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Islay Drone Photos

A few weeks ago I wrote on Twitter "We are taking our photography to a higher level with our new Drone" and I included a few photo's of Port Charlotte from around hundred metres up in the sky. It marked the start of an extra service we are offering to everyone on Islay: Islay Drone Photography. By flying a drone and taking photographs or video from higher up in the sky we are opening up a completely new way of capturing Islay's beauty.

Personally I think it's everyone's dream to be able to fly and to look at the area you live in from an elevated position. That's why we like satellite imagery and Google Earth so much. Admiring views from higher up is one of the reasons why we climb mountains and with a drone you can literally create your "own mountain" anywhere and look down below to take in these breathtaking views. Continue reading....

Peatzeria Islay Pizzeria Restaurant

I can't think of a better name for a Pizzeria on Islay than Peatzeria, it's carefully chosen and blends in perfectly with Islay's rich whisky past and present. And it's not only the name that is carefully chosen as you will find out for yourself when you visit this restaurant in Shore Street Bowmore. The interior is just as beautiful as the name is original and my first thought was when I entered Peatzeria for the first time that it could be just as well in the centre of Glasgow, or anywhere else for that matter. The design is just stunning and the owners made the best of the limited space available. This former church building can seat 32 people, made possible by a mezzanine floor. A further 20 seats will become available later on in May when the outdoor area will be finished which has fantastic views over Loch Indaal. I can't wait for those beautiful warm evenings! Continue reading....

Islay Festival 2017 Preview

This year's Islay Festival of Music and Malt will start on Friday the 26th of May and will end on Saturday the 3rd June. So it's less than a month before Islay House Hotel will kick off this years Feis Ile with their traditional garden party on Friday. They have invited the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for a whisky pairing masterclass and a blues band to end the evening under the stars. Fingers crossed!

Lagavulin Distillery is the first of the distilleries to have their open day with masterclasses, special tours, food stalls and coopers who show you the craft of cask building. The musical backdrop will be provided by Tide Lines, a new Scottish Band with familiair vocals as the lead singer is Robert Robertson who left Skipinnish last year. Tide Lines will also perform at the Ceilidh in Ramsay Hall that same evening.

On Sunday Bruichladdich Distillery will celebrate their open day and it will be another very busy and hopefully sunny day. There is lots to see and do and there is a great lineup of bands playing that day such as the Salsa Celtica Celtic Band, The Coaltown Daisies, Tide Lines and The Blueswater. Ella Edgar's Highland Dancers will show their dances, there are many art and food stalls and there's a malt bar and botanist tent. Continue reading....

RSPB Islay – More to See and Do in 2017

Hello, and welcome to my first guest blog on Islay Info. I’ll be blogging on a regular basis, hoping to give everyone up-to-date news and information about what I’m up to on Islay in my role as the RSPB Community Information & Tourism Officer. That’s a mouthful and a real tongue twister to start with, so the job is often referred to as ‘CITO’. I am part of a fantastic team that manage our farms and reserves on the island and, whereas I consider them to be the brains behind our operations, I have made it my mission to be the ‘mouth. Should you visit the reserves, particularly the Visitor Centre at Loch Gruinart, or even better, join one of the many guided walks I have planned over the next 7 months, you’ll be left in no doubt that I take that responsibility seriously!

I also go by the name ‘Botswana Dave’. This is because there are a quite a few of us on Islay all called “David”, so with all the usual abbreviations and nicknames already allocated, and because I have spent a considerable part of my adult life in Botswana, it made everyone’s life simpler to give me that ‘call-sign’. I use ‘Botswana Dave’ as my Profile Name on Facebook and Twitter (@IslayRangerDave), should you wish to ‘follow’ me there.

This is not an official RSPB site (go to www.rspb.org.uk for that), so I must stress that any opinions expressed here are my own. Continue reading....

Best Islay Books and Guides

Although we live in a digital era, many folk still like to read a real paper book which they can hold in their hands and read anywhere, without the need of a tablet, kindle, computer or other reading device. It's also nice to switch off every now and then and forget about all the digital stuff. And personally, when you're making the trip to Islay this year, I can't think of better reading material than a book about your favourite island. I always like to think that the more you know about a place in advance, and the better prepared you are before you go, that it will have a very positive impact on your holiday. That's why I can highly recommend purchasing a few books and guides about Islay. Both to read before you leave for Islay and to read when you are on Islay. Of course you can always read the tons of information we have online on our various websites but like I said earlier, it's just so nice to switch off at times. That's why I have picked six of the best Islay books and together they cover a lot of topics, from the fascinating history, general information, pronounciation of Gaelic words, the background of whisky distilling on Islay, a guide to walking and a book about experiences from other travellers. These will get you prepared and in the mood for your upcoming Islay holiday and keep you pleasantly occupied when the weather is bad. Here goes:

Islay: Pevensey Island Guides by Norman Newton
A small book, but loaded with gorgeous colour pictures of this beautiful Island in the Hebrides. Has a useful information and Places to visit Guide. Gives you a crash course of Place-Names and their pronunciation, so you won't be murdering the Gaelic. Includes a map, gives information of Medieval ruins, the Islay distilleries - which produces fine Single Malt Whisky. Gives you a real flavour of Islay. The book is soft sided and lightweight so it's easy to bring along. Buy here via Amazon. Continue reading...

Ardnahoe Update and Islay Festival Tasting with Jim McEwan

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....

Book Islay Boat Trips Online

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....

Important Info Campervan and Motorhome Owners on Islay

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..

Was Kildalton the Site of a Bloody Viking Ritual?

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...

WW100 Islay Public Meeting

WW100 Islay hosted a public meeting at ICCI on Tuesday 28 February which around 40 members of the Islay community attended. One of World War 100 Scotland’s main commemorations in 2018 will be held on Islay, marking the loss of the troopships Tuscania and Otranto. WW100 Islay group has proposed a calendar of events for 2018 which also remembers the part that Islay men and women played in the Great War.

Stuart Graham provided a very informative and moving presentation of how the war affected Islay in 1918. As the stories of the two troopship tragedies unfolded in the waters around Islay, around 50 Islay and Jura men lost their lives on the battlefields of France and further afield. It was a very difficult year. Stuart underlined the compassionate and respectful way that Islay people looked after the American service men who were washed up on Islay, both those who survived and those who were lost. Continue reading....

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