Islay had always been an Island we had wanted to visit but due to logistics it was always a challenge. Stunning scenery, impressive golf and some of the world’s most famous whisky distilleries ticked all the boxes for a memorable visit.

Travel

As we had limited time we opted for the 1st early morning (7:30am) ferry from Kennacraig to Port Ellen. This did mean a 3am departure from Edinburgh to get there in time but it was worth it. The sun was shining, the sailing was smooth and after 2 hours you could see the huge white distilleries along the rugged coastline of Islay. There are many fantastic cycle paths around the island and the roads are not too challenging. However, if you plan on enjoying some of the local whisky produce then due to Scotland’s drink drive laws we suggest hiring a driver guide or booking taxi transfers, which are reasonably priced.

Islay boat

Whisky

Within a few miles of Port Ellen, you reach Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin, which are some of the most famous distilleries in the world, producing millions of litres of spirit each year and all 3 within a stone’s throw from each other. After spending a few hours wandering around them we headed to the nearest town of Bowmore, which has its own rather large and famous distillery of its own. The whisky and the food was sublime. We had then arranged to return to Lagavulin after lunch and enjoy a Warehouse Demonstration. The tasting takes place in one of the distilleries dunnage warehouses. Here you are presented with a variety of aged whisky ranging from 8 years old up to a 52-year-old whisky, which is rumoured to be worth around £50k a bottle! The tasting was an education and was perfectly conducted by the lagavulin legendary warehouseman, Iain McArthur who has been in the industry for over 50 years.......What an experience and not bad for £25 :)

Lagavulin Distillery

Golf

Although Islay is famous for its whisky production the standard of golf doesn’t let it down either. The recently re-designed Machrie Links is a championship links par 71 set in the idyllic and picturesque peatland looking over Laggan Bay. The course has recently been re-designed by former European Tour player DJ Russel, who has improved the course with well laid out holes and strategic bunkering providing a challenge for all levels of golfer. Some people preferred the old quirky, narrow, tricky layout but these changes are a huge improvement and make it an enjoyable experience for the visiting golfer. The clubhouse and hotel on site has also received a huge boost with investment and development and will boast a 48-room complex ideal for any whisky loving golfer.

Machrie Golf Links

Summary

Sometimes we do not know how lucky we are to live in Scotland and how very little we have experienced of things on our doorstep. Islay was very much that for me. Although it’s a long drive to the ferry from the east coast, its most definitely worth it. It would be a great place to visit for returning golfers or whisky enthusiasts to Scotland. My recommendation would be to stay at least 2 nights to take your time to enjoy a round at Machrie Links and then hire a driver guide to sightsee and visit the distilleries. You can also take a short ferry over to Jura too if time allows. One thing that became apparent is that the Islay way of life appears to be very relaxed and that’s most definitely the way all visitors should enjoy their trip…