Whisky writer Dave Broom recently penned an article asking why anyone would want to become builders and owners of a ninth distillery on Islay? Why, not, he queried, become the first malt whisky distillers on Tiree, for example?
Artist impression Ardnahoe Distillery
After visiting the site overlooking the Sound of Islay on a bright but windy Wednesday afternoon, with no disrespect to Tiree, the logic of the decision made by Hunter-Laing to produce whisky at Ardnahoe wouldn’t be difficult to defend. After all, the whisky industry is almost as much about the visitor experience as it is about the amber nectar and the views from the site are spectacular. Continue reading....
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If I have to name one activity on Islay that you must do when you're on Islay it's a Boat Trip. And who can better provide that for you than Gus Newman and his crew from Islay Sea Adventures. They started off a few years ago, in 2014 to be precise, offering wildlife trips from Port Ellen and Lagavulin on a relatively small scale and with only one boat, the Wavedancer. From the start the boat trips were a hit and many folk, locals and visitors alike, enjoyed many fascinating hours on Islay's surrounding seas taking in the breathtaking views and the huge variety in wildlife, from swimming red deer to otters and nearby sightings of white tailed sea eagles and sometimes hundreds of seals.
Since 2014 much has changed. As more and more folk found their way to Port Ellen Gus expanded the business and added new boats to his fleet. Starting this year Gus has four boats, two RIB's and two hard boats which are captained by experienced skippers with a wealth of knowledge of the seas round Islay. All vessels have lifejackets, life vests, lifebuoys and fire extinguishers and comply with all the safety regulations. Continue reading....
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In recent years there has been an increase in the number of camper vans and motorhomes on Islay. The introduction of RET (Road Equivalent Tariff) has certainly played an important role as ferry tickets has become a lot cheaper due to this scheme. The increase of Motorhomes and Camper Vans has so far not lead to an increase in some of the facilties they need. The most important facility owners of these vehicles need is a designated place where they can empty their chemical toilets. The contents of these toilets can NOT be dumped into regular public toilets as it has a damaging effect on the sewage system.
To inform folk about this and to make sure the contents of chemical toilets are not emptied in public toilets, or even worse in nature, the Islay Community Council has produced a leaflet for camper van and motor home drivers. The leaflet gives sound guidance about driving on single track roads and offers advice about the emptying of chemical toilets and wild camping. The folder outlines the "leave no trace" principles which ensure that campers have minimal impact on the environment. Continue reading..
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Those seeking to imbibe Islay spirit of a less liquid kind might like to visit the roofless church at Kildalton, deeply numinous with its ancient crosses and figured mediaeval graves. Sweep past the casks and pagodas of Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg, traverse dark woods inhabited by fairy folk and spotted deer, skirt bright bays studded with seal-draped skerries; a few miles of peat bogs and hazel groves and draw up beside the church, gaunt and roofless beneath a grove of Plane trees.
There is uncertainty over the saint who is commemorated, but the name is generally held to be derived from the Gaelic ‘Cille Daltan’: church of the fosterling; the fosterling in question was Saint John the Evangelist, and it is also said to be associated with Baithéne mac Brénaind, a cousin and disciple of St. Columba and perhaps his ‘fosterling’, who in 563 AD had crossed the North Channel from Ireland in a wicker and hide boat.
Early Christian missionaries took to living as hermit monks in very small ‘beehive’ cells, such as can still be seen on the Garvellach islands which can be glimpsed on the horizon north of Islay. Some of these cells developed eventually into religious settlements and it’s not difficult to imagine one such at Kildalton, sheltered beneath an elevated ridge overlooking fertile ground and accessible for sea travel. That must remain speculation, as other than the spectacular wheel cross there are no discernible features of a monastery here. Such settlements form a pattern of havens stretching across the Hebrides and western mainland of Scotland, where sea travellers could rest and take on provisions on their voyages between the mother monasteries in Ireland and the important satellite communities in such places as Iona and Applecross. St Baithéne succeeded Columba as the Abbot of Iona, and died around the year 600. Continue reading...
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