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.