A little over seven weeks ago we boarded the ferry at Port Askaig for a long trip to see family and friends. Living on a remote island such as Islay is fabulous but having older family abroad requires longer trips away to spend very necessary time with them. Last Monday night we arrived home on the evening ferry and we were welcomed with a magical sunset.
Over the course of almost two months I didn't blog about Islay and now that we're back it's catching up time. Quite a few interesting things have happened during that time and I will cover most of them in this post:
Islay Rum Distillery
Ben Inglis from Islay is starting his own craft rum distillery at Glenegedale. If all goes to plan, the High Road Rum Company as it is called could become the first rum distillery on Scotland’s West Coast. Ben also hopes to make the distillery an extra attraction to visitors to the island, by showing how rum is made. ‘We want to show people the whole process,’ he said. ‘It will all be done by hand. Scotland has such a reputation with spirits, and that needs to be upheld. There are no half measures. It has to be done the right way: take the high road.
‘It just wouldn’t be right to buy in our spirit and pass it off as Islay rum,’ Ben explained. ‘I have made it my mission to take the time and effort to research traditional means of fermentation, distillation and maturation of rum so I know every detail. This doesn’t mean everything will be traditional – after all we are talking about rum on the whisky isle.’ Continue reading...
Islay Circumnavigational Swim
On 30 July, Explorers Club Members Chad Anderson and Justin Fornal , along with fellow swimmer Johnnie Mundell, completed the world’s first circumnavigational swim of the 100-mile coastline of Islay. While some may say they are mad to even consider swimming the Islay coast- line through areas of rough sea around the likes of Portnahaven and the Sound, the trio completed the eight day long mission on time and Johnnie even took it one step further and swam without a wetsuit. This historic expedition followed in the footsteps of Alfred Barnard who, in the late 1880’s, made an epic journey with friends visiting all the working distilleries of Islay.
Throughout the journey, the expedition team carried with them a 30 gallon oak cask which they filled incrementally at all of Islay’s active whisky distilleries. Dubbed ‘the pillage cask’, the resulting spirit will be left to marry for several months before being bottled and sold by American independent bottler Single Cask Nation. Just 125 bottles of the blended malt will go on sale later this year with all proceeds going to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI).
Police Station Port Ellen
The former police station in Port Ellen is to be converted into six self-contained one bedroom and studio flats which will eventually be offered for affordable let. The £470,000 project is being delivered by The Port Ellen Station which is an associated organisation of the Ian Mactaggart Trust The Port Ellen Station was specifically set-up by Sir John Mactaggart to undertake the private assisted housing scheme.
An Islay Dram with Arctic Water
A 12-year-old Port Charlotte expression from Islay’s Bruichladdich distillery is being auctioned for charity, with the distinction of being the first Scotch whisky to use millennia-old iceberg water from Greenland. The expression is being released by The Polar Academy, a Scottish charity for disadvantaged youths founded by celebrated polar explorer Craig Mathieson. The whisky's natural cask strength has been reduced to 50% abv with a combination of Scottish water and pure blue glacial iceberg water, melted from samples carved by Mathieson himself while sea kayaking on the Sermilik Fjord of Eastern Greenland. With a limited release of just 200 bottles, an initial 10 Polar Explorer bottles will be available at Whisky Auctioneer with a starting price of £100, the proceeds of which will be donated to The Polar Academy. More info here...
Islay RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew rescued six people, including two children, after a yacht ran onto a charted rock on an ebb tide at the south end of the Sound of Islay. Her captain chose to stay on board the heavily listing, 16m sailing boat Anjela. The all-weather lifeboat Helmut Schroder of Dunlossit was launched 18 minutes past midnight on Tuesday July 25 in a medium wind, fair visibility and a relatively calm sea, and reached the yacht 20 minutes later to find that she was listing heavily to port.
Ride of the Falling Rain
A great article appeared in the Guardian this week about a very wet edition of this years "Ride of the Falling Rain". A quote from the article: "The Ride of the Falling Rain is an annual cycling event on the Hebridean island of Islay that proudly describes itself as “anti-sportive”. Held on the first Sunday in August, there is no entry fee, no feed stations, no timing chips and no medal or certificate at the end. Yet in its 14-year history, it has attracted a hard core of regulars who travel from all over the UK.
“It’s remained popular because there isn’t the ‘free’ T-shirt accompanied by a £75 entry fee typical of most sportives,” says Brian Palmer, who came up with the idea after advertising in the local newspaper for riders to join him on his annual century ride. Of the three riders who joined him that first year, one “was never seen again after stopping to take a nap on a bench in Portnahaven”.
Brian says they average about 70 riders each year, with the number peaking at “108 one year when 30 riders from the Czech Republic turned up for the event”. Though there is no entry fee, he recommends that each rider donate £10 to World Bicycle Relief. “The work they are doing in Africa – helping students get to school, farmers do their work – is exactly what bicycles are for,” Brian said.
Islay Tidal Park Approved
A 30-turbine tidal park, to be sited off the south-west coast of Islay, has been granted planning consent. West Islay Tidal Energy Park will have a generating capacity of up to 30 MW, enough to power around 18,000 homes. The DP Marine Energy Limited development will be located approximately six kilometres off the south-west coast of Islay and will create up to 32 full-time jobs.
Scottish Government minister for business, innovation and energy Paul Wheelhouse said: ‘Marine renewable technologies offer huge potential to the Scottish economy – and to rural communities throughout the world. ‘Scotland has a third of UK’s tidal stream resources and two-thirds of its wave resources. We are also home to the world’s leading wave and tidal test centre, the world’s largest planned tidal stream array and the world’s largest tidal turbine.
Is Islay Airport under Threat from Rising Seas?
A Coastal study using 1890s maps reveal land under threat as climate warms. The new map is available online and clearly shows areas the scientists expect to be eroded and lost by 2050. Many stretches of the country’s east coast – for example, Montrose Bay, Barry Links near Carnoustie, land north of Aberdeen, and at Prestonpans near Edinburgh – have the red blotches which indicate they will be seriously impacted by erosion. Areas of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles show similar predicted impacts, and at Islay in the southern Inner Hebrides there are signs that the island’s airport could be under threat. Publication of the new mapping brought a warning from Professor Jim Hansom, the principal researcher on the project from the University of Glasgow, that action is needed to adapt to the predicted changes. The map is available online at www.dynamiccoast.com