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!

Read More

Experience a Scottish Christmas on Islay

Close up of Christmas tree with fairy lights

A Traditional Scottish Christmas

December is here and we’re feeling festive at Islay Cottages. Christmas is fast approaching, a time for families and friends to unite, celebrate and reflect. We don’t think there’s anywhere better to experience a traditional Scottish Christmas than right here on our beautiful island. There’s a great sense of community and togetherness here as we enter the festive period. And although the weather is getting chilly now, when we all get together to celebrate, Christmastime is truly warm and cosy.

Believe it or not, Christmas is a relatively new celebration for the Scots. It was banned for many years, and it only became an official public holiday in 1958. Before then, Hogmanay (New Year) was our main winter festival, and it’s still hugely popular today. However, we do now welcome Christmas with open arms. And in true Scots style, a good drink is a must to celebrate Christmas with friends and family!

Things to do on Islay this Christmas

Glass of whisky and a folded scarf in front of open fireThere’s a lot happening on Islay over the festive period. If you’re staying with us this December, take a look at this great guide to festive things to do on Islay from our friends at Peatzeria Restaurant. We have fantastic local events, carol services, live music and fairs. Not forgetting some fabulous Hogmanay celebrations on New Year’s Eve. 

On Christmas Day itself, our holiday cottages are the perfect place to get together and enjoy a traditional Scottish Christmas. And why not walk off your Christmas meal with a crisp refreshing stroll on the sandy beaches? Followed swiftly, of course, by a warm dram beside the roaring log fire back at your cottage. 

Islay Winter Breaks

To find out more about spending a Scottish Christmas on Islay, take a look at our great Winter Breaks offer or call 01496 850 382. 

Read More

Highland Cow Q&A

A Highland Cow with Scottish Highlands in the background

Here on Islay, we are no strangers to the Highland cow, a distinctive type of cattle that originated in Scotland. This hairy, horned beast can often be spotted grazing our rugged landscapes, whatever the weather. They’re a hardy breed, and they thrive where others would struggle. But they are friendly too, and popular with tourists.

The Highland cow has become an icon of Scotland, but how much do you know about these long-haired creatures of the Highlands? Today we answer some of the most-asked questions about Highland cows.

Where do Highland cows live?

Close upWell, of course they come from the Scottish Highlands. The breed originated not far from Islay, in the Western Isles of Scotland. And it is the oldest breed of cattle in the world, first registered in 1885. But today, you’ll find them all over Scotland and other parts of the world too. Places such as America, Canada, Australia, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland, to name a few.

How big is a Highland cow?

4 Highland cows walking on country roadHighland cattle are smaller than other breeds of cow you may be familiar with, such as Friesians or Jerseys. Female Highland cows weigh around 500 kg and males about 800 kg.

Can you milk a Highland cow?

Three Highland cows grazingYes, you can milk a female Highland cow, although you wouldn’t get the same large quantities of milk you’d get from a dairy cow. Highland cows have smaller teats and their milk has a higher content of butterfat.

Are Highland cows dangerous?

No, Highland cows are not thought to be dangerous. They generally have a gentle, friendly nature. As with all large animals though, do take care not to spook them. And, be extra careful around mothers with calves, are they are very protective of their young.

Why are Highland cows so hairy?

The Highland cow’s shaggy coat helps it survive the cold Scottish winter. Their undercoats keep them warm, while their longer guard hairs protect them from the rain and snow. During the summer they shed most of this hair, to prevent them from overheating. They also have long eyelashes and a long fringe which defends their eyes against the elements and stops insects from getting in.

Do female Highland cows have horns?

Yes, but the horns of males and females do differ slightly. The male’s horns are shorter, thicker and only curve upwards a little. While the female’s horns are longer, thinner and curve upwards more.


So now you know a little more about the Scottish Highland cow (Heilan coo in Scots). Look out for them on your next visit to Islay. And if you’re already planning your next trip, take a look at our special accommodation offers today.

Read More

Romantic Island Escape

A middle aged couple walking hand in hand on a beach

♥ Romantic Breaks in Scotland – Love is in the air…A 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 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, wherein 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 whiskeys come from Islay, which depending on your palette, you will love or not! However, what we can be sure about is that love will ignite after a couple of tipples! If you want to treat your other half to something special, you can find out more about Distillery Tours on Islay here.

You want a ‘Pizza my Heart’?A heart shaped pizza

If you fancy some delicious dining for two then head along to Islay’s recent and very popular new addition! 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! A couples feet, warming by the fire

Snuggle up in each other’s arms…

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. Then simply fill out the online booking form. We look forward to hearing from you and see love bloom!

Read More

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.


Read More

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.

Read More

5 Inspired Islay Whisky Cocktails

The 'Old Fashioned' whisky cocktail

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 Islay Whisky Sour Cocktail

Ingredients: 2 parts Islay Whisky, half an ounce of sugar syrup, half an ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 egg white, 1 dash of Bitters crushed ice. Complete with a cherry and orange slice.

Here, 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. Now, watch the video below to see how it is done…

The Rob RoyWhisky Cocktail

Ingredients: 2 ounces of Islay Whisky, 3 quarter ounces of Sweet Vermouth and 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters and serve over ice. Finish the cocktail with a cherry garnish or alternatively, a lemon twist.

In fact, 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? Watch this video guide on how to make this cocktail…

The Suburban Whisky Cocktail

Ingredients: 3 parts Islay Whisky, 1 part Dark Rum, 1 part Port Red, 1 dash Orange Bitters, 1 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. If this has tickled your fancy, watch the video below and get making…

Old Fashioned 

Ingredients: 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters, 50ml of Islay Whisky, 1 teaspoon of caster sugar, cubed ice and 1 orange.

This Old Fashioned cocktail is better known as the chosen drink of Mad Men leading character, Don Draper. Did you know that it is estimated this cocktail recipe goes back as far as 1806 and is usually made with rye whisky? Why not swap it out for Islay Whisky and be on your way to sweet peaty cocktail heaven. The video below takes you through step by step on how to makes this delightful cocktail…

The Famous ‘Hot Toddy’

Ingredients: 3/4 Cloves, 2 Star Anise, half snap of a cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons of honey, half a thumb of ginger, orange zest, grapefruit zest, 500mls boiling water, 50mls of your chosen Islay whisky per glass.

This aromatic, heartwarming, head zinging recipe is perfect for that cold winters day. Snuggle up on your sofa by the fire and sip away. Or fill up your thermos flask and enjoy it in the vast outdoors on a chilly winters day. See the video below for full instructions…

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! You can explore the vast choice of distilleries and enjoy an array of whisky tours.  Then come back to your cosy cottage and try out making some cocktails with your days finds! With plenty of fantastic special offers to choose from, there’s no reason not to book your very own Islay Whisky adventure today! Call us today on 01496 850 382 or book online here.

Read More

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.

Read More

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!

Read More

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!


Read More