Isle of Islay: The Best Things to Do


Isle of Islay

The Isle of Islay, fondly known as ‘The Queen of the Hebrides’, is an enchanting island located off the west coast of Scotland. It’s the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides and sits just north of Northern Ireland and west of the Campbeltown peninsula.

Islay is famed for its beautiful landscapes which feature a mix of peat bogs, heather-covered hills, sandy beaches, and lush farmland. The island stretches approximately 25 miles from north to south and 20 miles east to west at its widest point, offering a varied geography that’s as diverse as it is beguiling.

The island is home to a handful of quaint villages, with the capital Bowmore best known for its distinctive round church which was supposedly built with no corners for the devil to hide in.

Port Ellen, another sizeable village, serves as one of the two ferry ports linking the island to the mainland, the other being Port Askaig which has a small ferry that provides access to the nearby Isle of Jura.

Jura Ferry

Other notable villages include Port Charlotte with its picturesque whitewashed houses and the tiny fishing village of Portnahaven, famed for its seal colony on the islets of Orsay and Eilean Mhic Coinnich.

Islay is home to a diverse range of wildlife and over 250 species of birds have been recorded there, making it a haven for birdwatchers during the winter months when thousands of geese and other migratory birds fly into the RSPB reserve at Gruinart.

Moreover, the island’s rugged coastline and clear waters are home to a variety of marine life including seals, dolphins, and even the occasional whale.

When it comes to tourist attractions, the island’s eight active distilleries, producing world-renowned Islay whisky, are a must-visit. Many of these distilleries like Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg, are open to the public for tours and tastings so if you enjoy a wee dram or two then you’re guaranteed a great time on the island.

Isle of Islay

Islay is also rich in history with sites like the 1,200-year-old Kildalton Cross (one of the finest early Christian crosses in Scotland) and the ruins of the 13th-century Dunyvaig Castle offering a glimpse into Scotland’s past.

For nature lovers, RSPB Gruinart is a must-visit, offering walking trails through woodland, marshland, and farmland with near-limitless opportunities for spotting a wide range of different birds.

Machir Bay, with its long stretch of golden beach and dunes, is another good spot for a relaxing walk, as is the Oa peninsula which offers stunning views of the coastline, especially around the American Monument.

In conclusion, the Isle of Islay is a treasure trove of natural beauty, wildlife, and cultural heritage. It’s truly a place where you can immerse yourself in the charm of island life and leave with unforgettable memories.

islay the oa

Find places to visit and things to do on the Isle of Islay with these visitor guides.

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