Islay Travelogue 2005

Saturday 7th of May 2005
After a wonderful night, and even better breakfast in Rhu House, a Bed and Breakfast in Tarbert Kintyre, we leave around 11 am to Kennacraig. A 5 minute drive to the Calmac terminal where the ferry for Port Askaig leaves at 12. We have genuine Scottish weather, lots of wind, showers, sunshine, the lot. We don't spend much time on deck during our trip and read a book and watch the waves getting taller and taller. When we enter the Sound of Islay the wind and sea calms down and give us an opportunity to go on deck and watch Port Askaig closing in. We arrive at 3 pm and head for our cottage in Carnduncan near Loch Gorm. We arrive at 4 pm and are welcomed by Sheila at the Byre Cottage, a wonderfully decorated cottage, 4 stars from the Scottish Tourist Board, and a great place to spend our week on Islay. Sheila prepared home baked bread and cake and we enjoy it very much together with a cup of tea.

After we had dinner we decided to make a trip around Loch Gorm and had a little walk at our favourite beach on Machir Bay. Later on we had a look at the Kilchoman church, now in ruins and no longer accessible but home to a wonderfully well preserved high cross, similar as the one at Kildalton but not as detailed.

Sunday 8th of May
When we wake up the sun is shining but there is a strong wind which makes it very cold. After a lazy Sunday morning we head for Aoradh Farm and visit the bird hide from the RSPB at Loch Gruinart (pronounce grinjart). There were several people inside watching whatever there was to see with binoculars but I had the impression there is lots more to see when you are out and about so we leave after a few minutes to do the woodland walk. A sheltered walk keeping us away from the bitterly cold northerly wind that blows over Loch Gruinart. But curious as we are we decide to travel on over the unsheltered road and take a walk around Kilnave church and admire the Kilnave Cross. In earlier days almost 30 people were locked in this chapel and burned when the chapel was set to fire by rivalling clans in The Battle of Traigh Gruineard. Despite the cold wind we decide to go for a walk to Ardnave Point. There is a little car park at Ardnave Farm and when you manage to cross the dunes, not easy with all the sand blowing around you; you get the most wonderful views over Loch Gruinart and Colonsay in the distance. A magnificent area, the sand on the beach is almost white and the sea turquoise green, almost subtropical if you forget the cold wind. We come as far as a few hundred metres from Kilnave Point and decide to go back. Because of the cold wind Manuela's tooth ache isn't getting any better and it's best for her to stay out of the wind.

We decided to go back to Bowmore, do some shopping, get the Sunday paper and visit the Tourist Information Office at Bowmore Square. There you can find all the information you need about Islay, leaflets, books, maps etc. It was now late afternoon and time to head back for our warm cottage.

Monday 9th of May
After a night with heavy tooth aches for Manuela, we decide to call the hospital. It was 6 in the morning but a very friendly woman answered the phone. She explained that there was no dentist in the hospital on duty and we had to wait until 8.30 am to make an appointment. We had to make that appointment near the dental office in Bowmore and waited there for almost 45 minutes because of computer problems but then we finally could make an appointment for 3 pm that afternoon at the mobile practice behind the hospital. We spent some time in Bowmore, had a little walk at Loch Indaal and go home to relax and wait for the appointment at the dentist. We didn't know what to expect but when we arrived at the hospital it turned out that the dentist was a very friendly man and very capable. He managed to fix Manuela's tooth, root canal, and now we could finally start to fully enjoy our Islay holiday. After some painkillers the pain finally became less and after dinner we went to Sanaigmore Bay. There is a patch of green next to the monument where you can park your car. You then have to walk over the field towards the bay but beware of the bulls! Sanaigmore Bay is a beauty and with a strong wind the waves roll on the rocks and the beach giving it a very spectacular look. Ardnave Island is well visible from here, but I don't know if it's an island that can be visited.

Tuesday 10th of May
When we wake up the sun is shining, no clouds, the wind is calm and the temperatures are almost 15 Degr so we decide to travel to Jura today. We arrive in Port Askaig around 10 am and enter the little ferry to Feolin which crosses the Sound of Jura every 10 to 15 minutes. The last ferry leaves around 5 so we have all day to travel all the way north and be back in Feolin in time. We had a fabulous trip on Jura, made a visit to Jura Distilleries and enjoyed the beautiful weather, landscape and lonely quiet beaches. We saw lots of Deer and almost no people. This paradise like island is well worth a visit and on our way back we visited the Jura Walled Garden. Jura House isn't accessible for visitors but the gardens and the beautiful views towards Kintyre and Islay make up for that. After dinner we make another trip to Machir Bay for a nice walk and visit Saligo Bay as well where we enjoy the dozens of rabbits in the dunes.

Wednesday 11th of May
Already Wednesday and still so much to see and do. Islay never bores, is always different and offering news views anytime. Today is another day with lovely sunshine and blue skies and we decide to go to Port Ellen, just to walk around and enjoy this lovely little town. Port Ellen is situated around a beautiful bay where sailing boats and other little ships are lying in the harbour. There is a little beach, a post office and some other little shops and it's quiet. Islay life is going in the slow lane and we enjoy every minute. Around one we leave Port Ellen, we have a tour booked at the Laphroaig Distillery, but since we are early we decide to park the car somewhere and enjoy a sandwich. Around two we first visit our piece of land. In 2001 I became a friend of Laphroaig, in return for becoming a friend you receive a certificate and a square foot of land opposite the distillery. Some people plant a little flag on their square foot of land and there are actually people who proposed their girlfriend on it. Owning a square foot on Islay gives you the right to claim your rent, a dram, at the distillery and so we headed for the main building. The tour consisted of four people in total, a small group which I like a lot. The other two persons were an official from McDuff International and his Japanese business partner. Very friendly and polite people and we had a magnificent tour. Very personal and because of the few participants very detailed. At the end of the tour we collected our rent, a Laphroaig 10yr old, and received a certificate for claiming the annual rent. Laphroaig now has almost 200.000 friends and it's a real success for them. Later that afternoon we go for a little walk to Claggain Bay, Islay's most beautiful sheltered bay on the east side of the island. But we are tired and after some reading in the car we fell asleep. After our little beauty sleep we head for Carraigh Fhada farm to visit Harry and Sally where we stayed last year. We had a cup of tea and a fine conversation and afterwards we had a little walk at the singing sands, just behind the Port Ellen lighthouse.

Around 8 we headed towards Bowmore to enjoy a wonderful meal at the Harbour Inn. It seems that the Harbour Inn is always booked, making reservations is recommendable, and because we didn't we had to wait for 45 minutes in the Lounge which is actually quite pleasant, unless you're very hungry. We had a grilled salmon as a main course, wonderfully prepared and we left home at eleven.

Thursday 12th of May
Another fine and sunny day and we head for Bruichladdich around 10. Because of the wonderful weather we skip the inevitable distillery tour and just walk around a bit on the pier and beach. We do however visit the Museum of Islay Life in Port Charlotte. The museum is located within the walls of an old church and is a must for every Islay enthusiast. All the items are donated by people from Islay and it gives a good idea about life in the earlier days. There is a good library available as well as information about shipwrecks on Islay's coast.

After our museum visit we head for Portnahaven and Port Wemyss and enjoy the tranquillity of these two little villages and use our lunch on a nice bench overlooking the bay and seals.

Around 2 we head towards Bridgend, Islay House Square, and our first visit is Islay Ales. And here we meet Norma Munroe, wasn't she working at the wildlife centre last year? As a lot of people also Norma has several different jobs and we are glad to meet her. She still remembers us from last year and we have a pleasant conversation while tasting some wonderful ales. The Saligo ale is still my favourite and I take some boxes home. We cross the square and head for the Islay Quilters, a wonderful bunch of Islay woman working together on a beautiful quilt. Here we meet Rae and she remembers me from our telephone conversation early Monday morning when I called the hospital. She asks how Manuela's toothache is and we start to laugh. Norma isn't the only one with several jobs and we find out that Rae was attending the telephone that Monday morning at 6. We had a fine conversation and decide to join the raffle, you never know if we are lucky and win a wonderful quilt.

The drive from Bridgend to Bowmore is always a pleasure, no matter what the weather is like, but when the sun shines it is a treat with all the wonderful colours Loch Indaal offers us. In Bowmore we buy a little recipe book because tonight we eat 'Mince and Tatties' a traditional Scottish dish. When we finally arrive home at 5 we have tea with scones and Sheila, the cottage owner, pops in for a visit. Sheila and her husband are originally from England and decided years ago to leave the hustle and bustle of modern life and settle on Islay. A good decision if you ask me. Peter is a very good carpenter, works at the McTaggert leisure centre and is a volunteer on the Islay lifeboat. After our tea we prepare our Scottish meal and it was actually very fine.

Friday 13th of May
We are not superstitious, it is after all Friday the 13th, and decide to make the best of our last day on Islay. But we do take things easy this morning and leave the cottage around eleven. Again the sun is shining and it's warm with just a little breeze. Paradise like conditions and we head towards Uiskentui beach on Loch Indaal for a stroll and to find shells. After our stroll we head for Bowmore, we post some cards at the post office, do some shopping and visit the gift shop next to the post office where we buy a CD from Norma Munro. At one o'clock we travel back to Bridgend and drive into the woodland and park somewhere and enjoy the sunshine and relax, make a little walk and relax some more. The woodland at Bridgend is wonderful, sheltered and covered with Blue Bells.

Later that afternoon we visit the Persabus Pottery where we buy some very nice pottery and have a long and interesting conversation with Arra Fletcher. Arra tells about his travels in the Netherlands and complains that the Dutch Grolsh beer cannot be found on Islay. We promise him to bring some cases of Grolsh next time we come to Islay. We arrive home around 6 where we have dinner and decide to enjoy another walk on Machir Bay, enjoy the sunset and regret the fact that this was our last day on this magnificent island with its friendly people. We now have to wait another year and on Saturday we are very sad to leave but we are already looking forward to our next trip. But we have no complains, we still have two weeks to go and Morar is our first destination for the coming week. The third week of our holiday will be spent in Cove, Wester Ross.

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