Island Hopping on Islay

Sun setting on the Scottish isle of Islay

Scottish Island Hopping

The Scottish Isles are the perfect getaway from hectic city life.  If you’re planning to do a spot of Scottish island hopping, make sure you visit us on Islay. This beautiful scenic hot-spot in the Inner Hebrides is perfect for relaxing and has lots to offer.

Isle of Islay

View of harbor and town Port Charlotte on Isle of Islay,

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. It’s home to the Kilchoman 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 lovely café there, 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 held 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.

Nearby Islands to Hop Along to

Paps of Jura seen from ferry

After a visit to Islay, you must visit our neighbours on Jura. The trip by ferry from Islay to Jura only takes five minutes, and it is a beautiful Scottish island to visit.

There are many other amazing islands right here in the Hebrides to explore. Skye, Mull, Harris, Lewis, Barra and Iona to name just a few. 

So, time to start planning your Scottish island hopping adventure!

Scottish Island Accommodation

If you’re looking for good quality accommodation during your visit to Islay, please take a look at our comfortable cottages and homely B&B and get in touch if you need any help at all. 

 

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The Jura Music Festival

A fiddle player and an accordion player

Music to your ears at the Jura Music Festival 2019

The Jura Music Festival is set to host another spectacular music event from 27th to 29th September 2019! So why not start thinking about a musical autumn break and visit us here on Islay and Jura?

Top Class Musical Performances and Workshops

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

So what else is happening at this year’s event?

Now in its 26th year, Jura still has music in its core. With artists such as Peat Smoke and the Roaches, Fred Morrison, Blazin’ Fiddles, Skipinnish and many more, Jura has plenty of rhythm and beat. These guys know what they’re doing when it comes to traditional music! There is more information on the acts performing here. 

Here are a few clips from a previous event to give you a flavour of what’s to come.

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

So, come along with your dancing shoes and enjoy the fabulous ceilidhs and other musical events on offer!

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. What’s 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 Jura Music Festival, we would be delighted to accommodate you. Book online or call us on 01496 850382.

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A Brief History of Islay

Ruins of a church near Ardmore on the island of Islay Scotland

Ancient Standing Stone on Islay ScotlandIslay Prehistory

The history of Islay goes back to when hunter-gatherers settled here many thousands of years ago. With the discovery of Mesolithic and Ice Age artefacts in the area, researchers have come to the conclusion that Islay was occupied from around 10,000 BC.

You can see many of these ancient tools and other items at the Islay Museum in Port Charlotte. And you can visit many prehistoric sites on the island, including ceremonial standing stones, burial cairns and forts. 

Medieval Islay

Engraving from Finlaggan medeival site Islay Scotland

During medieval times, ordinary people on the island were farmers, who bred livestock and produced oats and barley in the rich and fertile land. 

From the 6th century, Islay was ruled by a Gaelic overkingdom named Dál Riata. Then in the 9th century, Norse Vikings took control. By the 12th century, Scotland started to reclaim its islands. Helped by a warrior named Somerled, who seized them in 1156 and founded a dynasty that became the ‘Lords of the Isles’Islay was under full Scottish rule by 1493.

Islay changed dramatically throughout the medieval period, as different cultures and influences shaped its landscape. There are several Medieval ruins that remain on the island, including Kilchoman Church and Finlaggan, the powerbase of the Lords of the Isles. 

British Era and World Wars

Islay was under Scottish rule until 1707, when the Scottish and English thrones merged to create the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Scottish and the British fought many battles over the leadership of Scotland. Then later in the 20th century, both countries joined forces to defeat their shared enemies in World Wars One and Two. 

You can visit more historic sites on Islay from this period. And view many items from Islay’s history, including artefacts from the two world wars, at Islay Museum. 

Discovering Islay’s History Today

For a relatively small island, Islay is full of history and culture. Why not come and visit one of our cottages for a taste of Islay life? And truly take in the ambience of an island with many tales to tell.

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The Family Guide to Islay

Mother and daughter playing at the beach

Things to do with Kids on Islay

What will you get up to when staying in our family-friendly accommodation on Islay? There are plenty of things to do with kids on our beautiful Scottish island. Here are some of our favourites.

Play on the Beach

Sand Castle on the beach

Well, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to a natural playground for all 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 sand castle or letting the kids bury them in the sand? Learning can continue for all when you explore the ample rock pools that crawl with sea life! Who can collect the most shells, spot the hermit crab or find the winkles under the seaweed?

Pony Trekking Adventures

Little girl petting a pony

Treat the kids to a pony ride. Islay Pony Trekking offer pony rides for all abilities, from short rides for smaller children to owning a pony for a day. 

Discover the Local Wildlife

Brown otter sitting on a rock

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. 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 youas 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.

Or, if you’re looking for an indoor wildlife activity, visit 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.

Fishing Trip

Mother and child on a boat trip

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. Again, this is a popular choice for tourists so it may be best to book up this experience online before you go.

Swimming Pool

Mother and daughter swimming in indoor pool

Now lets face it…. this is Scotland and it every so often drops wet stuff from the sky! However, you may not mind getting wet in our very own swimming pool in Bowmore. For lots of splashy family fun!

Islay Family-Friendly Accommodation

So whatever the weather, you are guaranteed to find enjoyable things to do with kids on Islay. And 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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Top 5 Things to do on Islay

A photo of the landscape of Islay

You spend that last week before your holidays tying up all your tasks. Then you start to pack the car, have those niggles with your traveling partner(s)- ‘did I switch the iron off, have you left food for the cat, you did lock the back door, didn’t you?….’ and you are finally on your way to the ferry. As you leave the clunk of the ferry ramp behind, the stunning Hebridean island of Islay unfolds before your eyes and all those worries start to fade away as you breathe in the fresh sea air. So the only thing that potentially needing thinking about is…’what shall we see and do on our holiday?’

Well, you need not worry as we have done the leg work for you and created your very own, bespoke top 5 things to do on Islay:

Islay Sea Adventures

Seal sun bathing on a rock

Step on board a 38ft Revenge Charter with Islay Sea Adventures at the marina of Port Ellen and soak up the view of Islay and its marine life. For those fishers amongst you can book fishing trips and those with a more daring disposition you can arrange to go diving and view some of the 97 wrecks off the coast off Islay.

Whisky Distillery Tours

Barrels of whisky in a line

No trip to Islay would be complete without visiting at least one of their eight prestigious whisky distilleries. This unique island produces some of the strongest flavoured Single Malt Whiskies in Scotland. 

The Museum Of Islay Life

Exterior view of the Museum of Islay Life building

This quaint little church house in Port Charlotte many items reflecting the history of Islay with around 2,000 objects from a variety of subjects. The Museum of Islay Life exhibits items from Mesolithic times to recent including artefacts found from archaeological investigations and rooms displaying how the inside of a croft would have once looked.

Islay Beaches

Family holding hands and splashing in water on the beach

You come to an island and you expect a beach or at least the sea! The Islay coastline spans 130 miles and hosts some the worlds most scenic beaches. Here you can also observe some of Islay’s wildlife including seals, and many species of bird. For some wild swimming you can choose from the following safest beaches to take a dip if you dare!: Laggan Bay, Loch Gruinart and Loch Indaal.

The Isle of Jura

The Paps of Jura on the Scottish Isle of Jura

If you fancy a trip across the water it is a skip, hop and a jump where you can visit the equally stunning Isle of Jura, Islay’s neighbouring island. Simply board the ferry for a 15 minute crossing that separates the two islands and prepare to be wowed! People on this island are outnumbered by deer, with only 180 of the two-legged variety and 5,000 of the four-legged!

 

Whatever you choose to do, rest assured that here at Islay Cottages you can return to the most relaxing and cosy accommodation in one of our cottages or our stunning Georgian Kilchoman house. You will not want to leave, with so many great things to do in Islay!

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Wildlife Spotting on Islay

Scottish stag in a herd in winter

Scottish Wildlife

Islay is home to some truly magnificent natural beauty and Scottish wildlife. The island is a hot spot for wildlife and birdwatchers throughout the world and renowned for its offering of diverse and rare wild inhabitants. Planning a trip to Islay? Keep reading to find out more about wildlife spotting on Islay.

Grey Seals

Grey seal swimming in the sea in Scotland

Islay is the perfect place to observe grey seals in their natural habitat. With a colony native to the island, the seals have become fairly accustomed to a human presence and as such are happy to come within close proximity. Be warned – grey seals have a nasty bite and will not stop at anything to protect their young. It’s always important to remember never to approach a seal pup, even if it’s on its own as if your scent transfers to them, when the mother seal returns, she is likely to reject her pup. If you’re worried that a seal pup has been abandoned, stay downwind, so as to prevent your scent scaring away the mother and keep an eye on the baby. If you’re confident no mother is returning, then call the Scottish SPCA on 03000999999.

The best places to spot grey seals on the island are Port Wemyss and Portnahaven, as well as around the bays between Lagavulin and Artalla. Seals can also be found at Loch Gruinart nature reserve. Keep your peepers peeled as if you’re lucky you may even spot some basking sharks or dolphins, although, chances of spotting these species are considerably more in a boat.

European Otters

Brown otter sitting on a rock

If you’re seeking ot-ta wildlife, then Islay has a treat in store for you! A bad pun aside, Islay is a prime place to spot a European otter or two!

The otters on the island are notoriously tricky to spot, but if you wait a while, you are likely to be rewarded for your patience. You might spot them on the north of Bunnahabain, or on the Caol Ila beach.

Deer

Roe Deer on a sunny day Islay Scotland

Of course, no trip to the Scottish Highlands and Islands would be complete without spotting a stag! You may spot these majestic creatures throughout the island, but they can be very shy! The island is home to three species of deer – Fallow, Roe and Red deer. These species can be found all over the island and are a great challenge for those looking to add to their photography bucket list.

Brown Hare

Brown Hare leaping up in a field

The beautiful species of brown hare are all over the island. Easily spooked like the deer on Islay, the best time to sneak a peek at a brown hare is during dusk in the vicinity of Loch Gorm. Take things slow on the road as these adorable mammals may jump out onto the road! If you’re lucky, you may even be privileged to watching the hares play together in groups.

Islay Accommodation

Are you planning a trip to do some Scottish wildlife spotting on Islay? Why not book in and stay at one of our beautiful self-catering cottages? Please get in touch to find out more about booking with us.

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Our Favourite Islay Distilleries

A photo of some distillery barrels

Visiting Whisky Distilleries on Islay

Asides from Islay’s stunning natural beauty, if there’s one thing our island can hold a claim to fame about. And that’s producing world class malt whisky! Of course, with eight distilleries on the island alone, it can be hard to know where to begin. But don’t worry, we’re here to give you an insight into our favourite whisky distilleries on Islay.

NEWEST: Kilchoman Distillery

Right on the doorstep of our very own Kilchoman Cottages, is the aptly named Kilchoman Distillery. This is a relatively new player to the Islay whisky scene, arriving in 2005. The first new distillery to the island in 124 years!

The Kilchoman Distillery is unique because they hand-craft their whisky from barley that they grow on their own farm land, on site. Making it Scotland’s only Single Farm Single Malt. It’s also one of only a few remaining independent whisky distilleries.

OLDEST: Bowmore Distillery

If you’re staying at Tarbert House B&B, you’re very close to Bowmore Distillery. This is the oldest distillery on Islay, dating from 1779 or even earlier. 

This is a wonderful place to take a tour (there are several to choose from) and learn about whisky history and heritage. It’s also home to the Bowmore Whisky Tasting Bar. A welcoming bar with spectacular views across Loch Indaal, and experts on hand to help you find your perfect dram.

LARGEST: Caol Ila Distillery

If whisky is your thing, then a trip to the Caol Ila Distillery is simply a must. Its Gaelic name translates as “sound of Islay” and you should pronounce it “cull-eela”.  This distillery is about a mile north from Port Askaig. Founded in 1846, the distillery has seen closure and re-opening due to major events such as the Second World War.

Today, the whisky distillery produces around 7 million litres of the spirit each year. Caol Ila distillery is also the market leader on Islay, producing well over double the volume of whisky as the other distilleries on the island. As Islay’s giant, a tour around the Caol Ila distillery is a must-visit attraction for any whisky enthusiast. 

Islay Whisky Breaks

Of course, visiting all these distilleries can be exhausting! But if you’re staying with us at Islay Cottages, you can relax after a hard day’s tasting and touring. So, book now and get planning your trip around the many whisky distilleries on Islay!

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Nature Retreats to Islay

Otters on a branch on the water

Exploring Scottish Nature on Islay

Islay is famous for its spectacular wildlife and is home to many species. A beautiful, peaceful and easily-accessible island of the Inner Hebrides, it’s the perfect place to visit for a Scottish nature and wildlife retreat. 

Sea Life

Islay Sea Adventures offer wonderful nature-watching boat tours. So, if you fancy bobbing up and down on the waves and breathing in the salty sea air you can board a boat at Port Ellen Marina, which will take you along the East Coast and introduce you to some of Scotland’s most amazing creatures. From the cute puppy-eyed seals, huge basking sharks and friendly dolphins you are sure to be dazzled! 

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 routes. 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. And if you’d like some expert guidance, Wild Islay Birding offer a choice of wildlife and bird-watching tours by mini-bus on the island.

Feathered Friends

You can spot many species of birds from any part of the island you visit. Geese and a variety of ducks bob and splash in the waters of Islay, while raptors such as the Golden Eagle and buzzards glide the skies, hunting out their next feed!

Nature Breaks to Islay

Here at Islay Cottages our properties have fabulous views of the sea, and also a fabulous special offer for nature lovers.  Stay in our cosy self-catering cottages with our Islay Sea Adventure Break and discounted tickets for Scottish nature boat tours.

 

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Scottish Highlands and Islands Packing List

Suitcase filled with clothes, camera, sunglasses

What to Pack for Scotland’s Highlands and Islands

The Scottish Highlands and Islands is one of the most magnificent places to visit on earth! But with our rugged landscapes and famously changeable Scottish weather, you might be wondering what to pack for a visit. So, here’s our list to give you a few pointers.

What to Wear in Scotland

Female walker in the Scottish Highlands

Comfy Clothes – Comfortable, practical clothes are best for exploring the Highlands and Islands. You may have heard that we experience all 4 seasons in one day here, and this is often true. So, you’ll need sunglasses and a raincoat at all times. (In the wind and rain, a hooded waterproof jacket is more useful than an umbrella, as it will not blow inside out!) In the winter, wrap up warm, as temperatures range from around 5C to below 0. In summer, it’s a milder 9 to 18, but it may still be windy and cold. If you bring lots of layers, for example top, jumper, rain jacket, warm coat, hat, scarf and gloves, then you’re prepared for all eventualities.

Sturdy Footwear – If you plan on doing lots of walking, you’ll need good sturdy walking shoes for the uneven terrain. And we’d suggest a pair of wellies too, for walking through shallow water, puddles and mud.

Evening Wear – Don’t forget to pack something for the evening too. If you’re planning on attending a ceilidh or dinner, you may want to dress up for the occasion.

Other Essentials – Of course, don’t forget your underwear, toothbrush, soaps, medication and other daily essentials. Those travelling by air must follow the rules for packing hand luggage.

What to Put in Your Backpack

Old, cracked map of Scotland with a compassMobile Phone – It goes without saying, you should take your phone along. But make sure you also have your mains charger and a portable charger, so you don’t run out of battery. If you’re travelling from abroad, ensure your phone is set up for use in the UK, and bring a mains adapter too.

Camera – This is a must, to capture those breath-taking scenes and special memories you’ll want to keep with you for the rest of your life.

Map and Compass – Today, many of us rely on our phones and sat navs for directions. But it’s always wise to have a solid back up, in the form of an old-fashioned road map and compass. You never know when technology might fail you, especially in the remotest areas of Scotland.

Water Bottle and Snacks – If you’re going out into the countryside, take some drinks and snacks to keep you energised. Although it’s lovely to visit the local shops and cafes, have some extra supplies on hand just in case they are closed, or further away than you anticipated.

Sun cream and Midge Spray – In the warmer months, generally May to October, you’ll need sun cream with you. Plus, an insect repellent to ward off those pesky beasties.

First Aid Kit – It’s always useful to carry a small first aid kit when travelling, in case of emergencies.

 

We hope this has helped you plan what to pack for a visit to Scotland’s Highlands and Islands. If you’re travelling to our beautiful island of Islay (and you MUST), check out our lovely self-catering accommodation and please get in touch with any questions. Have a wonderful trip!

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Romantic Island Escape

A middle aged couple walking hand in hand on a beach

Come to Islay for Romantic Breaks in ScotlandA couple with the girl getting a piggy back from her male partner

Are you looking for romantic breaks in Scotland? Then why not make an adventure of it and visit the stunning Scottish island of Islay? Islay is a perfect romantic getaway, with scenery and views to set any heart fluttering! With Valentines Day just around the corner, this could be the perfect gift for your loved one to get those sparks flying!

Walk hand in hand along our golden sandy beaches

If you enjoy a romantic stroll, then do it in style. With a huge choice of beautiful beaches to choose from you are spoilt for choice. From Machir Bay with its huge expanse of sand, Sanaigmore with its protected cove and Kilnaughton Bay, where in the right conditions the sand will ‘sing’ to you. Together, arm in arm, you can also watch the seals from Kilinallan and sing to them! The perfect setting for romance to blossom.

A romantic tipple for two

Two whisky glasses, a bottle of whisky and a whisky barrel

No break to Islay would be complete without a visit to one of our famous Islay whisky distilleries. Like our beaches, there are plenty to choose from! Some of the strongest malt whiskys come from Islay, which depending on your palette, you will love or not! If you want to treat your other half to something special, you can find out more about Distillery Tours on Islay.

You want a “Pizza” my heart?

A heart shaped pizza

If you fancy some delicious dining for two then head along to Islay’s very popular local restaurant! Peatzeria opened its doors last year to locals and tourists and it has been a huge success with 5 star reviews! A pizzeria (as you may have figured by the name) that offers a vast selection of delicious pizzas as well as a variety of other dishes. Furthermore, it boasts, stunning and romantic views over Lochindaal, where you and your loved one can share a ‘Lady and the Tramp’ moment over a bowl of pasta! 

Snuggle up in each other’s arms…

A couples feet, warming by the fire

Why not snuggle up by a roaring fire? Here at Islay Cottages, we have 5 cosy cottages and a stunning, large Georgian House at Kilchoman, in a rural setting with views of the sea. We also have an additional cottage in Bowmore which backs onto Lochindaal and boasts beautiful views. What is more, we have a fabulous romantic offer.  If you book with us you will receive a box of chocolates and a bottle of champagne upon your arrival! All you need to do is light the fire and indulge yourselves!

Fall in love all over again…

If this has got sparks flying and you would like to come and stay with us then please get in touch. Be it romantic Scottish short breaks, weekend getaways or longer stays, we have it covered. And all with a sprinkling of romance!

You can call us on 01496 850 32 or you can book online. For online, you can view our tariffs and availability from the booking bar or the availability section in the main navigation. We look forward to hearing from you and seeing love bloom!

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