The reason triggering my scribbles about some problems on Islay was an article I came across yesterday, which was spot on about some urgent issues on Islay. It's written by Lesley Riddoch and published in the online Scotsman. The title of the article is "Whisky leaves a bitter taste for Islay". So, what is wrong with Islay? Nothing I hear most of you say and on the surface, no not the road surface, all looks fine and dandy. But just as any place in the world Islay has its problems. The main problem Islay has is Infrastructure such as roads, ferries and broadband as well as housing. These problems cause anger and discontent amongst locals and sometimes also tourists, although the latter group only have to deal with them for a short period of time. The roads, most of them at least, are in a terrible state and need very urgent repairs. These roads were never built for the amount of heavy distillery lorries on Islay. Millions are needed but less and less money is spent on roads due to shrinking council budgets. A failing and crumbling infrastructure is a bad thing and has a huge impact on the economy and daily life of the islanders and its businesses.
The ferry service is adequate at best, most of the times, and inadequate some of the times, like the single ferry service in the run up to Easter. It's adequate when there are 5 to 6 sailings a day but that's far from ideal. Why not have a sailing from Islay at 5am for early travellers and freight? And one from Kennacraig at 7 or 8 pm? That schedule gives you a day in Glasgow for a hospital appointment or shopping and more options to catch an early plane in Glasgow or an onwards connection elsewhere. With such a schedule it's also easy to include an extra sailing when demand rises in busy periods. Do the maths and you'll see that it works! Continue reading...
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A gorgeous spring day today on Islay so we've been on a lovely walk near Portnahaven. We always stop at the Currie Sands, a lovely sheltered sandy beach which we usually have to ourselves, although perhaps no longer after this post! On the westside of the beach is a beautiful viewpoint and next to it is a crevice in the rocks where the water forces itselves through, especially with a nice swell. Beware though as it can be dangerous here too!! I've made a video of this mornings visit, hope you like it :-)
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It's been relatively quiet on our Islay Blog about Calmac Ferries. That doesn't mean that everything is plain sailing on the Kennacraig to Islay route. Every now and then one of the older ferries, the Hebridean Isles or Isle of Arran, experience problems and in busier times there is often a lack of capacity. And with the construction of more whisky distilleries on Islay the capacity will be stretched even further as a lot of additional freight will have to use the Calmac Ferries. And we shouldn't forget to mention the ever increasing number of tourists with their cars and motorhomes who visit Islay during the tourist season. It's therefore fantastic news that there is hope for more capacity in the near future, as you can read from the following article which was published in the Ileach last week:.
The next major ferry to be built for CalMac has been allocated to the Islay-Kennacraig route. In addition, adapting both the new vessel and the Finlaggan by ten metres will be considered, should Port Askaig, Port Ellen and Kennacraig be developed to enable larger ferries. These are among the recommendations contained in the recently released Transport Scotland Vessel Replacement and Deployment Plan, which contained evidence that the Islay service was forecast to become the most “capacity constrained” of all the CalMac routes. Continue reading...
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When a picture says more than a thousand words, a map with links will say more than a large menu on the Islay Info website. That was my intention when I built the new Discover Islay Map. No matter how well laid out one makes a website's menu, there is always too little space to mention everything in one go, especially with such a huge amount of pages. Hence the new map with many colourful markers and photos. The new Discover Islay Map is created using Google Maps and it's a public map, which means you can access it also outside our Islay Info website or embed it on your own site.
Each marker on the map has its own photo and will link to an article or page on the Islay Info website or Islay Blog. For first time Islay visitors, and hopefully for others too, this will hopefully be a very pleasant way to discover the island and get some further inspiration for lovely walks, places to see and things to do. It's a work in progress so it will be updated quite frequently. Below is a preview of the map, fully functional, a larger one is available on this page. Enjoy!
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There are some lovely walks to be made from Ballygrant. One of my favourites is the circular walk from Ballygrant to Caol Ila/Port Askaig using the footpath next to the mainroad on the way back. This walk is around 7 miles and can be a bit too long when you're walking with kids. There is also a shorter version which is 4 miles, that's the one we walked today. The weather was fabulous, blue skies, sunshine and a bit chilly but it's still winter after all! If you want to do this walk yourself you can follow the directions below.
You can park at Ballygrant Hall or take the bus. From the hall take the single track road leading into Dunlossit Estate (Mulindry). Keep left at the fork in the road and take the first forest track on your left. Follow this track for a few hundred metres and go left when you reach Loch Ballygrant. This is a beautiful mixed woodland area with lots of wildlife and it's quite sheltered too. You can follow this track for a mile until you reach a track and gate on your left. This gives access to a farm track leading over farmland and ends up at Keills Farm. Continue reading...
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The Youtube channel wilderness walker has a nice video titled "Grand tour of Islay" with some nice views of the An Cladach Bothy, north from the bothy at Proaig. A bothy is a shelter in a remote area where walkers can find a place to sleep or shelter. Bothies can't be booked, you just show up and use it, if available of course. Islay has only just these two bothies, one can be found at Proaig and one further north on Dunlossit Estate. You can actually see An Cladach when you're on the ferry to or from Port Askaig, not far from MacArthurs Head Lighthouse. The video shows a stay and comfy night, well at least I assume, in the bothy and some other views of Islay. Well worth watching so enjoy!
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Is this a booming time for Islay Whisky or what? New distilleries and plans for new distilleries seem to spring up like mushrooms as the demand for Islay Single Malt Whisky is growing year after year. A few weeks ago I wrote about the possiblity that Islay could have fourteen whisky distilleries in the near future, that Ardnahoe will start production this year and Bunnahabhain Distillery has plans to completely renovate their distillery. And now Ardbeg Distillery has announced that it will double its production due to meet rising demand. Work to achieve this will be completed in 2018 according to a press release. The world’s passion for Ardbeg has surged since 1997, when the Distillery -then closed- was bought by The Glenmorangie Company and reopened.
Since its renaissance, Ardbeg has enjoyed year-on-year growth, due in no small part to its loyal following, the Ardbeg Committee. This project will double production capacity, increasing the number of stills from two to four while continuing to craft whisky using the same artisanal methods. Marc Hoellinger, President and CEO of The Glenmorangie Company, said: “We are delighted by Ardbeg’s success since 1997 – and by the growing passion for our whisky from fans around the world. Ardbeg has been distilled on Islay since 1815 and, with a new still house, we will pave the way for future generations of smoky malt whisky lovers to discover The Ultimate Islay Malt.”
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It's the end of February, the days are getting longer, and every now and then there's already a touch of spring in the air. Isn't it lovely after the wet winter! It's a relatively quiet time of the year on Islay with the tourism season to start officially early April. The last few days brought us glorious weather so I took some time for a walk in the woods at Bridgend to admire the Snowdrops. I've done this several times over the last years and it looks as if there were more of these pretty flowers this year than in other years. Of course I took my camera and you can see the results in this post. Speaking of weather. Although we had some lovely sunny days this week it looks like winter has yet to start properly. According to Netweather the "Beast from the East" will bring chilly winds, frost and perhaps snow too, even on Islay!
As far as changes are concerned there are a few things of interest. Recently we've upgraded some of our sites and changed the web address as well. The Islay Blog you are reading right now has changed address and can now be found on https://www.islay.blog which is easier to remember and now secure (SSL) too. Also our Accommodation Directory has a fresh new look and a new secure address: https://www.accommodation-islay.info/. Soon the Islay Info website will be secured as well which means that your information, if entered anywhere on our websites, will be encrypted and secure. Continue reading...
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I was updating the Islay Whisky Distilleries Page on Islay Info today with an updated map, new photos and updated texts. While I was creating the map I made an overview of the eight active distilleries. I also included the four planned distilleries being Ardnahoe Distillery, Port Ellen Distillery, Gartbreck Distillery and Port Charlotte Distillery. The status of some is somewhat uncertain at the moment.
From Ardnahoe we know that they will probably start producing whisky this year and Port Ellen is planned for 2020.
Gartbreck Distillery is uncertain, there was a dispute about land, but that seems to be resolved now. It is not known to me if construction of the distillery is still on the horizon. Fingers crossed though as the location is quite amazing.
And there is Port Charlotte Distillery. From the four planned distilleries this seems to be the least probable one to come to fruition. But one never knows.... Continue reading....
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Bunnahabhain Distillery on Islay is in line for a multi-million pound make-over after plans were lodged with Argyll and Bute Council’s Planning Department. If approved the plans would see the Distillery change dramatically, offering improvements logistically, from a production perspective, and also a much enhanced visitor experience.
Removal of Old Warehouses
Part of the proposed plans see the removal a number of the existing old warehouses, the filling store and the current shop which is located in the building beside the pier. Also destined for removal are the old village hall and the run down houses which once provided homes for the distillery workers. The cottages on Shore Road are planned to be refurbished with a view to bringing them back as holiday lets. The newfound space which will be freed up will enable the articulated lorries which deliver barley and remove spirit, casks and draff, to gain access from the the top end of the distillery and avoid the route they currently must take around the tight bend and down into the heart of the distillery. Continue reading....
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