The history of Islay House dates back to the 1600s. It was built by Sir Hugh Campbell of Cawdor. Work was started in 1644 and completed in 1677, but the part we mostly recognise from the Bowmore side of Loch Indaal was added in the 1760s, with matching octagonal spiral staircases on both the north and south wings.
The Campbells lost possession of Islay House through bankruptcy and the building was purchased by James Morrison, MP in 1843. The Morrison’s subsequently sold the building in 1985 to former American airline and navy pilot, Tom Friedrich. Prior to his death earlier this year, Tom had sold Islay House in 2014 to the current owners who turned this historic house into a beautiful hotel. In September this year, the newly refurbished hotel opened with a "soft launch" so it was time for me to meet up with Bertie Nyman for a closer inspection.
I first met Bertie a couple of years ago when he had just started his work at Islay House to help transforming the place into a luxurious country house hotel. Not an easy task as they had to overcome many difficulties as Islay House is a Grade A listed building. At present Bertie's job title is "Assistant General Manager" but with the absence of a General Manager Bertie is basically the man in charge so to speak. And on an island like Islay you have to be flexible as was visible during my visit when Bertie and myself were chasing a herd of sheep from the lovely lawn in front of Islay House, moments later followed by lighting a fire for the afternoon coffee guests. Continue reading...
Now this is not an article about Bertie, although I must admit that I'm very impressed by what he, and of course the owners, have achieved. Both the island and his board of directors should be proud to have someone who has shown such a dedication and helped to turn Islay House into the luxury country house hotel it is today. My compliments! And mind you, the hotel isn't finished yet as there are "only" five rooms available at present. In January 2017 the hotel will close until Easter that same year and during that time another seven to thirteen rooms will be added as well as a restaurant which will open for residents and visitors.
Islay House reception area
Bertie was kind enough to give me the grand tour and I was utterly impressed by what I've seen. From the beautiful and welcoming hall or reception area as there is no "reception desk", the amazing staircases, the dining area, the stylish Peat Cutter Bar and the fabulous rooms on the beautifully carpeted first floor, one even more luxurious than the other. The entire building breathes a certain grandeur and much of the traditional features and colours have remained. Islay House Hotel is a very welcome asset to the island and it will, and already has attracted visitors from all over the world and, after seeing it for myself, likely also during the winter season. I can't think of a more luxurious location for a winter break than this amazing hotel, although enjoying the snowdrops and daffodils in spring and welcoming the Barnacle Geese in the autumn are excellent reasons for a visit too. For more info and to book a delightful stay please visit www.islayhouse.co.uk
Peat Cutter Bar
Peat Cutter Bar Garden View
One of the rooms in Islay House Hotel
Comfy corner in the Margadale Suit
Assistent General Manager Bertie Nyman
Ready for afternoon coffees and teas
Curved Door in Peat Cutter Bar