If like me, you are a fan of the Single Malt Whisky, then Islay is a destination that should be very high on your “Must Visit” list.
Located off the west coast of Scotland and on a similar latitude to Glasgow, it took us around 5 hours to drive from our home in the Scottish Borders to the lovely harbour town of Tarbert.
We decided to travel up the day before our crossing and take a wee daunder around the Mull of Kintyre coast before we found a beautiful wee spot to “wild camp” between Claonaig and Skipness. We enjoyed an al fresco supper and took in the view over the bay to Arran.
A short drive to the CalMac ferry terminal at Kennacraig and we were soon boarded and on our way to Port Ellen. The CalMac staff were very friendly and helpful and the crossing was very comfortable. The breakfast was most enjoyable!
We were efficiently disembarked and we drove the very short distance into Port Ellen. We parked on the main street and found a lovely wee bistro where we enjoyed an excellent lunch. You may have begun to notice a “foodie” trend 😉
We’re not the type of people who plan everything down to the finest detail. We prefer to be spontaneous and to go with the flow. In this case, we decided to head out of Port Ellen and to recce the island. We headed for Bowmore and then followed the coastline around Loch Indaal through Bruichladdich and down to Port Charlotte where we dropped into the Tourist Information Centre
Unfortunately, it was closed but we did meet a very friendly and helpful young lady who advised us to drive to the other side of the village and head for the village Community Centre. The community run site is superb. There are dedicated pitches with EHU (Electric Hook Up) and a large grassed area where you can choose your own pitch. Inside the Community Centre, there are modern, well equipped and spotlessly clean toilets and showers. There is also a Bistro which offers a menu with a good selection of dishes made from locally sourced produce.
While the Port Charlotte Community Centre became our base from which to explore the island, we did also discover a couple of excellent places to “wild camp”. The first was right at the top of Loch Indaal where we spent a couple of nights and the second was on the east coast on the road to Ardtalla where we spent our last night on the island and also where we managed to get stuck!
Thankfully a very understanding farmer pulled us out with his tractor giving us plenty of time to drive to the ferry terminal at Port Askaig
However, I digress…
Obviously, there is plenty to see and do. It would be churlish not to visit all the Islay distilleries. Christine’s favourite was Bruichladdich where they also distill The Botanist a very fine gin made with local aromatics. I have to confess a love for both Laphroaig and Lagavulin and I’d be hard pressed to express a real preference for one over the other. Although I do now own a wee bit of Laphroaig land. Sadly, we didn’t get to Bunnahabhain on this trip but that does give me an excellent reason to return and as a bonus, I did manage to buy a bottle at an excellent price on the return ferry.
There is a seal colony at Portnahaven which is a very picturesque wee village. Islay House near Bridgend is well worth a visit if only to buy fresh vegetables from the walled garden which is run by the local community. You get to the garden through a courtyard which boasts a couple of galleries a coffee shop and a brewery.
Most evenings we dined in our motorhome although the food at the Port Charlotte Community Centre Bistro was such good value we did spoil ourselves and dine out more than we normally would. We also had a fabulous meal at the Port Charlotte Hotel.
So, we enjoyed a fabulous week on Islay, every was very helpful and friendly and I’m sure we will be back in the very near future.