Showing posts from January, 2018

Kildalton Cross & Church

Islay | Kildalton | Carved crosses & church | ★★

A long way east of Port Ellen on a narrow, scenic and very quiet road is Kildalton Church: a simple, 13th century ruin home to a fine selection of grave slabs and two impressive, carved crosses. The thicker-cut, better-known of the two crosses is just inside the churchyard and dates to the 8th century. Both sides are covered with ornate drawings, depicting the Virgin and Child, peacocks feasting on grapes (both on the east face), four lions (west face) and several other patterns and symbols. The size of the stone it was originally carved from must have been huge, given the chunkiness of the central boss. After admiring the cross, church and grave slabs, cross the road to a second carved cross with sweeping views over southern Islay from its base.

Location & info

📌 Kildalton Cross and Church ★★
Off minor road 7 mi east of Port Ellen, Islay, G.R.: NR 458508 ///nerve.supported.plenty
Always open | Free

Dunyvaig Castle

Islay | Port Ellen | Castle | ★

16th century castle with 15th century keep and 13th century courtyard, overlying an ancient fort: in writing, Dunyvaig Castle sounds like an impressive place, once guarding ships belonging to the Lords of the Isles in the adjacent bay. Pay a visit today and you'll find that the castle is rather less than the sum of its parts. Most of the structure has either collapsed into the sea or been covered by vegetation. And accessing the rear end of the castle impossible (unless you fancy risking your life above a large drop onto rocks) thanks to more recent erosion. As long as you bear all this in mind, it's still worthwhile making the trip. The headland is at atmospheric place in a storm, offers excellent views of Lagavulin Distillery when it's sunny, and it's only a few minutes' walk from the nearest parking spot if it's chucking it down with rain...

Location & info

📌 Dunyvaig Castle ★
Off A846 just east of Lagavulin Distillery, Isl…

Kilchoman Distillery

Islay | Kilchoman | Distillery | ★★★★

The density of distilleries on Islay is far higher than on any other Scottish island, and it's increasing all the time. What's very unusual about Kilchoman is that pretty much every aspect of the whisky-making process can happen on-site, from growing and malting the barley to bottling the finished product several years later. The distillery is one of the island's newest, opening in 2005 at Rockfield Farm (the farm is still operational too). The self-contained aspect, farm location and small scale belies Kilchoman's young age: this is how many distilleries used to operate in bygone centuries before mass-production became popular with the easing of restrictions on distilling. The site has a good tour, friendly feel and a decent shop with café; if you only have time to visit a few distilleries on Islay, it should probably be on your shortlist.

Location & info

📌 Kilchoman Distillery★★★★
Off minor road just east of Kilchoman, Islay, …

Kilchoman Cross & Church

Islay | Kilchoman | Carved cross & church | ★★

Head west on the narrow road above the south shore of Loch Gorm on Islay, and you'll find three real gems. Assuming you've managed to avoid colliding with any of the sheep / cows / geese that share the roads with the occasional car around here, you'll first reach Kilchoman Distillery. Second, and the subject of this page, is Kilchoman Cross and Church, reached by keeping left at the various junctions beyond the distillery. The bare shell of the church dates from the early 1800s, and was only abandoned in the late 1970s as the parish consolidated - Islay's exposed climate has since taken its toll. But the elegantly carved cross in the church grounds is much more interesting. 600 or 700 years old, carvings of Jesus on the cross (on the cross head), saints and angels (below and to the sides), Latin text and elaborate knotwork are all remarkably clear to see. Oh, and the third gem? Wonderful Machir Bay, easily seen from th…


Islay | Village | ★★

Portnahaven is the main village at the end of a long, single-track road from Port Charlotte. It's a tiny place with no specific tourist attractions, but you come here for peace and quiet coupled with beautiful seascapes. The setting is spectacular, with whitewashed houses strung around a horseshoe bay and bobbing seals watching life on land from a safe distance. For sustenance, An Tigh Seinnse has an end-of-the-world feel but does surprisingly good food, justifying its excellent online reviews. Half a mile around the coast, Port Wemyss is even quieter, with good views of uninhabited Orsay and its lighthouse, along with an attractive, windswept garden by the water's edge.


📌 Portnahaven ★★
Islay, G.R.: NR 166522 ///voting.loom.viewing

🚌 Perhaps surprisingly, there's a half-decent bus service from Bowmore and Port Ellen.

Port Charlotte

Islay | Village | ★

Rainy day on Islay but you're not in the mood for a distillery tour? It's probably time to head to Port Charlotte, the biggest settlement in the west of Islay. With the island's two main museums, the village has the best offering of indoor attractions for miles around - with Bruichladdich Distillery also nearby if you decide you need your whisky fix after all. In wet weather you won't see the excellent views across Loch Indaal at their best, but that gives an excuse to come back. Yan's Kitchen used to be one of our favourite lunch spots on the island - sadly it closed in 2018.


📌 Port Charlotte ★
Islay, G.R.: NR 253582 ///selection.stick.varieties

🚶 The museum and nature centre are both within the tiny village centre. Bruichladdich Distillery is a couple of miles away along a road, so is more pleasantly reached by bus.
🚌 There's a bus service from Bowmore and Port Ellen.

See & do (<1 mi away)

📌 Islay Nature Centre★★

Bruichladdich Distillery

Islay | Bruichladdich | Distillery | ★★★★

Bruichladdich's bold, capital-letter type makes it one of the most distinctive brands on supermarket and whisky shop shelves. If every distillery had a personality, then perhaps Bruichladdich (pronounced brook-laddie) would be the "mad scientist": an exotic, even bewildering array of products is available to buy. These range from the traditional Bruichladdich (unpeated) to Octomore (the world's most heavily-peated single malt), through a wide range of ages and unusual cask types... and even gin, with the popular Botanist produced here. The distillery first opened in 1881 but has had several different owners since then, interspersed with a couple of periods of closure. It's currently owned by Rémy Cointreau, but most of the machinery dates from its second buyout in the 1930s: old-fashioned then, though not especially pretty. The company is also planning to start malting its own barley on-site, which will provide another di…

Walk: Mulling things Oa on Islay

Islay | The Oa | Short walk | ★★★

The Mull of Oa forms one of Islay's most dramatic bits of coastline, with 130 metre-high cliffs plunging into the Atlantic Ocean with Northern Ireland about 25 miles distant. Perched in a spectacular location on the very edge of the cliffs is the American Monument; this prominent obelisk commemorates the loss of over 600 lives in 1918, when two troop ships sank off the west coast of Islay in separate wartime incidents. The headland is also a nature reserve, with rare choughs, seabirds and several bird of prey species calling the moorland home. The RSPB's circular walking route visits both mull and monument, beginning at the end of a long and narrow road from Port Ellen. Be grateful for the excellent boardwalk paths traversing the wetter sections; we tried venturing off the waymarked trail in the direction of Beinn Mhor and wouldn't recommend it.

📌 Walk: Mulling things Oa on Islay ★★★
Start / finish at car park at track end 7 mi west of Por…