Holiday in Islay

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  • Holiday in Islay
  • GregMay

    Loads to do on Islay – and remember the short journey across to Jura as well. Depending on weather (midge) the walk in to look at the Paps is ace. They are even better to run over 🙂

    RSPB site on the north of the island is good to wander and go to the hides to look at birds.

    Otters up the top north bay.

    The Oa is worth a trip to walk around.

    You’ve got many, many distillery tours to chose from. Laphroiag one is excellent.

    MTB riding is next to pointless. Road touring is excellent as the roads are reasonably quiet once you’re off the main ones.

    and remember the short journey across to Jura as well.

    Make a day of it and see if you can get to the north of Jura where (I believe) you have a view of the Corryvreckan whirlpool – best seen at a spring tide. If not, Jura’s still worth a visit, follow the road out of town and it gets wilder and more mountainous than Islay.
    If you visit one distillery, I think I’d make it Kilchoman – it’s he newest, was a barley farm that changed to a distillery so grows it’s own barley and malts it on site with the malting floor being open. There aren’t that many distilleries that still malt on site and I can’t think of many that grow their own barley. Signposted off the Port Charlotte road


    I’ve only been to Islay once but enjoyed it – I’d definitely be taking the road bike rather than a mountain bike.


    Me, Mrs F and Freester Jr are considering a week in Islay. Someone we know has a place we can stay for a week. I believe it’s near Port Ellen.

    Freester Jr is 6. Happy to ride a bike, go for walks etc etc. Doesn’t need softplay or 24/7 wifi!

    Soooo. Recommendations, what to do, where to go, etc etc. I did spot several mentions of whisky on the Islay information website!

    Oh, road bike or MTB (or both?!).

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    I know Islay quite well, got family who are from there and keep a house. It’s a strange place – it’s quite low key but somehow is more than the sum of its parts. Anyway, we keep going back.

    The biking isn’t great overall but there’s plenty to do. I always take my cross bike as the best rides, IMO, involve a bit of road and track. There isn’t any mountain biking of note. You can also go over to Jura which has all the double track and bog you could wish for.

    Worth visiting a distillery. The Mull of Oa is spectacular. The bird reserve is good, top class bird spotting to be done (take some binoculars!). Kilchoman Beach for beachy stuff and surf. Check out if there are any local ceilidhs on (some of them are “dry” and very child / family friendly).

    Edit: there’s plenty good hill walking on Islay and Jura but it’s very much of the wild tick infested bog variety. If that floats your boat.


    Mmm the midgey thing hadn’t occurred to me. Which it should have. Midges don’t seem so bad compared to other places according to google.

    I’m tempted, very tempted.

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    The midges should only be a big issue if you’re camping.

    Port Ellen is also not particularly pretty itself. Is there any reason why you’re looking at there in particular?

    Around Bridgend / Bowmore is a bit more central for everything. Bruichladdich / Port Charlotte / Portnahaven are a bit more pleasant IMO.

    Forgot to mention the Finlaggan Centre – very much worth a visit if you’re interested in history.


    Do repeat DO repeat do (really)the Colonsay day trip (*check ferries as not every day), take bikes and lap the island and dead ends(*beware tides for Oronsay), take a picnic and eat it at Kiloran beach(poss best in UK), the cart track to N had the best machair I’ve seen for ages.

    Jura – good if you like scenery, deer and midges, very long out and back road to end(pub/shop/distillery Craighouse)

    We loved Islay, waving locals, sunbathing sheep that just lay by the roadside as you edged by, bathing cattle watching the world go by, a fabulously relaxed place. (we used port Charlotte campsite – enjoyed, plus handy local facilities)


    Worth remembering it’s pronounced;
    Aye lah


    Port Askaig to Colonsay and back is doable on Wednesdays and Saturdays provided the wind is suitable for docking on Colonsay (Scalasaig isn’t particularly sheltered) and Hebridean Isles isn’t covering somewhere else on the network.

    Definitely worth the visit, you may want to teach Freester jr how to drive before you go though so he can drive you around the distilleries… THey’re so relaxed out there no one will care… honest.

    (we used port Charlotte campsite – enjoyed, plus handy local facilities)

    oh yes, and if you’re in Port Charlotte, the Port Charlotte Hotel is nice and food was good but a tad pricey. That said a couple of young guys sat played fiddle, guitar and (Irish) pipes at the table next to me, good free entertainment The bar in the town proper did an amazing seafood spread to share – Lochindaal Hotel, thank you Google Maps


    +1 for Finlaggan and Kildalton is also worth a look. You can combine it with a visit to 3 distilleries Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig.
    Kildalton Church and Cross
    Saligo bay is spectacular and Port Ban beach near Port Charlotte is good for swimming.
    I also enjoyed quite a few Grave Raves over the years on Islay but perhaps not with a six year old.


    Islay is great! Port Ellen is always our first stop on our 3 week sailing holiday in July. Here are a few ramblings which may or may not be helpful 🙂

    There’s now a walking/cycle path pretty much the whole way from Port Ellen to Ardbeg, so about 3 miles (with 3 distilleries in that distance), hard gravel surface, so fine for kids on bikes. If you’re into whisky and want to do tours, they generally allow kids over 7, but the rules on under 7’s change a bit, so worth checking. The Ardbeg Cafe is good for lunch. The cyber bistro in port ellen is good for fish and chips and the new(ish) sea salt bistro on port ellen main street is good for pizza/burger/seafood.

    A cycle/walk round to the lighthouse at the other side of port ellen bay is nice and there’s quite a nice wee beach there if it’s not to windy or at least an offshore wind. The singing sands beach is signposted from there and is a short walk just over the hill.

    We usually do a day trip to Bowmore on the bus (I think we’ll cycle it this year with the kids), it’s about 10 miles one way. There’s a swimming pool in Bowmore – the mactaggart leisure centre, just check opening times. Heated from the waste heat from Bowmore distillery next door apparently.

    A cycle trip out to the Kildalton cross is about 12 ish miles round trip from port ellen and takes you past some seals, a house which keeps peacocks, a few short but steep hills and ends with an honesty box cafe (picnic table). The road is singletrack and very quiet, although we have met the occasional deer, the odd tourist car going to the same place as us and once a very very very old man on a very very very old digger.

    Crab line fishing off the pier/marina pontoons in port ellen – say hi to the friendly swans.

    Kildalton Church and Cross

    The cross is an 8th Century wheel cross and one of the very few with an intact wheel. Also worth a visit for the cafe – Cakes At The Cross. A picnic table, some coolboxes with cakes and milk, flasks with hot water and an honesty box. Lemon drizzle cake and a cup of tea here is beyond words


    Brilliant. Thanks for all the great advice above. The place is in / near Kidalton so hopefully good for the path mentioned above and 3 of the distilleries!

    Great to hear about the swimming pool.

    It all sounds right up my street. It’s a long way for us (we’re south coast!) but we’ll break the journey up and back.


    As others have said it really is a brilliant place to visit, have been there numerous times for work and only once with the family.
    It’s like going back in time really friendly people willing to have a chat with you etc.
    Don’t underestimate how far it is away. I live in Central Scotland and see it as a long trip once you are of the motorway at Glasgow the roads are not brilliant but the scenery more than makes up for it!


    Could also get the wee Jura ferry and explore tayviallach and the macormig isles monastic cells. Crinan and stuff.

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