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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Top 5 Things to Do in Islay

A photo of the landscape of Islay

You spend that last week of work or retirement activities tying up all your tasks. Then you start to pack for your long awaited holiday. You 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 in Islay:

 

  • Islay Sea Adventures – Step on board a 38ft Revenge Charter situated at the marina of Port Ellen and prepare to be dazzled by the view of Islay and it’s 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 – No trip to Islay would be complete without visiting at least one of their eight prestigious whisky distilleries. It is known that some of the strongest flavoured Single Malt Whiskies are produced on this unique island. For more information on Islay’s distilleries click here.

 

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

 

  • Islay Beaches – 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 renowned wildlife including seals, and many species of bird. If you fancy 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– 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 2 legged variety and 5,000 of the four legged!

 

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

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Top Whisky Distilleries in Islay

A photo of some distillery barrels

 

Asides from the island’s stunning natural beauty, if there’s one thing Islay can hold a claim to fame about, it’s producing world class malt whisky. Of course, with eight distilleries on the island alone, it can be hard to know where to begin! Not to worry – we’re here to give you an insight into the two of the top whisky distilleries in Islay.

 

Kilchoman Distillery

 

Right on the doorstep of our very own Kilchoman Cottages is the aptly named Kilchoman Distillery. This distillery is a relatively new player to the Islay whisky scene, arriving in 2005. Prior to this, it had been 124 years before a distillery had opened on the island.

However, despite being a newcomer to Islay, their single malt whisky has achieved recognition of several awards – including the prestigious International Whisky Competition award of Whisky of the Year!

Today, Kilchoman Distillery’s whisky products are shipped worldwide. The great news is Kilchoman Distillery is open to the public for tours and whisky tasting!

 

Caol Ila Distillery

 

If whisky is your thing, then a trip to the Caol Ila Distillery is simply a must. Approximately a mile north from Port Askaig, this particular distillery has seen centuries of history pass by. 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. The Caol Ila distillery offer many options for tour experiences as well as whisky tasting.

 

Visiting Whisky Distilleries in Islay

 

Of course, all this whisky tasting can be utterly exhausting! Why not stay at one of our Kilchoman Cottages – after all, they’re only a stone’s throw away from the Kilchoman Distillery! Our lovely cosy cottages are the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and are situated at the heart of Islay’s natural beauty and only five minutes away from a beautiful beach.

Book now and get planning your trip around the whisky distilleries in Islay!

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Wildlife Spotting on Islay

A Stag on Islay

“Stag” by Matt Rollefson is licensed under CC by-NC-ND 2.0

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

 

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

 

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. Otters on the island are typically spotted on the north of Bunnahabain as well as on the Caol Ila beach.

 

Deer

 

Of course, no trip to the Scottish Highlands and Islands would be complete without spotting a stag! These majestic creatures can be spotted throughout the island – but be warned, 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

 

The beautiful species of brown hare can be found 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 are known for jumping out onto the road! If you’re lucky, you may even be privileged to watching the hares play together in groups.

 

Wildlife Spotting on Islay – Accommodation

 

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

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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!

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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.

 

 

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