Islay, The Isle Of Whisky, Scotland

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.

Lagavulin And Ardbeg
Lagavulin And Ardbeg

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.

Bowmore, Islay

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.

Caol Ila And Bunnahabhain, Islay
Caol Ila And Bunnahabhain

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  October
 09h00-17h00  09h30-16h00  November – December
 Kilchoman  09h45-17h00  09h45-17h00  April – October
 09h45-17h00  November – December
   Closed  January
 09h45-17h00  February – March
 Bunnahabhain  10h00-17h00  10h00-17h00  April
 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

Trip map created with Wanderlog, the best trip planner app on iOS and Android
What I blogged August 10:

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28 thoughts on “Islay, The Isle Of Whisky, Scotland

  1. What an amazing place! It seems like you were quite well organised and planned your trip well to make the most of your time there. Thanks for sharing these trip plan ideas.

    1. I did not do enough planning before we went which is why I did the blog post. Hopefully it helps someone along the way 🙂

  2. Islay looks like a lovely place to visit. Did you find much difference in the taste of whiskey at the different distilleries? Great resource for whiskey fans!

  3. Tandy I do not want to sound biased, but this is my most favorite post in your blog, Islay is my dream destination and I am a huge fan of any whisky from Islay though Ardbeg 10 is my favorite love Laphroaig and Lagavulin too! Great read, I shared it on twitter!

  4. I’m not a fan of whiskey but I love to visit anyway. Scotland is on my list big time. Thanks for the recommendations.

  5. Our friends set up Kilchoman – It’s the first new distillery to be founded on Islay for over 100 years plus the only true farm distillery i.e. water from the well, barley from their farm. It’s a beautiful whisky too. Islay is a beautiful island.

    1. They have done an amazing job. We really enjoyed the tasting we did there and we enjoy their whisky. I could go back to Islay anytime for the peace and quiet 🙂

  6. How do you rate the food in Scotland? I’ve always wanted to travel there, but so many other foodie destinations keep calling my name!!

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