One of the perks of being on Islay is the chance to visit a few neighbouring islands such as Jura, Colonsay and (indirectly) Oronsay. Where Jura is only a 5 minute ferry trip away from Port Askaig, the Isle of Colonsay requires a bit more planning. With the latter it all comes down to finding a nice day to make the trip from Port Askaig to Scalasaig, the main settlement on Colonsay. Make sure to check the weather beforehand. If the return ferry is on yellow alert you'd better stay on Islay to avoid cancellations and the chance to be stuck on Colonsay as it only sails to Islay twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday. There is a daily ferry service in the summer from Oban to Colonsay.
Kiloran Bay Colonsay
The Isle of Colonsay is easily accessible on foot, by bike or by car. There is one main circular road, single track, covering most of the island with a few minor roads going to Kiloran Bay in the north and Oronsay in the south. It's an ideal island for cycling and it's highly recommended to take your bicycle to Colonsay, it's free to take it with you on the ferry and you save £35.50 on ferry fares for your car. Alternatively you can hire a bike on the island for £10 a day. Read more...
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It's time to share a great Islay video with you. It's an exceptional good video as it contains some crips shots from a drone, but most of all it's from a stunning part of Islay not known with many folk. It shows parts of The Oa and the walk up to Soldiers Rock, an impressive Sea Stack within 20 metres from the cliffs. The drone footage is mostly of Soldiers Rock, the stunning surrounding landscape and Port Ellen. This one is highly recommended :-)
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The Cantilena Festival is a week of classical music concerts in venues throughout Islay. It consists a mix of professional players and young professional musicians who are senior students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS). The Festival gives Islay the opportunity to hear live classical music and, just as important, gives these young people a chance to work and learn from experienced musicians. The concerts are informal and there’s always a chance to chat to the players and learn how passionate they are about their music.
Sunday 7 July sees the start of the Festival when the opening concert in the Columba Centre, Bowmore, will feature our professional players in works by Mozart, Schumann and Shostakovich. This is followed on Monday evening at Laphroaig Distillery and our Young Professionals’ Showcase. Come along and listen to our extremely talented young professional musicians from RCS show off their skills in a varied programme.
Tuesday evening’s concert in Lagavulin will include works by Corelli, Vivaldi, Rossini Mendelssohn, and little-heard Scots composer Thomas Erskine and features all the Cantilena players. Back in Columba on Wednesday, Daniel Silcock, a senior piano student at RCS will return to Islay to present a recital of Debussy’s Preludes. The second half of the evening will feature chamber music by Brahms and Beethoven. Continue reading....
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I was invited today, Wednesday, by a few lovely ladies from the Rhinns who run the "Friends of Portnahaven Church Charity". The charity's aim is to keep the beautiful church in Portnahaven in a good condition for everyone to enjoy. The Portnahaven and Port Wemyss parish church, designed by Thomas Telford, is one of the few Telford churches in Scotland from which the design has been mostly unaltered. Islay has two other Telford churches, on one the Oa which is now ruined and the Kilmeny church near Ballygrant.
Maintaining the church is a very costly affair. 2011 for instance saw repairs to the Roof, the Skews and the Bell Tower costing well over £11.000 and in 2013 a further £8000 was spent in the upkeep of the church. And all this money has been raised locally. But more funding is needed if we all want to keep on enjoying this pretty church with its pink and white interior. And you can help! Continue reading....
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Recording the animals and plants in our surrounding environment is very important. It gives scientists an insight into the number and type of species and how it changes overtime, which helps conservation. Locally our Islay Natural History Trust (INHT) and RSPB record sightings of wildlife. For instance, the INHT has a large database with sightings of birds, plants, insects and other species. Malcolm Ogilvie can tell you all about it. The RSPB also records wildlife and focusses mainly on birds such as geese, corncrakes, chough, hen harriers and others for conservation purposes.
Nationally there are a few more organisations who are involved with recording sightings from the public for science such as the National Biodiversity Network, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the British Trust for Ornithology, the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust and quite a few more if you do a search on Google.
If you want to share your sightings with local or national organisations you need a description of the species, the date and time, preferably a good photo and of course the location of your sighting which you can then upload onto their websites or send them in by email. Some of them also provide an app to make it easier. Continue reading..
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When you have decided to holiday on Islay you are probably also planning on seeing some of the beautiful beaches, go for a few walks, visit your favourite distilleries and do some of the famous historic sites. And I hope that our Islay Info Website will provide you with enough information to learn more about everything Islay has to offer, which is quite a list.
For folk visiting for just a few days or a week it is not easy to make a choice, also considering the sometimes changeable weather. Wouldn't it therefore not be great if you would have an app on your smartphone which has everything Islay on it? An app:
- which is aware of your location and has listings of ALL the beaches, distilleries, restaurants, historic sites, taxi companies etc. on it?
- where you can choose what you want to do, shown in an orderly categorised way?
- that can show you exactly where everything is, give you directions and tells you more about the background, access or opening hours?
- that will allow you to make a reservation in a restaurant or book a tour, boat trip or taxi with a touch of your finger? Continue reading
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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...
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You probably wonder what the Mount Everest has to do with our Islay Blog? The Islay High School is raising funds for their India Project and what better way is there than to invite legendary mountaineer Doug Scott to Islay to give a talk about mountaineering and his personal experience as a lead climber which led him to the summit of Mount Everest in 1975.
Doug and Dougal Haston became the first Britons to reach the summit of Everest as lead climbers on Chris Bonington’s epic expedition to the mountain’s south-west face. As darkness fell they scraped a small cave in the snow 100 metres below the summit and survived the highest bivouac ever – without bottled oxygen, sleeping bags and, as it turned out, frostbite. For Doug Scott, it was the fulfilment of a fortune-teller’s prophesy given to his mother: that her eldest son would be in danger in a high place with the whole world watching. Scott and Haston returned home national heroes with their image splashed across the front pages. Scott went on to become one of Britain’s greatest ever mountaineers, pioneering new climbs in the remotest corners of the globe. Read more....
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A good tip when you're on Islay between May and October is to visit the Made on Islay & Jura Art & Craft Market. It's an opportunity to get to know some of the local artists and craftspeople, to find out what it's like to live and work on Islay and at the same time buy locally made items for yourself or as a gift for the people back home.
Islay & Jura Art and Craft Market in Bruichladdich Hall
There is a good variety of locally produced items from original paintings and high quality prints to photos, books, jewelry and quilting, which aren't for sale somewhere else on the island. If you can't find what you're looking for there's a good chance one of the artists can make it for you. All the more reason to pay them a visit at the Bruichladdich Hall.
The craft markets take place throughout the tourist season on Tuesdays and Thursdays, May to October, between 10:30 and 16:30. You can find these and other events listed in our Islay Events Calendar.
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The new Islay and Jura Distillery Tour Times Leaflet for 2019 has been published and is now available as download on the Islay Blog and for viewing online from all the Distillery Pages on Islay Info. New in this year's leaflet are the tour times for Ardnahoe Distillery, as well as info on Nerabus Gin Ltd and Lussa Gin on the Isle of Jura.
The Distillery Tour Times leaflet is typically the thing you need at hand when you are doing distillery tours on Islay and Jura as it has all information about:
- Opening Hours of all the whisky and gin distilleries on Islay and Jura
- Overview of the Special Distillery Tours
- Info on prices of Tours and Tastings
- A section with general info on eating out and public transport
With this in your pocket, or on your tablet or smartphone, you always know where to get a dram, public transport or a bite to eat! Continue reading...
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