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 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 ;-)

Lochindaal distillery aka Port Charlotte

Lochindaal was a purpose-built distillery in the Rhinns of Islay which survived in the 20th century. Located in the heart of Port Charlotte village it was constructed for its first licensee, Colin Campbell, in 1829. He only held onto it for two years and subsequently it had many owners: McLennan & Grant from 1831-2; George McLennan 1833-5; Walter Graham 1837; Henderson Lamont & Co until 1852; Rhinns Distillery Co 1852; William Guild & Co to 1855 before a period of stability under the ownership of John B Sherrif until 1895 and then J B Sherrif & Co Ltd up to 1921. It was eventually taken over by Benmore Distilleries Ltd in 1921 prior to that company's acquisition by the DCL. That signalled the end of Lochindaal and it closed in 1929.

Some of it was used by the Islay Creamery until the early 1990's and the shore-side warehouses remain in use by a local garage and the Islay Youth Hostel and Field Centre, whilst a roadside building is now used for vehicle repairs and the distillery cottage is inhabited. The bonded warehouses on the hill behind the distillery site have been in continuous use by other distillers and are currently used by the Bruichladdich Distillery. This is one lost distillery on Islay that has a good photographic history, which clearly records the distillery site during its century of operation

Update: In spring 2007 Bruichladdich announced the reopening of the Lochindaal Distillery and will be called the Port Charlotte Distillery