Islay/Jura/Scotland holiday pics

Having been nagged, on my own blog an’ all, about not having posted any pics from my trip to Islay yet, I have spent a hungover Sunday afternoon perusing them, saving them and now sticking em up on this site.

Islay lighthouse at Port Askaig

A big chunk of the pics were actually of places other than Islay – we also went to neighbouring island Jura, and drove from Falkirk to Tarbert, where we caught the ferry to Islay, so there are some snaps as well of the Falkirk Wheel – which links the two main canals in Scotland in an impressive manner – and of Inverarary, which is beautiful. And some of Scottish scenery.

Loch Fyne

This post will contain only a few of the pics, but the remainder of the ones I picked out can be found in several folders on this site, if anyone’s interested. Follow these links:

Islay | Jura | Falkirk | Scotland

So… the holiday…

Neil locking the door

Rachel and I flew up to Edinburgh where we were picked up by her sister Jessica and husband Neil and spent the night at their flat in Falkirk before driving to the bottom of Loch Lomond (along the A811).

Driving alongside Loch Lomond

Then along the side of Lomond to Tarbert, along to Loch Fyne and a break for coffee at Inverarary. I love Inverarary.


It’s at the end of a long Loch and has a wonderful approach and then just when you’re getting used to it, you have to stop at the lights to get over a little humpback bridge…

Inverarary bridge

… where you catch a glimpse of the great, almost Disney-like castle.

Inverarary castle

I also have a soft spot for Inverarary and the A83 from Campbeltown to Tarbet (at the top of Loch Lomond) because the beautiful scenery helped me get my head together when I fled a disastrous, failed boat trip to conquer Rockall.

A83 valley

And then all the way down the west side of Loch Fyne to Tarbert (not to be confused with Tarbet) where we caught a ferry to Islay. A journey by car of roughly 100 miles on a very bendy but charming route.

Ferry from Tarbert

It was a beautiful day but incredibly windy. But rather stupidly I failed to even attempt to get a pic showing the wind. Although Rachel did decide she wanted to get a quick kip on the deck. It didn’t work.

Rachel trying to sleep in gale winds Scottish scenery

And then a few hours later we drew in between neighbouring islands Islay and Jura and pulled into Port Askaig on Islay.

Port Askaig

We got off the big ferry at Askaig and immediately drove onto the smaller launch which ferries between Islay and Jura.

Islay-Jura small ferry

While Islay is comparatively well populated – considering it’s an Inner Hebridean island, Jura is very sparse and contains only one proper road following the coastline.

Jura, its road and the thistle - Scotland's symbol

Is it heavily populated instead by red deer and is strikingly beautiful.

Jura - isolated and beautiul

We drove round to Craighouse, where the only hotel on the island is, right next to the only distillery (where Isle of Jura comes from).

Jura hotel and distillery

And then we set up our tents on the grass outside the hotel overlooking a lovely bay.

Craighouse and Jura

After a stroll, an evening in the hotel pub – which has some cracking paintings done by a local painter clearly featuring the local characters in the bat itself – and what could have been a peaceful night’s sleep were it not for a rat-arsed dad who was with his kids (but not his ex-wife) who decided to cook food at 2am and drunkenly set fire to a camping gas canister, nearly blowing everyone up. The result was a painful-to-hear argument between the hopeless drunk of a father and his sons. Then nearly set fire to his tent and mine a second time, before destroying whatever relationship he had left with his eldest son and then, thank god, passing out. The next morning no one stirred in the charred tent and we drove to Ardfin Gardens, a cracking beach, walled garden and manor house.

Beach at Ardfin

The weather was lovely and we could have been on the North African coast it was so pleasant and the water so clear. We weren’t of course – the water was so cold that my feet went numb within five minutes of wadding around.

Ardfin beach

We lazed around a bit…

Jessica and Neil on the beach

And then headed back to the ferry terminal but not before finding the biggest standing stone on the island at Camus…

Standing stone on Jura

… and finding silly inspiration.

Jessica waving at standing stone

Rachel standing stone thumb

From Port Askaig on Islay we then drove to Port Charlotte where Neil and Jessica booked into the youth hostel with Rachel and I ending up in a tent in a mozzie pit on a pleasant farmer’s land. The next day we did what I really itching to get at – which was whisky distillers.

Car dump from hostel window at Port Charlotte

I am a huge single malt Scotch whisky fan, something I picked up at a ridiculously early age, mostly thanks to my dad’s love of single malts as well. Islay to my mind produces the best whiskies in the world. While Highland Park is lovely, and I have a soft spot for a number of other Speyside whiskies, it is Laphroaig, Bowmore and Lagavulin I most love – and there are all within a few miles of each other on Islay.

Whisky bar in Bowmore

There are a number of other distilleries on the island of different size, name and approach. I was insistent on going to Laphroaig (my favourite whisky) but with some thought and some good fortune we also went to a smaller distillery, close to Port Charlotte at Bruichladdich.


Bruichladdich is not that well known and where Laphroaig is known internationally for its exceptional peaty taste, few have heard (or can pronounce) Bruichladdich. The result is that the distillery itself is still very traditional, with all the old equipment and with a really friendly and helpful staff, a great tour and so on. I have actually started buying Bruichladdich as a result.

Bruichladdich bottling

We stopped in Bowmore after that and went to a cracking whisky bar. Although – and this is the really strange thing – the whisky on Islay is incredibly expensive. In fact, it is more expensive than on the mainland.

Storage at Briuchladdich

This fact really bugged me last time I was on Islay. It seems insane to me that since it is one of the great homes of whisky that really great whisky isn’t fantastically cheap. I have yet to find anyone to explain it. If Islay was owned by America, they would see the value in making the whisky cheaper – to entice tourists and their cash.

Bowmore hill

I would have spent alot more money on whisky if it had been within reach. But after you pay £10 for a shot of whisky and that is only mid-table in terms of cost, you do end up buying a beer. Fortunately they have two nice local beers too.

Threshers at Laphroaig

Why is Islay home to so many great whiskies? Two reasons – the peat and the water. The peat grows in huge amounts on the island and it is this which is burnt and the smoke used to stop the malt’s germination. The result is the famous peaty taste of Islay whiskies. On the tours, they will hand you some of the smoked malt itself which really brings its home. Islay is also on right on the edge of the Atlantic so has great water – and water is vital to the flavour of the whisky. Huge amounts of water are used in the whisky making process and this is why the distilleries are found on the coastline and at the edge of the various inlets.
Bowmore distillery

And then onto Laphroaig – which we were late for despite some extraordinary driving and wolfing down of food.


Laphroaig was also interesting, especially the free dram, but Bruichladdich is definitely better if you are a whisky enthusiast. Fortunately for everyone I didn’t push it and ask to go to any more distilleries, although I was tempted.

Laphroaig sign

Back to Port Charlotte and the next day, a trip to the port in the far corner of Islay, Portnahaven, for a cracking lunch.


And then onto Lossit Bay – where you have to stroll through a whole field of cows and sheep to reach (something which the farmer complained about with a note on the car).

Cows and sheeps

And then the long journey back. This time taking the ferry from Port Ellen to Tarbert, then the drive back – this time through Glasgow because of a road closure – to Falkirk, where we stopped to see the Falkirk Wheel – an impressive canal joiner.

Falkirk Wheel

And a cracking bit of engineering.

Falkirk Wheel's wheel

And then a (delayed) flight from Edinburgh back to London. A bus from Heathrow to Oxford and then bed at some daft time in the morning, just in time for an entire week spent non-stop finishing off my book. The holiday, the fresh air and of course the whisky made the marathon possible.

Rachel smilingView of Islay from hostel

And that was my holiday to Islay.

  1. […] Update 10 Sep: I have now stuck the pics up here. […]

  2. So the nagging has worked 😉 Thanks for the pictures, really like them!

    Have a manual trackback (my blog is handcoded, so I don’t have a normal trackback): – 11/Sep/2006: Kieren Went To Islay

  3. Yes – but only this once 🙂

    As for your comment about whisky and tax – yes, I’m certain it is a tax issue, but at the same time, the Scottish government could easily provide an exemption or confer special status onto Islay. It would give it a massive tourist boost.

    I can see what it might become a political battle but then it is a small island and you just have to extend it to sales in bars on the island. Easy enough. If only I was Scottish…

    What also surprises me though is that there isn’t a massive black market, which filters down into bars on the island. Would the Islay police really be that exercised about cracking down if it was restricted to the island?

    Actually, the one thing I didn’t do on Islay which I wish I had was check out the wave power machines. Maybe next time…


  4. tidy pictures and coverage – you must be a media and whisky expert!!

  5. I can only assume this and the other comment are a weak attempt at sarcasm. Please spend your time more profitably elsewhere.


  6. Drogi Kieren
    Dziekuje Ci za wspaniala prezentacje urokow zachodnich wysp Szkocji (czesc o whisky brzmi smakowicie). Napewno udam sie tam na urlop zwlaszcza, ze moge miec wskazowki prosto od osob, ktore z Toba byly gdyz sa moimi bliskimi przyjaciolmi i nasze spotkanie nie doszlo do skutku (czego niezmiernie zaluje) tylko dlatego, ze Wasz samolot odlatywal za wczesnie.
    Mam nadzieje, ze nastepnym razem sie nam uda. Mysle, ze nasz zart sie udal i nie miales zbytnich problemow z rozszyfrowaniem tego komentaza.

  7. Zbytnich problemow z rozszyfrowaniem tego komentaza?! 🙂

    Ja czynić nie mówić po polsku, Andrzej. Zmartwiony


  8. Haha Kieren
    I’m a friend of Neil and Jessica Paterson. I live in Falkirk and Neil showed me this blog with the pictures taken on Your last trip.
    But You have the sense of humor and Your dictionary polish is really good.
    I owe You a glas of whisky when we meet in Scotland.

  9. Ah, yes, of course. Sorry to have missed you Andrzej.

    Yes, many have commented on my excellent use of language dictionaries 😉


  10. Yes, have sampled the wonderfulness of Islay – whisky and island myelf. Wonderful place. I did get to see Bowmore and Laphroaig but not MY fave – Lagavulin – for some reason.

    Am due another trip next month…

  11. What can i say, fantastic photos, it’s really, i love scotland ….

    nice photos ….

  12. Hi, love the photos of Islay. I’m going there myself next week, travelling by public transport as I want to sample the whisky! You mention the fact that the whisky costs about £10 a measure, is that in all the pubs on the island?

  13. Have traced your footsteps , fantastic photos, isnt Jura amazing and Islay too, I really liked the harbour in Port Askaig

  14. Hi Kieren,

    Just came across your blog and found it very interesting. I truly hope you get to see the wave machine the next time you are over. I always make an attempt to go there. When it is stormy, you can hear from a long way, howling and whoooing. The price of whisky in the bars is not caused so much by tax or anything else, it is because you are buying rarer whiskies. The bar you were in was the Lochside and I presume you were buying out of their whisky catalogue, the printed book lying on the bar, listing all their malts. If you had just popped next door to the public bar and bought a straightforward malt off the shelf, a 10 year old Bowmore, Laphroaig, or a Caol Ila, or Lagavulin you would have paid between £2 and £3. Start drinking the 16, 18 or 25 year olds and you start paying more. I once tasted a 40 year old Laphroaig in there. It was £40 for a dram, but the flavour is still with me today!



  15. Thank you for reminding me how beautiful Islay is. My wife and I spent a few days there last summer in between my teaching summer school at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. The islands and highlands are our favourite places on the planet, with Glasgow next, and Turkey and parts of my own country, England, coming hot on their heels. Why don’t you visit the UAE, write next time you do.
    Many thanks
    Robert and Nazan Fielding

  16. Hi Kieren
    We had our first trip to Islay last October and just fell in love with it. Going back next week for the springtime experience. Main reason for commenting was to tell you we also got a note on our windscreen at Lossit Farm. Found our later from the people we rented the cottage from that even residents get the “note treatment”. Seems like the “lady of the manor” has a bit of a problem. Love your photos. Regards David
    PS we are over 700 miles from Kennocraig as we live in Cornwall!!

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