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

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.


Read More

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!

Read More

An Essential Guide to Whisky Tasting

A photo of a bottle of whisky and fireplace

Whisky tasting is a niche for some, and most people will tell you that the perfect whisky has this or has that or is between this age and that age. The truth is, it’s all subject to personal taste. But what really makes a whisky a whisky? In our essential guide to whisky tasting we’ve picked which might help you work out what’s for you and what’s not when it comes to the fine art of whisky sampling.

Whisky Experts

The first thing you need to know, is someone who says they’re an expert when it comes to whisky tasting and then follows to share their opinion on what a good whisky is not an expert.

The truth is there is no such thing as an expert or even the perfect whisky. A whisky is a whisky and will appeal to different people with different tastes. Often you will find the the locals will be more than willing to share their favourite malts with you who have had several years to explore the tastes of the local distilleries.

There is no such thing as a double or triple malt


Anybody who tries to sell you a “double malt” or a “triple malt” is having you on! There is no such thing. Anything more than single malt is a blend, no if’s or but’s about it! Indeed there are common types of whisky, but anybody who tells you that a whisky has a plural malt is having you on!

It’s all about the barrel!

This might sound a bit cliche, but it’s true. The kind of barrel and where it is from has an impact on the flavour and composition of the whisky. Usually whisky distilleries will use barrels that were previously used for alcohols such as sherry and therefore soaked in flavour. Furthermore, casks are usually made of oak.

The Key Malt Whiskies – An Essential Guide to Whisky Tasting

The 5 most common types of Scottish Whiskys are as follows:

  • Islay Malts
  • Highland Malts
  • Strathspey Malts
  • Lowland Malts
  • Campbeltown Malts

Each of these whiskies have their own signature taste. Of course, a trip to Islay is incomplete without a whisky tasting session or two! Islay itself is home to eight whisky distilleries and with copious supplies of peat and fresh water on hand, Islay malts have arguably the strongest taste out of all the malt whiskies in the world. Islay malts are well known for their dry finish and particularly those from the southern part of the island are known for having quite the bite too!

So without further adieu, we beckon you to come join us on the beautiful island of Islay and use our essential guide to whisky tasting to help you begin exploring the wonderful whisky offering of Islay!

Read More

A Brief History of Islay

A photo of Laphroaig


The history of Islay is said to be very rich, especially after some Mesolithic Flint tools were found alongside working debris with shell middens and the spotting of structural remains. Researchers have come to the conclusion that Islay was occupied possibly earlier than 8000 B.C.

Further research suggests the nature of the jobs people had back then was most likely seasonal, and the people were likely to have greatly benefitted in their wild game and sea food vices. Archaeological digs between the mid 1970’s and late 1980’s suggest that the huts in which the inhabitants lived were merely shelters dug out of the mud, with rough leaves for roofing and shelter from the weather.


Agriculture in Islay


The climate changed and in turn brought farming settlers who’s graves and now-ruined homes can still be found dotted around the island today. Mostly, sites of this age had first become noticeable owing to the revelation of middens, and the growing amount of trash produced within the settlements. A round house from the early Bronze Age excavated in 1983 bore artefacts including food container pottery and a vast collection of stone utensils.


Death and Burial


Islay is also home to seven individual chambered Cairn Tombs, part of a network of tombs known as the Clyde Tombs and though they surround the grounds of the Island, no such tombs are found along the coastline of the Island.


First to Second Millennia


From the mid to second millennia BC, archaeological records show both community and society changes. Behaviour changed greatly from what was seen as primal, for instance: individual grave burials as opposed to mass tombs. Metalwork started at this point to reach the island. Few bronze artefacts from Islay have been found, however not much is known about the purpose of these artefacts.


Iron Age


The Iron Age on the island took place from the mid-first-millennium BC until the mid-first-millennium AD. There is little known about this time period as there are very few remaining records. There is one known Broch site on Islay, at Dun Bhoraraic by Ballygrant. Even though there are many protected Dun sites on Islay, most surrounding the coastal perimeter, there is very little known about what exactly they were used for and when exactly they were built. However, it is thought to be within the periods of 1st Millennium BC until 1st Millennium AD, and widely thought to be of Iron Age dating. More excavations will be needed to regulate whether these sites were communal areas or if they were used for protective functions i.e. look-out spots.


Experiencing the History of Islay


For a relatively small island, Islay is saturated in 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.



Read More