Not a Whisky Spirit

Pumpkins in an eerie forest

Scottish ghost stories from the island of Islay

Halloween is looming and with this in mind, we thought we would look at some of our other types of spirits that inhabit this old, historical island. If you like to hear Scottish ghost stories and want to be spooked then read on and find out what eerie friends live alongside us on this island.

A ghostly figure walking through a dark wood

Kildalton Castle and its employee…

Near Port Ellen (also famous for another haunting) nestled the once Kildalton Castle. Like most castles in Scotland, it was said to have its very own resident ghost. Many years ago there was an employee who had a ‘very distinct appearance’ who worked for the then laird. Often he would need to leave the island. Despite his absence, he was seen wandering around the large castle building. Then one day, long after this man was dead and buried, two women were sitting in Craigmore forest and saw a figure walking towards them. Important note is that Craigmore forest was once the property of the Laird. Significantly, the figure that approached, was clothed in the fashion of a bygone era. He was also accompanied by a terrier dog. As he and his dog passed the ladies, to their astonishment, there was no sound. They then simply disappeared into the bushes. Upon returning home, one of the women described this apparition to their mother, who had once worked for the laird. At once she recognised the description of this man. He was the long-dead factor who had once been employed by the old laird.

A ghost peering through a window

Port Ellen haunting

Next, is the haunting in Port Ellen. Presently, a country hotel this building was once a distillery. When the building was still in use as a distillery in the nineteenth century a thirsty burglar paid a visit. Indeed, being surrounded by barrels of fine malt whisky he had a tipple or two or three or four. As a result, not being sharp with sobriety, he made for the closest exit. Important to note, this was a second-floor window! Unfortunately, he did not survive the fall and is said to still haunt the building to this day. From time to time he can be seen at the spot where he fell surprising any visitors in his path. The window has since been bricked over. 

Bowmore’s headless horseman

A headless horseman

Upon his return home one stormy Scottish night, crofter Lachlan Ban, saw something that spooked him. A headless horseman, galloped away from his house leaving him frozen in fear. As he approached the front of his house, the door was ajar. When he stepped inside the fire had blown out and there stood a bottle of Bowmore whisky and an empty dram. Of course there then came an explanation to this paranormal experience. Ban’s brother had passed that Friday night. Furthermore, he stated that the wind had blown the front door open and blown out the fire. Additionally, he mentioned he had brought the whisky to share with him and could wait no longer. So had had a quick dram himself before leaving. In the light of the terrible weather, he had galloped off with his cloak pulled tight over his head. Nevertheless, this story still haunts the island. To this day, true islanders never offer an opened bottle of whisky to their guests in fear of attracting the headless horseman. Maybe, something to do with the fact that Ban was too embarrassed to tell real the story!

Come and visit this spooktacular island!

So why not come along to Islay and see it for yourself. Maybe you will see a ghost or two while you are here! Autumn is a beautiful time of year to visit this stunning island. If you are looking for somewhere to stay then get in touch with us here at Islay Cottages today.


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The Jura Music Festival

A fiddle player and an accordion player

Music to your ears at the Jura Music FestivalA fiddle, guitar, ukulele and accordion

The Scottish Traditional Music Awards ‘Best Music Festivals’ nominees are ready to do it again! Having reached the top 3, being pipped to the post by Celtic Connections, the Jura Music Festival is set to host another astonishing music event this 2017! So why not start thinking about a musical Autumn break and visit us here on Islay and Jura? Running from 22nd- 24th of September, music will echo the Isles!

Top class musicians performing and running workshops

As a result of a dedicated and passionate Committee, as well local residents, the festival has become as accomplished as it is. As a result of its stature, a pool of top class musicians will be hosting exciting performances and inspiring workshops for all to enjoy. 

Important to point out is that Jura has music in its core. With artists such as Peat Smoke and the Roaches, Simon Moran from Deoch and Dorus, Danny Moran a top traditional musician and many more Jura has plenty of rhythm and beat. So they know what they are doing when it comes to music.

So what is on at this year’s event?

Hence the popularity of The Jura Musci Festival, there is a strong lineup this year.  Heron Valley, The Fold and BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year finalists, Talisk, are performing on Saturday. Furthermore, you can enjoy the sounds of Ho-Ro and Tide Lines on Sunday. There is more information on the acts performing here. Furthermore, you can come along with your dancing shoes and enjoy the fabulous Saturday night Ceilidh!

Looking for accommodation?

A view of Kilchoman House and Cottages from a nearby hill.

If this is music to your ears and you are looking for accommodation then check out our holiday cottages on Islay. Here you can relax in our quaint and cosy cottages with views of the sea. As well as our cottages, larger groups can book our stunning Georgian house. See our accommodation here for more information.  What is more, we are only a 30-minute drive from the 5-minute ferry crossing to Jura at Port Askaig. So, if you are planning visit one of the top music festivals in Scotland, we would be delighted to accommodate you on your stay. Book online here or call us on 01496 850382.

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5 Inspired Islay Whisky Cocktails

Tumbler of whisky being poured

If there’s one thing the Queen of the Hebrides can hold claim to, it’s producing some of the world’s best Single Malt Whisky. Renowned for producing Whiskies with strong peaty tones, a trip to Islay is a Whisky connoisseur’s dream. Get ready for your next trip to the island with these 5 Inspired Islay Whisky Cocktails.

The Whisky Sour – Islay Whisky

Ingredients: 2 parts Islay Whisky, ½ part sugar syrup, 1 part lemon juice, ½ egg white, crushed ice. Complete with a cherry and orange slice.

The trick to creating the perfect Whisky Sour is to mix the sugar and lemon evenly. Shake well! If you’re not too keen on egg-whites, then this is merely an optional ingredient.

The Rob Roy – Islay Whisky

Ingredients: 45ml of Islay Whisky, 25ml of Sweet Vermouth and a dash of Angostura Bitters and serve over ice. Finish the cocktail with a cherry garnish or alternatively, a lemon twist.

This cocktail, unlike its name suggests, was actually created at the Waldolf Astoria in Manhattan. The barman decided to mark the celebration of the opening premiere of the Rob Roy operetta in 1984 with his creation, and as such the cocktail grew in popularity very quickly.

Today the Rob Roy continues to thrive as a popular choice of drink – so why not try it with an Islay Whisky twist?

The Suburban – Islay Whisky

Ingredients: 3 parts Islay Whisky, 1 part Dark Rum, 1 part Port and a dash Angostura Bitters served over ice cubes.

This classic cocktail packs a real punch. Not for the weak of stomach, this cocktail is perfect for “thrill-seekers” looking for a concoction that delivers a triple whammy of a bitter kick, soothing smoothness and a hint of sweetness.

Old Fashioned – Islay Whisky

Ingredients: 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters, 2 ounces of Islay Whisky, a sugar cube, and a club soda mixer.

This cocktail is better known as the chosen drink of Mad Men leading character, Don Draper. It is estimated this cocktail recipe goes back as far as 1806, and is usually made with rye whisky. Swap it out for Islay Whisky and you’ll be on your way to sweet peaty cocktail heaven.

Smoke Signals – Islay Whisky

Ingredients: ½ cup of sugar, ½ cup of chopped and toasted pecans, 2 cups of pecan chips, 10 tablespoons of Islay Whisky, 6 tablespoons of Sherry, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, served over ice cubes.

This cocktail is one for those who love Islay Whisky’s peaty undertones. Take the smokiness to the next level by smoking your ice cubes over a barbeque.

Islay Whisky with Islay Cottages

Is your mouth watering at the thought of these wonderful smoky cocktails? Why not book your very own Islay Whisky break with Islay cottages! With plenty of fantastic special offers to choose from, there’s no reason not to book your very own Islay Whisky adventure today!

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Creative Retreats for Writer’s Block

a photo of a discussion with writing

Dying to put pen to paper and churn out that next chapter of your debut novel? Perhaps you’ve simply had enough of your final year university dissertation. Creative retreats for writer’s block can work absolute wonders and Islay Cottages is the destination for you.

Immerse Yourself in Natural Beauty

Can’t quite put pen to paper? Whatever the block is to your creativity, the Queen of the Hebrides, Islay is certain to help clear your mind. Benefit from a stroll across one of Islay’s twenty unspoilt beaches and meditate on the tranquillity that the remote island brings.

Enjoy one of Islay’s many nature trails, or if you’re looking to give your mind a complete break, why not hop onto one of Islay Sea Adventures for a wildlife spotting excursion! Spot seals and porpoises in their natural habitat whilst scaling the Islay coastline. If you’re luck, you may just spot some basking sharks too!

Look to Islay’s sky to spot some of the rarest and most majestic birds in the world. Islay is home to over 100 species of bird including eagles, hawks, falcons, ospreys and buzzards – and that’s just a few!

Immerse Yourself in Local Culture

Islay is also home to rich culture and history – a quick visit to the Museum of Islay Life in Port Charlotte will be testament to that. Be inspired for writing the next chapter of your book with the Islay community and take the time to explore the eight active Whisky distilleries on the island. Dip your toes into Whisky tasting with a tour around Kilchoman Distillery, conveniently located a stone’s throw away from our lovely self-catering cottages accommodation.

Escape to Islay and beat Writer’s Block – Creative Retreats

An escape to tranquillity and serenity can only be a good thing for writer’s block. Why not kick back and relax at Islay Cottages – we’re guarantee your creative retreats for writer’s block will be nothing but soothing. Book now and get planning your trip to the Outer Hebrides.

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The Family Guide to Islay

Horses and riders on a beach

The summer holidays are upon us, so what have you got planned to keep the little monkeys entertained now that their teachers are on a well earned break? More importantly, how are you going to entertain yourself as well – tickle two birds with one activity? Well here on Islay we have plenty of solutions to this. So lets take a look at what is on offer.

Outdoor Family Activities on Islay

Well you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to a natural playground for both generations! Islay boasts more than 20 beautiful beaches around its coastline. Often you can have these beaches all to yourselves too. And what parents can’t resist building sandcastle or burying hubby of wife in the sand to the laughter of the mini me’s? Learning can continue for all when you adopt the character of David Attenborough and explore the ample rock pools that crawl with sea life! Who can spot the hermit crab, tickle the sea anemone or find the winkles under the seaweed?

What about some Cowboys and Indians? Well we can provide the gee gees (horses / ponies) you provide the imagination and off we trot…..! It is truly fantastic and fun way to see the stunning scenery here on Islay that unfolds itself around on every turn.

Indoor Family Activities on Islay

Now lets face it…. It is Scotland and it every so often drops wet stuff from the sky! However, you may not mind getting wet but would prefer the wet to be warm so fear not we have our very own swimming pool in Bowmore right next door to the distillery- so parents you could stop for a ‘wee dram’ after!

So it is too wet to be outdoors with the wildlife…. Well how about being with it indoors with it at the Islay National History Trust in Port Charlotte? Here you can get up close and friendly with our resident sea creatures who inhabit our touch tank aquariums. There is also a large laboratory with fun things to do including learning to use a microscope and dissecting owl pellets.

So whatever the weather you are guaranteed to find enjoyable things to do as family here on Islay. Here at Islay Cottages we provide fabulous and cosy accommodation from a large traditional house to quaint and homely cottages where you can snuggle up in the evening after an exhilarating day of play! Book direct for best rates guaranteed! We look forward to welcoming you!

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Why everyone should experience a Scottish Christmas

A roaring fireplace

A Scottish Christmas; the time of year for families to unite, celebrate, reflect and – like every family – for one or two fights to break out only to be resolved with copious amounts of food, laughter and throwing presents at each other.

Scotland is no exception and with our multiple weather systems colliding overhead, a true Scottish Christmas is sure to be chilly yet, when celebrated with a dram or two, is truly warm and cosy.

Turkey and stuffing aside, the company ‘patter’ of the Scots is hard to beat. A Scottish Christmas is a time to detach for the grind of daily lives, removing the 9-5 and knowing – for a few weeks at least – that time doesn’t matter.

Having only celebrated Christmas within Scotland officially since 1560 and Scotland has since welcomed the celebration annually with open arms and – in true Scots style –  a good drink is a must to celebrate Christmas with friends and family.

A Scottish Christmas on Islay


Experiencing Christmas on Islay is a festive occasion not to be missed. The home of whisky and tranquility, Islay – the Queen of the Hebrides as known to the locals – is the perfect winter gets away to relax over Christmas before the year ahead begins. With a crisp refreshing chill that Scots enjoy in the winter months, a stroll through the sandy beaches to walk off the Christmas meal followed swiftly by a warm dram beside the roaring log fire makes for a perfect way to wrap up Christmas day. Whilst enjoy the dram in peaceful surroundings, the sound of the waves lashing against the rocks can be heard whilst the sun sets and Boxing Day looms – a relaxing Scottish Christmas to be enjoyed by all.

To check our availability and to find out more about Winter breaks click here or call 01496 850 382.

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Things to do in Islay with Kids

A photo of a bucket of fish

What will you get up to when you are visiting us on the island of Islay? There are plenty of things to do in Islay with the kids – whether they’re mucking about, having a great time at the beach, take them on a unforgettable adventure.


Things to do in Islay


Treat the kids to horse riding – which is available in two locations in Islay.  Close to the beautiful location of Saligo bay Rockside farm is only a short walk to its base in Kilchoman. The whole family can get involved as there are packages for all skill levels. Take in the views on or local land or trot along the beach on one of our beautiful horses.

Contact Rockside Riding Farm for more information.

Keep the activity up and take the kids along to the Port Mor Centre playground which is near by the riding centre.

The island has lots on offer for children, from bird watching to sea life spotting, Islay Sea Adventures have it covered. Perfect for kids the trip starts at Port Ellen Marina, where the tour will take you along the beautiful coast of Islay where the wild life is endless. From seal to basking sharks this wild life adventure will be a great memory for the whole family. Highly recommended this trip can be great fun! Make sure you bring warm clothing with you on this trip as it can get pretty cold out at sea even on sunny days.  This is a popular experience on the island so it may be worth your while to book up in advance of visiting, prices start from £20.

Take the kids for their first fishing trip on Islay. Get out in boat for a few hours and have the chance to catch fresh fish like tope, mackerel and skate. For a two hour trip including the hire of equipment prices start from £20, again this is a popular choice for tourists so it may be best to book up this experience online before you go.

There’s lots of things to do in Islay with the kids, explore our seas or enjoy yourself building sand castles on our beautiful beaches. Avoid disappointment, by booking up our fun excursions before you go!


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Scottish Island Hopping – Islay Cottages

The Scottish Isles are the perfect getaway from hectic city life.  This summer, why not check out the Isle of Islay which is part of the southern Hebrides.If you’re planning to do a spot of Scottish Island hopping, make sure you visit this beautiful scenic hot-spot. Perfect for relaxing, this stunning little island has lots to offer.

Known as the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’, The Isle of Islay has been coined as Scotland’s answer to the Caribbean!  This paradise has some of the loveliest beaches in the UK. With a coastline stretching over 130 miles, take a stroll from shore to shore starting with Loch Gruinar, Laggan Bay and Machir Bay. Machir Bay is a great location if you surf, known for its magnificent sunsets, spend the day there riding the waves then chill out on the beach late into the evening.

Saligo bay is popular with the tourists for it’s soft sands and dunes. The water at Saligo can be temperamental however it does not stop our visitors from going to soak up the views. If you’re around this area, two miles north Saligo bay is another great location for day trippers,  Kilchoman. Kilchoman is home to Islay’s newest distillery; with a great gift shop inside why not treat yourself to an Islay souvenir for one of your loved ones. There is also a great café inside if you are planning on taking a break after walking over our endless coastline. Not mention only mere minutes walk away from our gorgeous self-catering cottages!

Whisky tours are daily on the island; the experience offers the chance to taste some of the production after seeing it being developed on site. Organise your trip before you even arrive and let Islay Sea Adventures do the hard stuff.  If not, taxi tours are also available.

Scottish Island Hopping – Islay Cottages

Islay is the perfect destination for some Scottish Island Hopping. With lots to do and no shortage of scenic locations book now at Islay Cottages for a memorable experience guaranteed to stay with you for a life time.


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Nature Retreats to Islay

Otters on a branch on the water

So, hands up if you are fans of David Attenborough? Given the fact that Frozen planet was hitting 7.2 million viewings that will be quite a few hands in the air! How about getting in to the role and getting up close and personal with nature on an exquisite island off the west coast of Scotland? We explore the best nature retreats to Islay…


The island of Islay is famous for its wildlife and is home to many species. There are tours available on the island that will take to the many scenic places where this wildlife can be observed and you can learn a thing or two along the way.


Sea Life

If you fancy bobbing up and down on the waves and breathing in the salty sea air you can board a boat and prepare to be entertained by the surrounding wildlife. From the cute puppy eyed seals, huge basking sharks and friendly dolphins you are sure to be dazzled and bank a day into the lifetime memory bank!


Dry Land

Of course you do not have to board a boat to observe much of Islay’s wildlife. You can see much of what is on offer on foot on dry land. Seals can be observed along coastal routs or if you venture inland you can stumble upon an otter near a river, or deer trotting across moorland. You may if you are lucky even spot the occasional hare darting across the heather.


Feathered Friends


Islay is spoilt for choice when it comes to birds and many species can be spotted from any part of the island you visit. Geese and a variety of ducks can be seen bobbing and splashing in the waters of Islay while raptors such as the Golden Eagle and buzzards can be spotted gliding the skies whilst hunting out their next feed!


Nature Breaks to Islay


Whatever it is you want to see you can be sure to have a story to tell about what you saw! Nature breaks to Islay are a memory to treasure. Check out our Islay Sea Adventure Break to start the first chapter!


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Birdwatching in Islay

Chough birds

Image Craves a bec rouge / Red-billed Chough by Jean-Jacques Boujot is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped from original

Can you guess how many species of birds there are in the whole world? Or even, how many birds are there in the world? It is said that there are 10,000 species and anything between 100 billion to 400 billion of our feathered friends and that is not including the domestic type! If you’re seeking to indulge in your passion, then birdwatching in Islay is for you.

So, how about stepping on a boat or a plane and coming across to the stunning Scottish Isle of Islay and coming to see some of the 100 species that live within the variety of habitats that are housed on this beautiful island! From open moorland and hills to rugged cliff faces, woodland, mud flats and beaches, you are really spoiled for choice when it comes to this fascinating hobby.

So lets delve into the detail of what you can expect if you decide to partake in this activity on the Isle of Islay, be it a beginner or a pro!

Species You Can See

The time of year when it is at its peak of excitement is Spring when mass migration is happening, bringing with it many winged visitors from afar ready to settle down on this scenic Scottish Isle for the summer! Some of the love songs at that can be heard tweeting across the breeze come from the Corncrakes, Lapwings, Larks and Choughs – a rare species to be found anywhere in the UK and are a welcome inhabitant of Islay! If you are lucky you may see a flock of these striking birds with their charcoal black bodies and striking bright red beaks and legs!

Birds of prey such as the Golden Eagle and White Tailed Sea Eagle can also be spotted gliding around this island seeking out their prey. It is said the excitement and anticipation of this event is something you will never forget as they stalk their dinner amongst a small flock of birds and make the kill- not for the faint hearted!

Places for Birdwatching in Islay

There are two large and sheltered sea lochs that offer an ideal location for bird watching. The Loch Gruinart Reserve provides many habitats where you can view an array of species including the famous geese on tidal flats and open farm and moorland.

Inland areas provide ideal places to observe a variety of birds, such as Bridgend and Ballygrant where you can meander public paths through the old Victorian woodlands. Here you can see Finches, Tits, Treecreepers and much more including our night time friend the tawny Owl.

The West Coast hosts many habitats for Islay’s seabird colonies where the Gulliemot and Razorbill can be seen strutting their stuff as the sea crashes beneath them. This is also where Islay speciality, the Chough can be found in abundance.

There is never a bad time to come bird watching on Islay, given the many exciting species it plays host to. You can be sure to relax after a day in the fresh air here at Islay Cottages. Why not take a look at our special offers. We hope you will join enthusiasts around the world birdwatching in Islay and come and visit us here too!

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