One of Islay's most interesting activities, specially when the weather lets you down, is the Islay Natural History Trust in Port Charlotte. The centre is located in the same building as the Youth Hostel. The Islay Natural History Trust was formed in 1984 by Mrs. Jane Dawson in memory of her husband, Rodney. Its aims are to encourage the study, documentation and enjoyment of the natural history of Islay and to make information available to the public. Initially the Trust leased a building which housed a small information centre and accommodation for twelve students. In 1992, it moved to much larger premises below the Islay Youth Hostel. The combined facilities are ideal for visits from schools, universities and specialist groups. The Wildlife Information Centre is managed by a voluntary committee over-seeing staff and volunteers. The Islay Natural History Trust is run by a small voluntary Management Committee (chaired by Fiona MacGillivray) which over-sees staff and volunteers who run the Nature Centre in Port Charlotte.
The Trust runs the Nature Centre in Port Charlotte where displays illustrate the island's wildlife riches, from its underlying geology to its birds, butterflies, wild flowers and mammals. Islay is perhaps best known for its wonderful all-year-round birdwatching, for its tens of thousands of wintering geese, over 100 breeding species and spring and autumn migration. Full details of the best birdwatching sites can be found here. The Photographs on this page show the inside of the Natural History Centre, including some of the displays, library, lecture room and laboratory, which houses marine and freshwater aquaria and the touch table.
The centre has a lot to offer and can entertain young and old. Below you can find an overview of everything the centre has to offer. There is a lecture room able to seat up to 100 people, with audio-visual and projection facilities suitable for small conferences. There is a large laboratory which accommodates 25 people comfortably. This room also contains hands-on activities for visitors, as well as marine and freshwater aquaria, and a wormery. A huge reference library containing up-to-date identification guides to all the major groups of animals and plants, a wide range of other natural history reference books, magazines, journals and reprints, together with files containing records of the flora and fauna found on Islay. Most of the records are available for visitors to examine on computer, complete with distribution maps. Large and informative display areas with exhibition boards illustrating and explaining the diversity of Islay's natural history, together with collections of shells, pellets, dried seaweeds and geological samples. There is a lively children's room with art and craft activities, puzzles, games and quizzes.
Access. Opening Hours and Contact Details
The Centre is accessible to the disabled and elderly. In 2017 the centre is open from Monday to Friday, 10.30am to 4.30pm, starting the 1st of May to the end of September. The centre can be contacted by phone at +44 (0) 1496 850 288. The address is: The Islay Natural History Trust, Port Charlotte, Isle of Islay, PA48 7TX. More information is available on their website at: www.islaynaturalhistory.org.
The extensive library in the Natural History Trust Centre
The Rock Pool and Touch Tank