Taste Islay and Jura Festival

Islay has a new festival to add to the growing number of annual events and this one has a focus on local produce in the widest sense of the word. The Taste Islay and Jura Festival is all about Food, Drink and Foraging. Both islands together have ten whisky distilleries and three gin distilleries. There is Islay Wines and Islay Ales and there is great food from the sea and land such as oysters, lobster, crab and fish and lamb, beef, venison and plenty of foraged foods too.

Taste Islay and Jura Weekend

The Taste Islay and Jura Festival will be held from Friday 20th – Sunday 22nd September 2019 and is organised by the local marketing group. There are many fantastic events taking place during this weekend so make sure to visit Islay and Jura and join the fun. Below is an overview of everything taking place but please note that some of these events have to be booked in advance. For bookings visit the new festival website

Friday 20th September

On Friday head over to Jura and Lussa Gin for a special Taste of Lussa Tour. A special 1 hour session discovering how the three women of Lussa create their gin, enjoy it paired with locally sourced venison and shellfish, all with a juniper influence. Read more.....

Kilchoman Distillery Ready for the Future

Scottish Whisky is booming and the production is on the rise in almost every distillery in Scotland. The rise in production comes from both the new distilleries that have been built, or are opening soon, as well as from the existing distilleries. If you look at Islay you can see that most distilleries have increased, sometimes doubled, their production in recent years, through distilling more hours per day and/or expanding the capacity itself.

One of these distilleries which have gone through this process is Kilchoman Distillery as their expansion plans have almost come to fruition, they are currently in the commissioning phase. This means that Kilchoman Distillery theoretically will be capable of producing 480,000 liters of alcohol annually. That is a huge achievement if you compare it to how they started in 2005 as a small scale farm distillery. In an article on their website Anthony Wills writes that "the investment of £6 million amounts to almost an entirely new distillery in itself". Read more...

Islay Book Festival 2019

International bestseller Ian Rankin headlines the 2019 Islay Book Festival next week with organisers gearing up for the biggest and most high-profile edition yet. The annual event, which has been switched from its previous slot at the end of September, runs from Thursday (Aug 29) to Sunday (Sep 1).

A well-known single malt fan, Rankin will be talking about how Islay’s iconic products have featured in his life and work to leading whisky writer Dave Broom in the Filling Store at Laphroaig Distillery on Friday.
That event has already sold out but there will be another chance to hear from the award-winning master of crime fiction at the Ramsay Hall on Saturday night.
There, Rankin will be talking about the huge changes that have taken place in the 30+ years of his most famous creation, Edinburgh detective John Rebus, in the company of leading historian Sir Tom Devine.

That is followed by a screening of Dave Broom and Adam Park’s acclaimed new whisky documentary “The Amber Light”, which looks at the connection between Scotland’s culture and its national drink. Both the Ramsay Hall events are backed by Diageo, this year’s lead sponsor of the book festival. Read more...

Events during Dunyvaig Castle Excavations

During the first excavation at Dunyvaig, in 2018, a spectacular item was found, the seal of Sir John Campbell of Cawdor (c. 1576-1642), who had taken ownership of Islay in 1615. The seal had lain on a clay floor within the castle for more than 400 years, buried below mounds of rubble from the collapsed defensive wall. Once used to sign and seal charters and legal documents, it is a circular disc of lead, carrying the inscription IOAN- NIS CAMPBELL DE CALDER. [Calder was the original spelling of Cawdor]. Finding the seal was a huge reward for the entire excavation team led by Islay Heritage, a Scottish Charity, and the University of Reading. The Seal is now on display in the Museum following an evening event on 12th August when Steve Mithen presented it.

Excavation at Dunyvaig Castle will resume for its second season on Thursday 15 August 2019. Everyone is invited to join Islay Heritage and University of Reading team at 11.00am that morning to start the dig – bring a spade (or borrow one of ours) to help de-turf and hear about the excavation.

The dig will continue until 3 September, with a team of 40 staff, students and volunteers. Islay Heritage has arranged a programme of events at the dig for everyone to join in with, engaging and learning about Islay’s heritage in new ways. Read more...

Islay to Colonsay Day Trips

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...

Amazing Islay Video of Soldiers Rock

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 :-)

Cantilena Festival Islay 19th season

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....

Visit Portnahaven On Wednesday for T in the Church

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....

iNaturalist - Identify and Record Wildlife on Islay

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..

The Islay Info App - Everything Islay in Your Pocket

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