It's obvious that the Port Askaig Hotel has had some problems with the continuous reconstruction works at the harbour and pier that have been going on for seven years now, and it really has taken her toll. But now, after all this time, the harbour reconstruction works are almost ready and Port Askaig starts to look better with each visit. The hotel, run and owned by the Spears family for 50 years (past October), will also receive necessary renovations to bring it up to standard, both from the outside and the inside. Plans for the hotel renovation were postponed each time but now that the harbour reconstruction is almost ready it is a good time to start. The hotel is in a unique location and Port Askaig deserves a modern and well equipped hotel, after all, it's the first thing people see when arriving on Islay and it has been for hundreds of years. The present owners believe that the part of the building housing the old bar is around 500 years old. The first phase of the hotel renovation has already started and the second phase will take place next year. Marion Spears explains what has been done and what the future renovation plans are for the Port Askaig Hotel:
"We had existing two bedrooms which were not en-suite, one of those has now been joined with the next door room to create a roomy triple bedroom with en-suite shower and bath. This room enjoys a great view over the harbour and across the Sound of Islay. The second room, originally a small double, we have now made into a small en-suite single, both these rooms will be ready for Easter. The former private apartment is in course of being renovated to create 3 large en-suite bedrooms to the front of the building, each will be able to sleep at least 3 persons. It is intended that two of these rooms will be ready in time for Feis Ile and the third in June. It is likely that the third room will be made suitable for those with mobility difficulties. We are fortunate that by using both of the existing entrances to the building guests already have easy access to rooms and to the public areas without steps/ stairs. Continue reading.....In June and onward we will create a reception area and small office on the ground floor and replace flooring/carpeting in the hotel public areas - eg restaurant - snug bar/entrance hallways/stairs. In addition most of the existing bedrooms will have a makeover of carpets etc. The old bar with its collection of Malts is to remain as it is, the only change there is that we once again have a real fire after 15 or so years without. The exterior of the building will benefit from fresh paint and signage as soon as weather permits, not forgetting a garden tidy up.
Our second phase next year will include updating existing en-suite facilities and providing shower facilities for visiting sea farers, it is also hoped to make our large residents lounge more comfortable for our guests - although the lovely antique furniture will remain. This room on the first floor is very popular with our resident guests as it affords them a superb view of the harbour and surroundings and is ideal for groups of up to twenty or so to get together in the evenings to discuss the day, particularly useful for bird watchers and the geology groups who come to investigate the world renown Port Askaig boulder base(tilite). Malt whisky enthusiasts are more likely to be found gathered in the Old Port Bar!!
Meantime as a local couple we will continue the tradition of a warm Islay welcome at Port Askaig Hotel. The bar will be as cosy & friendly as ever and our live music on Friday evenings will be a feature throughout the summer season as usual with Eddie, Donnie David and friends/Dunstan and Dougie of CONTRABAND and some visiting artists/travelling players, not forgetting the excellent Karaoke Kings from the CalMac crews who are great sports and always welcome."
Perhaps the scale of the renovation of Port Askaig Hotel is not as grand as the complete reconstruction of Port Ellen Hotel, but it's obvious that Islay will benefit from the upgrade of the hotels at both ferry ports. After all, both ports will look more friendly and inviting. Thanks very much Marion for sharing this with all the readers and good luck with the reconstruction works!