A visit to Islay is one that I can highly recommend but it is also one you need to be very prepared for. Being organized is the key to seeing all of the 8 distilleries on the Isle, as well as enjoying other things it has to offer. There are only two ways of getting to Islay. You can fly and then rent a car, or you can catch the ferry. To me, being able to drive yourself around Islay is vital as the bus service does not run every day, is infrequent, and does not cover the entire Isle. There are taxis but cost wise this would be prohibitive, and you would be restricted to what you can do. We chose to catch the ferry with our car. The ferry terminal on the mainland is situated at Kennacraig and the ferry crossing is to either Port Ellen or Port Askaig.
I would recommend that you arrive at Port Ellen. This crossing is 2 hours and 20 minutes and gives you easy access to Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. When you leave, depart from Port Askaig so that you can detour to Jura if you want to. The trip back to the mainland from here is 2 hours and 5 minutes. These ferries are run by Caledonian MacBrayne and we have used them several times. Start at Ardbeg where you can enjoy a light meal or cup of coffee if you need it. The visitor’s centre is a great place to walk around. Go to Lagavulin if you like their whiskys but don’t expect much more than a shop.
Make your last stop of the day at the Laphroaig visitor centre which you can amble around. Taste the whiskys on offer and if you own a piece of their land, go and stake your claim. Buy something here you cannot get elsewhere.
After that, head off to your accommodation. We stayed at Skerrols House but there are plenty of places to stay around the Isle. However, I would recommend something central. Our first night we had dinner at the restaurant at the Port Charlotte Hotel. The next morning take your time over breakfast. Nothing happens early on Islay. Start your whisky tour at Bowmore.
If like us you want a picnic lunch do your shopping at the local co-op in Bowmore. You can then drive to Bruichladdich where there is a small shop close by that sells coffee.
The other distillery stop today should be at Kilchoman. There is a small café here so if you feel like having something to eat, this would be the place to do it. Use the rest of your day to drive around the Isle and to see what else is on offer – there are walks you can do, beaches to visit and ruins and monuments to see. On the second night we went for dinner at the restaurant at the Bridgend Hotel. On your last day you will want to do the distilleries closest to Port Askaig. These are Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila.
If you want to visit Jura you will have to catch the small ferry from Port Askaig. It leaves on the hour, every hour and takes 7 minutes to cross. At 10 past the hour it comes back from Jura. Allow 20 minutes travelling time to the distillery. Keep in mind that you have to be back at Port Askaig at least half an hour before the ferry leaves for Kennacraig.
All the distilleries offer various tours and tastings. I would highly recommend that you do at least one tour of a distillery and limit your tastings. There are only 4 police officers on the Isle, but you do not want to get caught drunk driving. Opening times vary across the Isle, and depending on the time of the year. I have created a table here with the times at a glance so that you can plan your visit with this to hand. Please note that these were the times when we visited and could change!
|Distillery||Mon – Fri||Sat||Sun||Months|
|Ardbeg||09h30-17h00||November – March|
|09h30-17h00||09h30-17h00||09h30-17h00||April – October|
|Lagavulin||10h00-16h00||10h00-16h00||November – February|
|09h00-17h00||09h00-17h00||09h00-17h00||March – April|
|09h00-18h00||09h00-17h00||09h00-17h00||May – August|
|Contact the distillery for times||September – October|
|Laphroaig||09h45-17h00||09h45-17h00||09h45-17h00||March – December|
|09h45-17h00||January – February|
|Bowmore||09h00-17h00||09h00-17h00||12h00-16h00||April – September|
|09h00-17h00||09h00-12h30||October – March|
|Bruichladdich||09h00-17h00||09h30-16h00||January – March|
|09h00-18h00||09h30-16h00||12h30-15h00||April – September|
|09h00-17h00||09h30-16h00||November – December|
|Kilchoman||09h45-17h00||09h45-17h00||April – October|
|09h45-17h00||November – December|
|09h45-17h00||February – March|
|10h00-17h00||10h00-17h00||11h00-16h00||May – October|
|10h00-16h30||November – March|
|Jura||10h00-16h30||January – December|
|Caol Ila||09h00-17h00||09h00-17h00||09h00-17h00||March – October|
|Tue – Fri|
|10h00-16h00||10h00-1600||November – February|
What I blogged August 10:
- one year ago – Cheese And Tomato Scones
- four years ago – Heather Honey Chicken
- five years ago – Coriander
- six years ago – Cheese Sauce