Haunting scenery, an incredible array of wildlife and a clutch of world-class whisky distilleries combine to make this small Scottish island one of Britain’s best-kept travel secrets. Escape from the rat race with a short break to Islay from Glasgow Airport.
With eight distilleries in an area of just over 600 sq km, Islay is the whisky capital of the UK. Intense, peaty malts are produced at Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig in the south of the island, while Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain in the north specialise in milder, lighter products. Most of the island’s distilleries have visitor centres where tourists can enjoy tasting sessions; or you can organise a tour that takes in all eight. The boom in whisky tourism has also revitalised Islay’s gastronomic scene. Enjoy locally caught seafood, succulent oysters and spring lamb at cosy gastropubs such as the Port Askaig Hotel and Ballygrant Inn.
Islay’s pristine sandy beaches and heather-covered moorland offer a hospitable environment for wildlife. Discover more about the multitude of species that call the island home at the Wildlife Information Centre in Port Charlotte – then head to the coast at Bridgend or Gruinart to spot flocks of chough, otter families or even an elusive golden eagle. Looking for a fun, family-friendly day out? Take a boat out from Kildalton to the ArdmoreIslands for a glimpse of the second largest common seal colony in Europe.
The great outdoors
Cycling, fishing, walking or canoeing – whatever your chosen outdoor activity, you can enjoy it to the full on Islay. Signposted hikes around Soldiers Rock, the AmericanMonument and Ardnave Point take in a patchwork of stunning scenery, from wind-sculpted sand dunes to craggy cliffs. Hire a bike at the Bowmore Post Office to explore the network of quiet, single-track roads, or angle for brown trout in the clear waters of Loch Gorm. For thrill-seekers, the neighbouring Isle of Jura offers an abundance of mountaineering opportunities.