Dear readers and followers, I'd like to wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year. I realise my Islay Blog has been quiet in December, this was due to a huge workload and some very necessary time off. However, we are now starting up again and behind the scenes is enough going on to make 2019 an exciting year but more about that later here.
2019 will again be a busier, tourism wise, than the previous years. This is a trend that's continuing for as long as I'm webmaster of the Islay Info website and it's confirmed by many tourism related folk I talk to on Islay. The tourist season is stretching and more and more visitors find their way to Islay in months which hardly saw any visitors some 15 years ago.
With the expansion of the current Islay Distilleries and the construction of new distilleries whisky tourism will also get an extra boost. Almost every distillery on Islay is either increasing capacity and/or working on providing a better service for their visitors, think for instance of the recently accounced plans for a state of the art visitor centre at Caol-Ila distillery. This is also the year that Ardnahoe Distillery will open its doors for visitors and Elixir Distillers have submitted revised plans for Farkin Distillery, between Port Ellen and Laphroaig, with underground warehousing for their new venture. And last but not least, work will begin this year on the Diageo site at Port Ellen with the reconstruction of Port Ellen Distillery. Read more...
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The beautiful village of Port Charlotte on the Isle of Islay has a primary school with pre5 unit who are looking for a new head teacher, starting as soon as possible! I might be biased here as my daughter is a pupil but this school is fantastic. Its dedicated team of teachers, classroom assistants, cook and janitor as well as the beautiful location make it unique and are reflected in the pupils' motivation and love for their wee school.
The current head teacher, Danielle Vessey, is leaving us unfortunately so therefore it would be great if we could find someone on short notice. If there's a head teacher out there, or someone who wants to become a head teacher, I can very much recommend considering a move to our beautiful island. Islay is a safe place for kids and it's also a place with a good community sense. No need to lock your doors or car here!!
The closing date for this job is the 7th of December so you have to act fast! The council is offering a great salary as well as a relocation package. This is your chance to live and work on the most beautiful island in Scotland. For more info and to apply for the job please visit this link.
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The ferry winter schedule is in operation from end of October 2018 until 28th of March 2019. This is the period that it's somewhat quieter on the ferries and also the period that the two regular Islay Ferries, the Finlaggan and Hebridean Isles, get their annual maintenance period. In the past this has caused disruptions around the start of the tourist season around Easter time as the return of one of the ferries was delayed. For 2019 the maintenance schedule looks more favourable as both ferries will have had their annual maintenance before the end of February. Islay will return to a two vessel service starting the 15th of February 2019, if all goes as planned. Fingers crossed here. If you're keen to know what and how many ferries are doing the Islay service this winter please check the table below. And as always, if you want to know if ferries are disrupted and what your rights as passenger are please read this article. Continue reading....
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In January 2015 the first edition of These Men are Worth your Tears was published. A book written by Stuart Graham which covered the horrors of WW1 and tells the story of the many soldiers from Islay and Jura who went to war for their country, and of those who never returned from the battlefields on the continent, leaving local families behind grieving for their loved ones.
Today, Armistice Day 2018, 100 Years After the end of the Great War, I've read the second edition of Stuart Graham's book and was moved by the personal stories of events on Islay and elsewhere, as well as seeing the many photos and reading the sometimes intimate stories of local casualties. The names of the soldiers who paid the highest price possible can be found on the war memorials in the villages on Islay and Jura:
Well over 200 soldiers from Islay and Jura were killed in the Great War. The memorial in Bowmore has 37 names on it, Port Charlotte 37 as well, Portnahaven 13, Kilmeny 22, Port Ellen 78 and Jura 14.
Names on a memorial, well known for some, unknown for others, but very much respected by us all. In Stuarts book they become more than a name as you can read where they served in the war, which battles they fought, from which families on Islay and Jura they are from and where they lived. There are also many photos, giving these brave heroes a face. Continue reading...
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NOISE (New Opera in Scotland Events) presents: A new opera, Navigate the Blood, by indie folk-rock band Admiral Fallow and Gareth Williams. The opera is set in the world of whisky and gin manufacturing and will be touring distilleries throughout Scotland from 02 November until 24 November. Navigate the Blood follows the story of Bob and Lena, a husband and wife running a small independent distillery in rural Scotland. Their son Liam disappeared in mysterious circumstances three years ago. Living and working with them is a young Polish woman named Agata. She wants to modernise the distillery by making gin as well as whisky. Into this situation comes Elijah, a young man with a strange, otherworldly presence. Elijah looks and moves very like the lost boy…
The location for this event is Ballygrant Hall Islay and it will take place on Sunday 11 November at 3pm. For more info visit www.noiseopera.com. Tickets available via
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Islanders, and descendants of American soldiers and British crewmen who lost their lives when HMS Otranto sank off Islay, gathered to pay their respects on Saturday ( 6 October) at a commemoration on the island to mark the centenary WW1’s worst convoy.
HMS Otranto, a former luxuryliner that had been requisitioned by the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the war, was the flagship of a 13-vessel convoy bringing thousands of US troops to the conflict on the Western Front. But, caught in Force 11 gale and unsure of her position, the Otranto collided with another ship in her convoy, HMS Kashmir. While the Kashmir managed to limp to the Clyde, the powerless Otranto was driven by the storm towards the treacherous coast of Islay.
British destroyer, HMS Mounsey, commanded by Lieutenant Francis Craven, dashed to rescue 600 men from the Otranto, but nearly 500 men were still aboard when it struck a reef off Kilchoman Bay, on Islay’s west coast. Local shepherds and farmers rushed to the shore and pulled survivors from the pounding surf, but, of the men still on board the Otranto when it struck the reef, only 19 survived. The islanders tended the survivors and, although many of Islay’s able men had already been killed or were still at war, scoured the rugged coast to recover bodies and did all they could to identify them and bury them with honour. Continue reading....
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Exciting news for those travelling to and from Islay by air. Yesterday Loganair announced that starting next year, on the 31st of March 2019, they will operate a direct link between Edinburgh and Islay. This in addition to the current direct link between Glasgow and Islay. It's in fact the first link between Edinburgh and one of the Hebridean islands.
A 34 seat aircraft, likely a Saab 340, will fly up to 7 days weekly from Edinburgh to Islay and back, with a flight time of 45 minutes. The plane is scheduled to leave Edinburgh around noon and leaves Islay Airport around 2pm. This is not a year round link as it only operates from the 31st of March to the 26th of October. At the time of writing a single journey started at around £80.
You can book your Edinburgh to Islay flight on the Logain Air website: www.loganair.co.uk where you can also book flights from Glasgow to Islay.
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This year’s Islay Sessions will take place from 23 to 25 November, with a very varied and exciting line up planned. Kicking off the weekend of events will be Irish fiddler Grainne Brady with an intimate concert in the Port Charlotte Hotel conservatory. Joined by Andrew Waite and Innes White, Grainne will be launching her debut album The Road Across the Hills. The music explores the social themes associated with the mass immigration of the Irish to Scotland, particularly at the start of the 20th century. Taking inspiration from Donegal writer Patrick MacGillâs novel ̃Children of the Dead End, the music acts as a soundtrack to the story.
Playing at the Saturday night concert in Bruichladdich Hall will be Dallahan, Josie Duncan & The Dusk and Brighde Chaimbeul. Dallahan is one of the most thrilling forces in the international folk music scene; heavily rooted in traditional Irish music, but with hugely diverse backgrounds and influences. They call on their mixed Irish, Scottish and Hungarian heritage to create a unique and seamless musical montage, drawing in influences from jazz, funk, pop and classical music.
Josie Duncan is a folk singer from the Outer Hebridean Isle of Lewis. Having been immersed in Glasgow’s fast-moving traditional music scene for the past few years where she studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, her crystal-clear voice is equally at home in Gaelic, Scots or English. Josie was awarded BBC Radio 2’s Young Folk Award in 2017 alongside guitarist Pablo Lafuente. Josie Duncan & The Dusk consists of Innes White on guitar, Megan MacDonald on accordion, Brighde Chaimbeul on whistles and Signy Jakobsdottir on percussion playing alongside the talented young singer. Read more....
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One of the many interesting projects from the Islay Development Initiative is the Islay Pollinator Initiative. It started as a way to protect the pollinators, the biodiversity and the natural environment on Islay and they are currently employing 5 people on this fantastic initiative. The project co-ordinator is Fiona MacGillivray and I'd rather let her introduce this exciting project to you in her recent press release. Here goes:
The Islay Pollinator Initiative is an exciting project to be involved in, the first of its kind, an all-round approach to habitats, pollinators and honeybees on the island. It's a broadly focused project looking at all native pollinators, butterflies, bumblebees and other insects and improving habitats for them, the project also sets out to develop a social enterprise in honeybees and products that can be gained from wax and honey.
The basis of the project is employability to provide training and opportunity to the young people on the island to develop skills in beekeeping, the associated ecology of pollinators, habitat development and the products based around this, developing money generating pathways on the island. Read more.....
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In the pretty conservation village of Port Charlotte, on the shores of Loch Indaal, is a great opportunity for someone who wants to take over and run an already successful restaurant. Yan's Kitchen, which has an excellent reputation, is for sale since a few months. The current owners have decided to sell this lovely place and are looking for a new owner.
With Islay getting busier each year there is a huge potential and it's an ideal start for someone to step in and follow up on the successes the previous owners had. The current restaurant has an average 4.5 rating on Tripadvisor and an average 4.4 rating on Google which is very good.
The beautiful views over Loch Indaal certainly help in providing a lovely lunch or dinner experience on Islay. Yan's Kitchen restaurant is located opposite the Islay Museum and has recently undergone a thorough exterior refurbishing. Their website https://www.yanskitchen.co.uk/ offers information and menus about the current restaurant. The key selling points are: Read more....
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