Islay Travelogue 2004

Saturday 22nd of May
Entering Port EllenIt was our honeymoon and we left The Gardeners cottage at the Belladrum estate, near Beauly and the place were we got married, on Saturday the 22nd of May 2004. The weather was fabulous, skies deep blue and we were excited to leave for Islay. We didn't know what to expect and we couldn't wait to finally arrive in Kennacraig where we arrived at 5 pm. We collected the tickets for the ferry and left at 6 pm for Port Ellen. The trip was magic, the sky still blue and it felt warm, even on the open sea. After passing Gigha we had our first look at the Paps of Jura, till that moment only known from the pictures but much better looking in reality. We couldn't take our eyes off the sea and we were very lucky to spot a Minky Whale halfway Islay.

We enjoyed the trip, the views and the weather and spotted the first distilleries on Islay before passing the Isle of Texa. Just after Texa the ferry turns starboard (right) en we entered the bay with views to the Port Ellen lighthouse and Port Ellen Maltings. Port Ellen LighthouseTwenty minutes past eight we arrived in Port Ellen and our first destination was the Bed and Breakfast we booked. We stayed at Carraigh Fhada Farm with Harry and Sally and we met them around 9. After we took our luggage in the room we immediately went outside and enjoyed the glorious sunset. The sky turned pink and orange and the colours were reflecting on the lighthouse. What a welcome and we felt home instantly.

Sunday 23rd of May
Woke up early and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast but were in some hurry, we wanted to see a lot from Islay in the days to come and the weather was as beautiful as the day before. Not a cloud in sight and it felt rather warm. Guess we were extremely lucky. Our first destination was back to Port Ellen and a trip to the distilleries of Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. I just wanted to see where I had my square foot of land on Islay since I joined the Friends of Laphroaig a few years earlier. After some pictures we travelled on, enjoyed the seals just before we reached Kildalton Cross and Chapel. Kildalton Cross is an early Christian cross and closely related three major crosses in Iona. Kildalton Cross dates back as far as the 8th century and still is in a marvellous state. The cross is made from a single slab of hard rock which explains the motives still being very visible.

We decided to travel on a bit further and found a little paradise like beach with beautiful pebbles named Claggain Bay. We walked on the beach, spotted beautiful birds and enjoyed the immense silence. Something we aren't used to where we live. It felt like heaven and we spent one hour sitting on the beach and collecting beautiful pebbles. From Claggain Bay we headed back towards Port Ellen for some shopping and (finally) headed for Bowmore. The road to Bowmore is rally one of a kind and a good test for your cars suspension. The road is straight as a line and literally floats on the peat beds creating bumps in the road. This part of Islay is rather bleak and flat but still a very interesting area.

Bowmore DistilleryWhen we entered Bowmore we were surprised, such a lovely little town, a beautiful round church and very peaceful on this Sunday afternoon. The houses are all shining white and the views over Loch Indaal are superb. We decided to head for the harbour and enjoy our lunch on a little bench. What a piece in this town, only a few fisherman were busy with their boats, the seagulls flew over us towards the Bowmore Distillery reminding of the label on the Bowmore Legend Whisky I had at home. After our lunch we decided to head towards Portnahaven to have a look at the other side of the island. It was a longer drive than we expected and we both felt very tired so we took some pictures at Portnahaven and decided to go back to our B&B. After a little afternoon sleep we were quite hungry and drove to the White Heart Hotel for our dinner. We were the only guests, wondered why, but found that out when our meal arrived. It wasn't exactly Haute Cuisine, we didn't expect that as well, but this was definitely something where they could improve on. Lets just say it was acceptable and after our meal we headed back to the B&B where we had a little walk outside near the lighthouse and spotted some seals and an otter. According to Sally the otter always had his breakfast behind the lighthouse in the morning, so we decided to have a look the other day.

Monday 24th of May
When we finished our breakfast we had a walk around the lighthouse, didn't spot the otter there we managed to spot him/her swimming just in front of us. These animals are constantly on the move and fun to watch. The weather was becoming worse, with clouds and lower temperatures. Good weather for a distillery tour and we decided to go to the Bowmore Distillery. We had a great and interesting tour, Heather is a perfect guide, and we enjoyed a fine dram afterwards before heading to the shop for some goodies.

After the distillery tour we headed towards Bridgend and decided to go to Finlaggan, just outside Ballygrant. Finlaggan is the most important archaeological site on Islay and was the home of the Lord of the Isles hundreds of years ago. The remains of a chapel and some houses can still be seen on a little island called Eilean Mor in Loch finlaggan. By that time the rain finally set in and we went back for the car and travelled towards Port Askaig where we turned and went back to Bowmore. Since this was already our last day on Islay we had to do some necessary shopping for the following day. We visited the Bowmore Tourist Information for some reading stuff and went to the Harbour Inn restaurant where we enjoyed a faboulous lunch. We wished we knew of them last night but promised ourselves to return if we ever should come back to Islay. For now we still had some other plans.

Lower Killeyan on the OaAfter our lunch we headed towards the Oa Peninsula, an empty part of Islay where 4000 people lived in the early days. It is hard to image that and at some places there are still ruins visible from houses and even a church. We drove on and ended up at Lower Killeyan where there is access to a little beach and a cave. It had stopped raining and we could see Ireland in the distance. We strolled on the beach enjoying the wildlife, seals, oystercatchers, and numerous other birds. The rocks rise at some points almost 20 metres up from the sea and the scenery here is just stunning. We were the only ones here and enjoyed the tranquillity of this wonderful place.

When we left the Oa we headed back for the B&B were we had our dinner and a fine conversation with Harry and Sally, two lovely people who enjoy living on Islay. Harry is a painter and we bought two fine prints from him. One from the Port Ellen Lighthouse and one from Port Askaig with a view towards the Paps of Jura. Afterwards we had our last walk on Islay and headed for the singing sands just behind Carraigh Fhada farm. Another quiet and lovely beach and too beautiful to leave but when darkness was setting in we went back to our B&B for a good night sleep after all these beautiful impressions.

Tuesday 25th of May
We had our last breakfast on Islay and headed towards Port Ellen around 8 am. A final trip and we enjoyed every minute of it. We were sad to leave, it was the end of our honeymoon and we had such a wonderful time on Islay. Much better than we expected and we decided already then that we would come back in 2005.

Islay Goodbye

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