Islay Travel Report 2007 - First Week

After several trips to Islay we decided this year to stay for two weeks on Islay and due to a bit misfortune, or call it luck, it turned out to be almost three weeks. If you arrive on Islay and adapt to the relaxed pace of the island you will understand that one week is not enough. It's like Arra Fletcher told me when I sent him a text message when the ferry arrived at Port Ellen: You're on Islay Time now so throw away your watch, you won't need that here. That's what I call a good start of the holiday.

Just before arriving at Port Ellen

Saturday 12 May
The trip to Islay was a beauty with clear blue skies and our expectations were higher than ever before. We arrived around three at Port Ellen and it felt like coming home. The white painted cottages looked friendly as ever and Leodamais Bay had this amazing blue/greenish colour. We drove off the ferry and first headed to Bowmore for some shopping and later stopped at Loch Indaal where we had a little picnic. We arrived at the Persabus Farm around 5 and were welcomed by Rosemary and Arra, who had made a pot of coffee and came in the cottage for a wee chat. It was so good to see the Fletcher's again and we had a lot to talk about. After dinner, the weather was still gorgeous, we went to Saligo Bay to enjoy one of the finest sunsets we ever had on Islay. What a way to start the holiday.

Sunday 13 May
Sound of Islay and Paps of Jura After a good night sleep and good breakfast we decided to walk the eastern shore of Loch Gruinart all the way up to Killinallan Point. We parked the car just before the abandoned Crois Mhor cottage and walked, in glorious weather, over the beautiful beach where we spotted a seal colony on one of the banks in Loch Gruinart. There must have been almost 80 seals there, an amazing sight, and sound. Killinallan Point is spectacular and during our walk we never saw any other people, giving us that special feeling of being alone in the world. On our way back we did some more shopping in Bowmore, picked up the Sunday paper, and had dinner at home. In the evening when the sun was setting we drove up the Bunnahabhain road to enjoy the spectacular views of the Sound of Islay and the Paps of Jura. The views from this road are amazing, especially on a clear day.

Monday 14 May
Another day with beautiful weather and we decided to do a discovery trip to Bunnahabhain to walk the several tracks in the area towards Rhuvaal, we didn't make it all the way, and the track to Loch an Dhubnaich in the middle of a woodland area. You get some nice views of Bunnahabhain Bay from this track and many Rhododendrons grow here in the wild, which makes it very special. On our way back we walked a bit on the distillery grounds and had a look at the Wyre Majestic, a ship wreck on the rocks of the Sound of Islay. Later in the afternoon we headed for Bowmore where I met brian for the first time this trip. In the evening we attended the visitor welcome evening and were surprised there were only nine visitors, probably a case of not informing the tourists who come on Islay well enough. Too bad because these evenings are really interesting, providing information, song and dance, and I can remember from last years trip that it was really crowded. Afterwards, we had a rain shower while we were at the Machrie Hotel, we drove home and enjoyed the lovely skies over Loch Indaal when the rain had cleared and took some lovely pictures from Bowmore at night. We stopped on a quiet place somewhere to enjoy the amazing sights and sounds at Loch Indaal.

Tuesday 15 May
Port Charlotte Big day today! We met up with Jeremy Hastings from Islay Birding for our Birding tour over the island and the weather was, again, gorgeous. Clear blue skies and very nice temperatures accompanied us on our drive to Port Charlotte where we met Jeremy around 10. More about our birding trip here. After our very successful trip with Jeremy we visited the Museum of Islay Life in Port Charlotte where Carl Reavey and Malcolm Ogilvie were already waiting for us. Some months ago I decided to support the Islay Museum financially and now it was time for the 'official procedure' of handing over the cheque to Malcolm. Carl, the editor from the Ileach, took pictures for the newspaper and after this little ceremony we headed for Nerabus to visit the ancient burial ground of the Clan Donald. A little further down Loch Indaal are some old buildings, one of them is an old Mill House and the other could be a chapel or farm house. A nice remote spot and we enjoyed the sunshine sitting on a little rock looking over Loch Indaal. The weather was still great when we left for Debbies to test her famous coffee. Debbies Minimarket is located very close to Bruichladdich Distillery and she has a nice terrace where you can enjoy the best coffee on Islay, cakes and one of the best views on the island, an ideal spot to watch the world go by. In the evening Arra came over to the cottage and we had a wonderful time, what a character he is…

Wednesday 16 May
The morning started dull and grey and we decided to drive to Port Ellen to meet Lynn and Harry from the Oystercatcher B&B, located on Frederick Crescent. They welcomed us in their very nice B&B and we had a coffee and a very pleasant conversation. They are a very nice couple and run their B&B in a very professional way and have an eye for detail which makes this a highly recommendable place to stay. When we left them we thought how wonderful it is when you can live your life like they do, on such a peaceful little island, far away from all the hustle and bustle of modern life. We now drove to Rachel and Alasdair Whyte at Glenegedale House, a five star guest house opposite Islay's airport. Here we received another very warm welcome and had a very pleasant conversation before being showed around in their beautiful guesthouse. Since this was our anniversary we had our dinner in one of Islay's finest restaurants, the Harbour Inn, where we enjoyed a really superb meal before driving back home over the Glen Road where we spotted deer, hares and many birds. After one fine episode of 'Vital Spark', Arra brought us the DVD one day earlier, it was time to sleep.

Port Ellen

Thursday 17 May
The weather was a bit unsettled at first and we decided to go to Islay House Square to meet up with Rae from the Islay Quilters, but she wasn't there, better luck next time. We visited Elizabeth Sykes and she explained us how she makes her beautiful batiks, this is really beautiful and worth having a look. When we walked to Islay Ales to see if Norma was in we met Ken and Penny, a lovely elderly couple from Wales, who come to Islay for almost 20 years now. We met them last year on the ferry and this year as well, and they invited us for a coffee in their house at the Sornbank B&B, which we couldn't refuse of course. We had a lovely time with them and when we left it was already early afternoon. Time for lunch at the Old Kiln Cafe at Ardbeg, but when we got there the café was packed with people and there was even a queue waiting to find a table. So instead we drove off to Kildalton Chapel and had our (packed) lunch there. Later on we spent some time in Port Ellen and walked about a bit. On our way back we stopped at the airport where we had a coffee with scones, good quality and reasonably priced. When we arrived at Persabus, Rosemary and Donald invited us in for a dram, and a dram and another dram. Donald and Rosemary are a magnificent couple and we had a great time together. Later on in the evening we headed to Machir Bay, the wind had picked up considerably, and the view from Machir Bay was wonderful with these huge waves rolling on the shore.

Friday 18 May
Lossit Bay A day to take things easy and we left the cottage around eleven. I had to meet up with Neill from the Harbour Inn and Manuela went shopping in the Coop. Later on we headed for Port Charlotte but not without a stop at Debbies at Bruichladdich for another great coffee. We decided to spend the afternoon on the Rhinns on Islay to have a closer look at the Cultoon Stone circle, which was never completed, and ended up at Lossit Bay in the afternoon. We hadn't been here before and it came as a total surprise to us both. Lossit Bay is really very beautiful and we enjoyed the views and beach immensely. We even managed to spot a few Choughs, Jeremy would have been proud of us. The strong winds from yesterday picked up even more and huge waves crashed on the rocks south of Lossit Bay, an amazing view. Back in the car we headed towards Portnahaven but stopped first at Claddach to have a look at the Wavegen Power Station and Frenchman's Rocks. This is the most westerly tip of Islay and from here there is basically nothing all the way up to North America, except for huge waves and that is why this part of Islay is particularly attractive with high westerly winds. In the evening I studied some very old books Arra brought us, one of them being the 'Book of Islay' which describes Islay's rich history. There are only a few hundred copies of this book and I spent almost the entire evening reading....

Islay's Frenchman's Rocks

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