Guide to Islay Festival 2019

In one week the Islay Festival will start, on Friday the 24th of May to be precise, and it's going to be another fabulous Feis Ile week! Tourism is booming and many folk on Islay are busy with the preparations before the Calmac ferries will bring thousands of visitors to the island who will join, and hopefully enjoy, the many events and open days. Fingers crossed for great weather!! The Islay Festival Committee has been extremely busy and have organised a fabulous week with many events such as the first fling, final fling, tastings etc. Check out this link for the full programme. Unfortunately most of them are fully booked but there are still tickets available for some of the events so make sure to book now here and check further below for an overview.

The distilleries on Islay all have their open days and also offer many other tours and tastings throughout the week. New this year is of course Ardnahoe Distillery, Islay's ninth, and therefore the distillery open day programme has been slightly altered:

The Islay Festival 2019 Distillery Programme

Islay House Hotel and Port Ellen Maltings will kick off the festival on Friday the 24th. Islay House Hotel, together with the Scottish Malt Whisky Society, will offer music, games, bbq and tastings, see programme. Port Ellen Maltings will give tours starting at 11am till 2pm. A unique opportunity to watch the maltings in action. For more info and to book visit check out the Lagavulin Programme for more info. Read more...

Saturday is traditionally Lagavulin Open Day and they have a lots of activities with the coopers, music, boat trips around the bay with a dram, whisky tastings and much more. The Sunday is reserved for Bruichladdich Distillery, the busiest event of the festival week with bands such as Skerryvore and Trail West. There are food stalls, Islay arts and crafts, Islay Ales, Botanist Gin tent and Lots more. There is a free bus service from Bowmore and Port Ellen and a shuttle service from Uiskentuie Strand which is highly recommended as parking near the distillery will be problematic that day. For more info you can download the programme here

Monday is where things have been changed as both Islay Ales and Caol Ila will have their open days. Caol Ila has a great programme with the band Trail West for the musical backdrop. The coopers will be there and there are boat trips on the Sound of Islay as well as a whisky and music pairing session.
From 10am onwards you're welcome in Islay House Square in Bridgend for the Islay Ales open day. They will have a great selection of Ales, Lussa Gin from Jura will be there as well and there's great music from Reely Jiggered and Eddy & Woody and lots of other activities. full programme here

Tuesday sees Laphroaig Open Day with lots of activities, Islay Arts and Crafts, Music and a variety of tours, tastings and a Ceilidh which will be held on Sunday the 26th. Everything can be booked online through this link. On Wednesday you can enjoy the many activities at Bowmore Distillery as they are offering "A spirited day of lively music, master classes, and more!" You're welcome from 11am onwards, see full programme. New kid on the block Ardnahoe will have their first Islay Festival open day this year and from what I've seen they are well prepared with a great line-up of tastings and tours. Jim McEwan will do a special tasting and there will be an advanced screening of the film Water of Life featuring Jim McEwan which will take place on the 24th of May. For the programme and bookings click here

Kilchoman has an interesting programme on Thursday with tours, tastings, three bands playing throughout the day in the Music Marquee, local meats served from the BBQ, light bites from the Salad Bar and plenty of great Kilchoman drams for you to enjoy. If the weather is nice you can walk around the 400 acres of barley fields and have a closer look at future whiskies! more info here

The Friday events are mostly in the north of Islay and on the neighbouring Isle of Jura. Bunnahabhain is always a special day and with the right kind of weather a treat with the magnificent views towards the Paps of Jura and the visiting sailing ships such as the Dutch Thalassa. There will be music, art stalls, good food and plenty of drams. Make the trip!. If you're on time you can visit the Isle of Jura Distillery in Craighouse, a short ferry ride across the sound of Islay and a few miles on the beautiful road from Feolin to Craighouse offering magnificent views over the Sound of Islay. Jura open day is from 10am – 4.30pm with live music, a dramming bar and ticketed tours. See website for more details

The final day of Feis Ile 2019, Saturday 1st of June, is Ardbeg Day and every year there is a special theme. And this year is going to be special too; "This year for Feis Ile, we’re adding a dash of carnival colour to our customary celebrations, with a truly thrilling Caribbean twist to the week." It's going to be a great day with a wonderful atmosphere as usual and the good news is that Iain will be there with his original Arbroath Smokies! See programme

Feis Ile Committee and other Events throughout the Week

Monday 27th May is the Nerabus Islay Gin Event in Bruichladdich Hall. There is a cocktail bar and live music and you're welcome from noon onwards. Tickets are £15 and includes a Nerabus Gin and Tonic plus food!

Also in Bruichladdich Hall, but on Wednesday 29th May, is an evening with Robin Laing, not to be missed! For £15, includes a dram, you'll have a great evening! Doors open 7.30pm. Tickets available here. There's also a Ceilidh, the clootie dumpling ceilidh, in Ballygrant Hall starting at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10 children free.

The Indie Whisky Fèis Ìle, which is hosted by Feis Ile & Bruce Farquhar from Dramfool starts at 12pm in Bowmore Hall. As a side event there will be a masterclass by whisky blender and brand manager Steven Shand from Wemyss Malts, start at 1pm. Tickets available here

Martine Nouet will be hosting a unique tasting, an art and whisky pairing event. Martine will present 4 Caol Ila malts and Dietmar Finger will interpret them live from a blank canvas. this event will take place on Thursday 30th May at Caol Ila distillery from 10.30 to 12.30. Send an email to if you are interested.

Friday 31st of May in Bowmore Hall is a Sing a Long morning with The Music Man, Gary Coupland. It starts at 10am, teas/coffees and cake provided. All welcome.

Music in the Islay Hotels

The Lochside Hotel in Bowmore has a fantastic music line-up for the Feis week. Here goes:
Friday 24th, A.I MacInnes, Sat 25th, Skerryvore, Sunday 26th, Black Rock Ceilidh Band, Monday 27th A.I MacInnes, Tuesday 28th Black Rock Ceilidh Band, Wednesday 29th Trail West, Thursday 30th A'Hooligan, Friday 31st and Sat 1st June Budda & The Band, Sat 2nd June A"Hooligan.

The Port Charlotte Hotel has the following artists in the bar from 8.30pm: Sat 25th Reely Jiggered, Sunday 26th Donnie & Co, Monday 27th Blackrock Ceilidh Band, Tuesday 28th Reely Jiggered, Wed 29th Donnie & Co, Friday 31st Rhythm & Booze Project, Sat 2nd June Donnie & Co.

Thursday 30th May, 9pm, you can see the Coaltown Daisies in The Islay Hotel in Port Ellen.

Driving Tips and Info for Motorhomes

Make sure to drive very carefully as many folk are not used to driving on single track roads and/or driving on the left. There are also many lambs close to the roads and they behave rather unpredictable. For driving tips on single track roads visit our single track roads guide.

Another good piece of advice is for motorhomes. There are two places on Islay where the contents of your chemical toilet can be disposed and they are the Port Mor Campsite in Port Charlotte and the Campervan Stop in Port Ellen behind the petrol station. Please use these facilities and don't dump the contents of your chemical toilet in Islay's precious nature. Thank you!

Other Relevant Info

We wish everyone a most enjoyable and happy Festival Week!