The Oban Times - - FEATURE -

IS­LAY is called the Queen of the He­brides. And no won­der­with a sur­feit of whisky dis­til­leries, in­cred­i­ble wildlife, warm hos­pi­tal­ity and amaz­ing scenery, Is­lay is a top rate hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion.

The gen­tlest and most southerly of the In­ner He­brides, Is­lay is cov­ered in peat, a vi­tal com­po­nent in the pro­duc­tion of the sin­gle malt whiskies for which it is best known.

The is­land has eight work­ing dis­til­leries and the jour­ney be­tween them dou­bles as a dis­cov­ery route of its highlights – from the towns of Port Ellen and Bow­more, to Caol Ila, with views across to Jura, and the sandy Machir Bay, near Kil­choman.

It is worth look­ing up­wards and out to sea as well as into your glass, be­cause there is as much va­ri­ety to Is­lay’s wildlife as to its sin­gle malts. The is­land boasts over 250 species of bird, in­clud­ing the rare black­bird-like chough, and it is an im­por­tant win­ter­ing ground for bar­na­cle and white-fronted geese.

A trip from Port Ellen to the Oa, the is­land’s southerly tip, is a chance to ex­pe­ri­ence scenic highlights in­clud­ing the in­trigu­ing square Car­raig Fhada light­house and the Amer­i­can Mon­u­ment.

Fin­lag­gan, on a se­cluded loch in the north- east of Is­lay, was once the seat of the Lord of the Isles and cen­tre of power for an en­tire ter­ri­tory. It’s hard to en­vis­age, but from the 13th cen­tury rulers made this re­mote spot their base – its po­si­tion at the heart of the He­brides per­fect for lead­ers who ruled and con­quered by sea.

Din­ers on Is­lay are spoiled for choice, par­tic­u­larly in the is­land’s most pop­u­lous vil­lage, Bow­more. Seafood and fish are pre­pared and served fresh from the boats, along with a va­ri­ety of de­li­cious dishes- all of which are even bet­ter ac­com­pa­nied by a dram of fine Is­lay whisky. Wel­com­ing ho­tels, B & Bs, lodges and camp­sites prof­fer fa­mous is­land hos­pi­tal­ity.

A hol­i­day on Is­lay can be laid back or ac­tive. Cy­cling, fish­ing, horse rid­ing, hill walk­ing and golf­ing on world class cour­ses is all on of­fer, and for those who like to watch the world go by, driv­ing tours take in the lovely is­land scenery.

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