesses. Islay House Square now features several shops and the Islay Ales brewery. One shop is the Islay Quilters which makes fabulous quilts. Next door you’ll find Elizabeth Sykes with her beautiful Batiks.
The Square is even home to ‘Blue Lupins’, a very special little garden centre and shop. Browse at leisure, then enjoy coffee and home baking on comfy sofas around a big open fire – very sociable 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, created in the old kitchen garden of Islay House behind the Square, sells seasonal fruits and vegetables. You can view the garden and even help as a volunteer.
Take the main three-way junction immediately after crossing the bridge, make a left onto the A847 and you’ll find Islay House (now a hotel) 500 yards on the right.
Behind the hotel lodge – a small cottage – is the octagonal East Tower or Bridgend Tower, was built in the 1760s. Beside it are several former ships’ cannons; one bears the cast insignia of George III (1760-1820).
This is one of three batteries installed to defend Islay House after the American privateer “True Blooded Yankee”, under the command of Thomas Oxnard, was responsible for the Port Charlotte incident in October 1813.
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 beside the East Tower is the lower part of a 14th or 15th century carved cross shaft.