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Wining and dining on Islay

In my Islay travelogue I already mentioned the superb dinner we had at the Harbour Inn in Bowmore. We enjoyed the best (Islay) steak we ever had complimented with Haggis and an Islay Ale. So it doesn't come as a suprise that the Observer newspaper's restaurant critics placed the Harbour Inn in the top 50 of the “nation’s best for the perfect summer’s lunch”, with the following enthusiastic entry:

“This whitewashed Inn serves dishes that are firmly built on the island’s produce; oysters gratinéed with leeks and cream, baked crab with a soufflé topping and Lagavulin Bay scallops are just a few examples from their mouth-watering menu. You can practically smell the fresh shellfish being unloaded at the harbour from the Inn’s restaurant but local game and meat are also superb.”

Islay Books and Bookshop

There is a large variety of books about Islay available, from history, travelguides, wildlife and of course whisky related books. Last year I started an association with amazon.co.uk to put book adds on the Islayinfo website but even then it is hard to get an overview of all the books available. That is one of the reasons I started an Islay Bookshop on the Islay info website. The bookshop currently has 15 Islay related books and 8 different maps on offer through Amazon. They all have a detailed description wich makes it easy to select your favourite book or map. If you like a compact and complete overview of Islay with some excellent photography the book from Norman Newton will be a good buy. It gives a great overview of Islay and practical tips and walks. If you however want to read more about Islay history in depth I suggest the book Biography of an Island from Dr. Margaret Storrie. The best book according to many and my personal favourite as well. And what is a trip to Islay without some background knowlegde of the Distilleries on the island. Neil Wilson wrote a book called the Island Whisky Trail for the whisky enthusiast. It has a comprehensive section about the Islay Distilleries and information about Islay's lost distilleries of Port Ellen and Lochindaal (Port Charlotte). The bookshop furthermore has a map section where more and less detailed maps ara avaible for touring the Island or very detailed Ordnance Survey maps for the demanding walker.

So please feel free to browse the Islay Bookshop

Islay's Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve

Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve is an important area for wildlife, home to large numbers of Barnacle and White-fronted gees in the wintertime. In spring Loch Gruinart is full of life with breeding wading birds such as Lapwings, snipe and redshanks. At night the Corncrake is a prominent guest. The picture is made in the wintertime at Loch Gruinart where Roe Deer are crossing the loch. Arra Fletcher from the Persabus Pottery was kind enough to send me this picture.

In earlier days the Gruinart Flats were flooded at high tyde all the way up to Druim na h-Erasaid untill a dutch man was hired to build an original Dutch polder. When he arrived around 1850 a dyke was built creating extra grasslands for the Geese. The idea behind it was that the Geese would leave the grasslands from the farmers alone and stay in their designated area. Wishfull thinking at that time and the Geese continued to graze on the farm lands leaving the farmers with a problem. Nowadays the farmers are financially compensatated by the government for letting Geese graze on their land.

Besides a Nature Reserve Loch Gruinart is a magnificant place for walks on one of the stunning beaches on either side of the Loch. Close to the RSPB visitor centre at Aoradh Farm is a bird hide and a wonderful sheltered woodland walk. The finest walks however can be made on the west side of the loch where a circular walk takes you up to Ardnave point. Just before the parking place on the right are the remains of the ancient village of Tayovulin. In the early days a place where a few hundred people lived and worked in the herring industry. Another wonderful walk can be made on the east side of the Loch crossing Killinallan Point towards Gortantaoid Point. From there on Islay becomes almost inaccessible except for the more experienced walker. This is also a part of Islay where Jeremy Hastings from Islay Bushcraft takes people on a bushcraft course.

Bowmore Limited 1989 Edition

In 1779, a farmer named David Simson founded a distillery on the shores of Loch Indaal which is known today as Bowmore. Bowmore is the oldest legal distillery on Islay. It is owned and operated by Morrison Bowmore, which in turn is owned by Suntory of Japan.

Like almost all the Islay whiskies, Bowmore single-malt whiskies have that peaty quality that drinkers either love or hate, but it's a bit lighter and less aggressive than, say, Laphroaig or Ardbeg. Now Bowmore has come out with a limited production of a single-vintage whisky. The Bowmore Limited 1989 Edition is fairly soft but very complex. It is bottled at cask strength, with 51.8 percent alcohol, yet surprisingly gentle. Promising for a cold winter evening ;-)

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