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Discovering Islay

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For someone who has spent virtually their entire life living in Scotland, I'm ashamed to say that there is a lot of this beautiful country that I haven’t seen. I've never been to Dumfries. The furthest North I've ever been is Inverness. I've only been to Aberdeen once. My feet have never set foot on many of the Western Isles, including Skye, Mull, or Harris. Yes, it's fair to say that I could do with seeing a lot more of this fair land I call home.

One of the main reasons for this is that I am a bit of a creature of habit. For many years, I've been in the habit of returning to the same places over and over again because I like to visit them so much. One such place is the stunning Isle of Islay. The island lies off the West coast of the country next outer leg of Kintyre between the isles of Jura and Colonsay. World famous for its whisky, you’ll find eleven operating distilleries on Islay, which is impressive, considering the island only has a population of just over 3,000.

Being a Scottish location, if you’re travelling from the mainland, getting to Islay isn’t an expensive affair. If money is a little tight, many Scottish Banks are willing to lend support to help you have the holiday you deserve. The slightly more costly option is to travel by air. Planes regularly depart from Glasgow International Airport, and the flight only takes 45 minutes. However, the best way to travel once you’re on Islay is definitely by car.

You can take your own car to the island via a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Kennacraig to either Port Ellen or Port Askaig. Once there, you’ll find plenty to do, regardless of the type of holiday you might be looking for. For those seeking a relaxing holiday, the Strand and Kilnaughton beaches, on an ever elusive warm Scottish day, are as beautiful as any sandy beaches you’d find on the Mediterranean. Quality restaurants located in the Lochside Hotel and the Machrie give a real taste of the island.

For the history buffs, the Kildalton Cross is definitely worth a visit. Dating back to the 8th century, within the ground of the oddly ethereal Kildalton church, the Kildalton Cross is considered to be the finest example of a surviving Celtic cross in all of Scotland. The American monument on the Island’s stunningly remote South West Coast commemorates the sinking of US two troops in 1918. The monument itself is a few miles walk from the nearest road, and can only be reached on foot, but the views are breath-taking.

No visit to Islay would be complete without a tour of its world beating whisky distilleries. Lagavullin, Laphroig, and Ardbeg are all within a mile of each other, and can be visited within a morning. The café in the Ardbeg distillery is particularly good for a spot of lunch, especially if you need to line your stomach before a whisky sampling! There’s plenty to see and visit in the idyllic towns of Bowmore (famous for its round church), Port Charlotte, and the aforementioned Port Ellen. (Who likes pitch and putt?!)

So the next time you’re thinking about taking a trip to somewhere in Scotland that you’ve never been, why not look West and visit Islay? You’ll be surprised at what you might discover!       



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