The original plan for our ‘staycation’, was to visit Skye. When it began to look a little expensive we decided to stay a little closer to home, and settled on Arran and Islay. I am so glad we did.
Islay was a place I didn’t know much about. We booked up after seeing this amazing little house on Air BnB, and researched things to do after. As we only had 2 days, we had to choose carefully what we wanted to do.
We took the ferry from Lochranza, Arran to Claonaig. Then drove a short distance to Kennacraig for the ferry to Port Ellen. CalMac ferries has an ‘island hopper’ ticket which allowed us to book the ferry rides together and just select our preferred times.
Our accommodation was 5 star, the views were incredible and it completely exceeded our expectations. The little house had floor to ceiling windows around the living area and bedroom. Plus, we were welcomed with fresh bread, home made marmalade, bacon and eggs.
Carraig Fhada Lighthouse
Whilst the weather was holding up, we walked everywhere we could. The lighthouse looked to be a short walk away, so we set off to find a way to it. I thought all lighthouses were circular, so this looked unusual to me as a cube shape. Perched out on sharp rocks, as the weather began to dull down, it certainly looked impressive! There is a narrow path through the rocks, and we done a bit of climbing to get a few photos.
Singing Sands Beach
I always thought beaches with that beautiful blue/green hue were only found abroad. I was wrong! The white sands around the Scottish islands make the water appear much more beautiful. When we walked around from the lighthouse to Singing Sands beach, there wasn’t a soul there. The sky was beginning to cloud over, though it was still warm. Of course, after a few photos the heavens opened and it rained heavily until we got home!
Pizza for Dinner
After we dried off, we looked online for somewhere for dinner. Being HUGE lovers of pizza, we settled on a new pizza place in Bowmore. Peatzeria on the main street in Bowmore was delicious, just what we needed after a wet afternoon. I really enjoy the thinner crust style with the soft middle, anything spicy gets a 10/10!
Lagavulin Warehouse Demonstration
When I was 18 I worked in a distillery where I got free whisky. As time went on, I developed a taste for it and recently have started branching out and trying different ones.
Being such a popular destination for distillery tours – Islay has 8 active distilleries – we had a choice to make! I’m not a fan of Ardbeg or Laphroig, as they are just a little too peaty for me. We also read that the Lagavulin Warehouse Demonstration was worth the money, and a different experience to a traditional tour.
At 10.30am on day 2 of our holiday – the warehouse demo kicked off. We were led into a cask storage area and each given out a beautiful Glencairn style glass, plus a bottle of water. There was around 20 people attending, and we all sat around the casks while we were talked through the whisky we would be tasting.
Out of the 6 whiskies we tasted, 5 were syphoned straight from the cask. Now, that many cask strength whiskies before lunch time is a recipe for disaster! I had read online that Lagavulin was the distillery that would serve us the most whisky – but I was still surprised at how many we tried.
Starting with a limited edition Lagavulin 16 Year Old Fèis Ìle from the bottle, we had a good measure of the following;
5 year old – 61.6%
13 year old – 52.1%
19 year old – 52.4%
24 year old – 49.8%
35 year old – 53.5%
Needless to say, we were drunk by lunch time and in desperate need of food!
The 3 distilleries on the south of the island are walking distance from each other. There is a new path in place – which we took full advantage of – as we strolled onward with our new found American friends. Having been told Ardbeg served good food, we had tunnel vision for lunch.
Ardbeg was a pretty impressive looking distillery. As you walk into the main grounds, there’s a large old copper still on display, and steps leading down to a courtyard with the Ardbeg logo painted onto the ground.
The cafe was simple but lunch was delicious. I can’t remember what I ate – but it was tasty!
Following our drunken distillery experience, we headed back to the house. The phone and internet signal is practically non existent in Islay, and we were waiting on an important call… So back to the house for WiFi. Our new baby nephew was born that afternoon!
The American Monument
The rain was coming down heavy by 5pm and it was our last night, therefore very tempting to curl up on the sofa. Sometimes, I love going out in the rain. Probably still a little warm from the earlier whisky, and excited about our new nephew, we headed out in the rain.
A short drive up a country road – with not another car in sight – we arrived at a car park. Jackets on, off we set hiking through some fields. I’m not normally scared of cows or other animals, but there was some pretty big highland cows in these fields!
This large ginger beast in particular, was right on the path and not for moving. It was the black bull on the way back that gave me the fear though.
It took around an hour to get to the monument. There was something erie about the experience. We didn’t pass a single person or even see anyone in the distance. The monument is set at the very edge of a cliff side on the Oa Peninsula, with waves crashing up the sharp drops. Looking out over the ocean into nothing was a strange feeling.
The monument commemorates the loss of 2 ships during the war in 1918 and was erected in 1920 as a memorial. I felt like the wild weather really added to the somber feel. However, there was also a feeling of freedom, as we were standing on the cliff edge looking out over the water.
Visiting Islay was an amazing experience. I can’t believe these little islands all over Scotland are practically on my doorstep. We only had 4 days to split between Arran and Islay, and it just wasn’t enough. Next time, we want to visit Jura and possibly Mull. However, I think we might try Skye first!
Written by Laura McLuskey