Travel journal: Islay, Scotland

The next stop on our Scottish adventure after Edinburgh was Islay, a tiny island known for making big whiskies. We traveled here specifically for the whisky, as we were in the company of two dudes whose favorite whiskies come from this region. I didn't take many photos during the whole Scotland trip and this leg of the journey particularly is lacking in photographic evidence. Many of the photos I did take are cell phone photos, but hey, I was enjoying myself too much to worry about documenting every little thing.

Islay-Scotland-travel-guide

Islay is not only beautiful once you're there; it's also quite the scenic journey to get there. We traveled by train to Glasgow, then hopped on a coach bus to the Kennacraig Ferry Terminal. As if signaling what was to come, we expected to wait three hours at the ferry terminal for the only ferry that day heading to our destination, Port Ellen. But, as luck would have it, the ferry was waiting just for us to head off to Port Askaig, where we were told we could save three hours of our time and catch a half hour cab ride to Port Ellen instead of waiting for the next ferry. Success! As far as cab companies in Islay go, we used Carol's Cabs and highly recommend her. For all of our longish cab rides, Carol was our driver and as a born and bred Islay resident, she was wonderful to chat with about the area.

Islay-Scotland-travel-guide
Islay-Scotland-travel-guide

We checked into our Airbnb upon arrival and found the owner manning the bar at the pub she owns in town, Ardview Inn. Pleasant locals filled this place regularly and Yvonne, the owner, has a stellar selection of local whiskies (rare ones, too!) available. And don't even think about asking for a key to lock up - no one locks their doors in Islay.

Islay-Scotland-travel-guide

The next day, we rented bicycles from another lovely local, Jim. His shop Islay Cycles is run out of his house and he provided us with lovely bicycles for a leisurely day of cycling to distilleries, as well as wonderful conversation. We spent almost an hour chatting with him when we returned the bikes.

 Photo credit: Annie of  Give Me Meatloaf

Photo credit: Annie of Give Me Meatloaf

Islay-Scotland-travel-guide

During our self-led distillery tour, we started with a tour of Ardbeg Distillery. The most surprising thing about most of these distilleries is that not too long ago, they were all either shut down or on the verge of shutting down. And in a relatively short amount of time, due to changing tastes and well-timed sales, their production and popularity skyrocketed. Islay is known for its heavily-peated whiskies and Ardbeg makes some of the peatiest. This means Islay whiskies smell and taste smokey, though some Islay distilleries do produce unpeated whisky.

Islay-Scotland-travel-guide
Islay-Scotland-travel-guide
Islay-Scotland-travel-guide

The next day, we headed to Port Charlotte and started with a seafood-heavy feast at Yan's Kitchen. We then walked to Bruichladdich for the warehouse experience. If the weather is sunny (not too likely in Scotland), the walk shouldn't be too bad. However, there is no pedestrian walkway and it's quite long if you get caught in the rain and wind as we did. Nevertheless, we made it to Bruichladdich where we were led to the barrel warehouse, where four barrels were set up in front of a smattering of tables and chairs. Our tour guide told us a bit about the distillery before getting to the tasting portion of the experience. We were able to try some truly rare whiskies while being encouraged to explore the warehouse, take pictures, etc. The tasting room at Bruichladdich was great, too! So, if you are unable to get a ticket for a tour, pop in anyway for a tasting!

Islay-Scotland-travel-guide
Islay-Scotland-travel-guide
Islay-Scotland-travel-guide
Islay-Scotland-travel-guide

After our warehouse tasting, Carol whisked us away to Islay Airport for our 20-minute flight to our next stop - Glasgow! For whisky fans or anyone just looking for a gorgeous getaway, Islay is perfect for a relaxing spot to slow down for a few days. Have any questions? Comment below and I'll help out if I can.