The best-preserved and most attractive village on Islay, Port Charlotte was founded by Walter Frederick Campbell’s in 1828 and named after his mother. The village was built to provide housing facilities for the folk who worked in the Lochindaal Distillery, which opened in 1829, and was also known as Port Charlotte and Rhinns Distillery. The first licensee was Colin Campbell, but he owned the distillery for only two years and many owners followed him. The distillery closed in 1929 but its buildings remain and some are now in use by the Youth Hostel and Islay Natural History Trust.
Museum of Islay Life
The award-winning Museum of Islay Life is housed in the old church on the right-hand side, opposite the Rhinns Medical Centre surgery. This car park is intended only for doctor’s patients and visitors of the restaurant. The museum was opened in 1977 and is devoted to all aspects of Islay life and times. Exhibits include reconstructions from archaelogical excavations of prehistoric sites on the island, as well as an important collection of carved stones. There is a fine array of domestic items, largely from the Victorian era, displayed in room settings, plus such objects of interest such as an illicit still and the clockworks from the Rhinns lighthouse. The museum holds an extensive library and archive with books related to Islay’s rich history. Interesting to mention is the fact that most items in the museum are in fact a gifts donated by people on Islay. The Museum of Islay Life is open from Friday March 25th to Friday October 28th, every Monday to Friday, 10.30 am to 4.30 pm.
Islay Natural History Trust Information Centre
The Islay Natural History Trust Information Centre is located in the centre of Port Charlotte and occupies the ground floor of a former distillery warehouse. The warehouse belonged to the Lochindaal Distillery, which closed down in the 1920s. The Centre contains a large exhibition dealing with all aspects of Islay’s wildlife, including geology. There is a reference library of natural history books and files of records of Islay’s rich flora and fauna, all available for consultation, also a field study laboratory and a lecture room. The Information Centre opening hours are: June, July, August - 10.00 am to 4.00 pm, Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday. April, May, September, October - 10 am to 4.00 pm, Monday to Friday, closed Saturday and Sunday.
Following the Main Street with its lovely white-painted houses the visitor will find the Port Charlotte Hotel and bar where a fine meal can be combined with a dram from the hotel bar, there’s live music on Wednesday and Sunday nights. To the left, a road takes the visitor to Port Charlotte’s beach with its picturesque houses and stunning views over Loch Indaal and the hills from the neighbouring island of Jura.
In the centre of Port Charlotte, where there’s a shop annex Post Office, is a road which leads west to Kilchiaran and ultimately ends in Portnahaven. In a glen on the right from the road is Port Charlotte’s ‘Tooth Stone’. Local stories have it that hammering a nail into the Tooth Stone will stop tootache. Or it might be better to visit the dentist! Just outside the village centre on the main road to Portnahaven is the Port Mor Centre, a beautiful community centre with lots of facilities as well as a campsite, a restaurant and a fantastic children’s playground. The centre opened in 2007.