Islay Voices, an anthology of writing about Islay, is published this month and has been launched at the Celtic House in Bowmore on Monday 12 December. Illustrated with archive photographs from the Museum of Islay Life, it is edited by Jenni Minto and Les Wilson from Port Charlotte. Here is an exclusive extract from the book:
For thousands of years the island of Islay has drawn migrants, invaders and inquisitive wanderers to its shores. They have often come as lonesome travellers, but sometimes in great numbers like migrating geese. For many, their visits were inspired by innate human curiosity, while others came seeking a land that would sustain them. A few were washed up, half dead, on Islay’s shores. Once such saved soul, seventeenyear-old Private David Roberts of the US Army, wrote to his mother of the ‘Scots lads’ who had dragged him ashore and to miraculous safety after his troopship sank off Islay in a terrible storm in 1918.
Among the most revealing accounts of journeys to Islay are those of the Skye-born traveller and writer, Martin Martin; the Edinburgh-born naturalist and clergyman, John Walker; the Welsh naturalist and antiquarian, Thomas Pennant; and the distinguished English scientist, Joseph Banks. These serious-minded and perceptive men subjected Islay to the same kind of scrutiny as Banks had employed when he visited Tahiti with Captain Cook. Viewed from London or Edinburgh, 18th century Islay seemed almost as exotic as Tahiti. Continue reading....
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Many years ago, when I took my first photo of Islay, I could never have imagined that I would end up with well over 60.000 Islay Photos in less than 15 years time. That's an average of more than 4.000 photos a year. In that time a lot has changed, camera wise I mean. The first photo I took was 2048 x 1536 pixels and had a size of 600KB. The last photo I took had a resolution of 5760 x 3840 and a size of 30MB, roughly 50 times more than the first photo. I won't bore you with more technical details but the good thing about my improved camera equipment is that I can now take higher quality photos and do more with the end result.
Since many years I post my Islay Photos on the Islay Info Website and Islay Blog and more recently a lot of them appear on Twitter and Facebook where we have almost 35.000 followers combined. For some reason many folk seem to like my photos and it motivates me to invest more in equipment and go out as often as possible to show you our beautiful island.
Quite a few of you have asked me if I offer prints and I'm also often asked by publishing companies and other businesses and websites owners if they can "use" my photos. Often I had to give them a no as an answer as I never had the means to sell them online and to easily retrieve them. Until a year ago I had to go through a library with 60K photo's every time someone needed a certain photo, you can imagine this is rather time consuming and not very practical. Continue reading...
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The dark days before Christmas are here so now is a good time to start thinking about Christmas presents! Before you rush off to Amazon and the likes you might want to consider doing some of your Online Christmas shopping on Islay and support the local businesses as there is plenty of choice, as you can see on our online shops on Islay page.
But there is more. The Islay Celtic Craft shop in Portnahaven also sell their items online through Ebay and you can find a wide selection of Islay and Celtic related items. For an overview visit their Ebay page. Jane Taylor's beautiful whisky prints can also be purchased online and if children's books are your thing you must visit the website of Ailsa Press, they have some lovely children's books.
You can find a wide range of whisky soaps, special gift packs, creams, scenting candles, balms and other bathing and personal care products on the www.spiritedsoaps.com website and for those of you with a sweet tooth I can recommend the Islay tablet shop. The attractive online Islay Shop is another great place where you can find a nice collection of gifts such as Jewellery, calendars, t-shirts and whisky gifts. Continue reading...
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We've been very busy lately and had a few large projects so there hasn't been any time for blogging I'm afraid. But as Christmas is coming closer and the days are getting shorter, wetter and darker too, it's slowly quietening down. Many folk use this time of year to start thinking about next year's holiday plans and hopefully many of you will make the trip to Islay to enjoy all the island delights.
If you are someone who likes to plan early, now is a good time to find accommodation on Islay. Many Self Catering properties, Hotels and Bed and Breakfasts still have plenty of spaces available in the spring and summer season so booking early avoids disappointment. As you probably know we have very comprehensive accommodation listings: Continue reading...
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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...
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Alex has been walking nonstop round the coastline of Britain and Ireland since August 2014, and all that for charity as he is raising money for the RNLI. He started off in Kent in England and by now he has walked over 5000 miles and raised over £25,000 for lifeboats around the country.
If you see him walking round Islay this week- dig deep! He has a collection bucket with him. He's walking from Bowmore along the coast towards Port Charlotte today so please keep an eye out for him, I know I do :-)
You can follow his progress on his Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/alexellisroswell. And if you miss him and can't make a cash donation directly with Alex you can also donate online via www.bt.com/DonateToLifeboats
Fair play to Ardbeg for donating a bottle of whisky to this RNLI Lifeboat fundraiser! It's raised £300 for the local lifeboat.
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Essential repair work at Port Ellen will require ferry operator CalMac's to divert all Islay services to Port Askaig for a period of around three weeks. The port's linkspan is being replaced and fenders upgraded by owner Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) requiring closure from October 24 to November 13. There will be no reduction in overall service but an amended timetable will operate. Foot passengers requiring to disembark at Port Ellen will be transported by road free of charge. These sailings are marked with a 'D' on the timetable, which can be viewed below.
Calmac writes: “This is essential upgrade work being carried out by the port owners which, unfortunately will cause some inconvenience to the travelling public for a short period of time,” said CalMac's director of operations, Drew Collier. “To help us limit disruption as much as possible we ask that foot passengers looking to go to Port Ellen should book with our contact centre 24 hours before they travel during this period. This will allow us to plan alternative road transport effectively.” Passengers can book by calling 0800 066 5000.
Temp timetable from October 24 to November 13
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Gary Scott explains that IJCE is still going strong after 25 years and invites you to the celebrations.
Back in 1979 people were saying it was impossible. A swimming pool and leisure centre on Islay? Not a chance. However a group of dedicated people with the community behind them had other ideas and set about raising the finance and identifying premises.
A staggering £1m was raised over a period of eleven years which coincided with Morrison Bowmore Distillers donating the redundant whisky bond in the village to the community for £1. The Mactaggart Leisure Centre was built and opened in June 1991. Mountain No 1 climbed.
Then came the problem of how the operational costs would be financed as the small service level agreement from Argyll & Bute Council together with trading income did not balance the books. Everything was turned into projects and funding applications submitted to grants providers, private trusts and foundations to cover the cost of each project. Through much work, huge amounts of energy and volunteer time over £2.5m has been raised over the past fifteen years to fund additional services and activities needed by the community. Mountain No 2 climbed.
In 2009 after eighteen years of heavy usage the building was looking run down, the roof was leaking and the plant was unreliable. The Mactaggart Leisure Centre needed a big injection of capital. Where would we get that amount of money everyone asked? Continue reading...
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After Jeremy Hastings of islay Birding left the island, now some five years ago, there was nobody who followed him up, at least not straight away. Becky Williamson started Islay Welly Walks a few years later but she left the island two years ago. The only "official" wildlife guide right now is DJ MacPhee who runs Islay Outdoors. On an island with such an abundance of wildlife there was certainly a need for another business doing wildlife and birding tours on the island. And here came Gary Turnbull, a former Police Officer from Glasgow and bird nerd since his early years. Gary has started up a new business recently called Wild Islay Birding and I've asked him for a wee introduction:
"Hello, I am Gary Turnbull and I have started a new wildlife tourism business on Islay, Wild Islay Birding. This is a guiding service for visitors to the island to show them the wonderful bird and wildlife which abounds here. I have visited Islay for sometime and retired here last year with my partner Samantha, she works at the Islay Woolen Mill. We came to Islay for the wildlife and met some very nice people and decided to move here permanently. " Continue reading...
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What a stunning morning to wake up to today and on top of all that a pod of Dolphins in Loch Indaal entertained us just after 7am this morning. They first passed our cottage and were heading towards the pier where more and more people came out of their houses to witness this stunning Islay wildlife spectacle. Later on they headed back towards the lighthouse and that gave me the opportunity to get very close to them and take some nice pictures. It was impressive to see them and, as it was very quiet, to hear them as well every time they surfaced.
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