Already back for two days now and it's so difficult to change the pace of life that we were so used to when on Islay. This trip was one of the finest so far and certainly the beautiful autumn colours and good friends on Islay had something to do with that.
During our trip I managed to write daily a short overview of our whereabouts which is the reason that the travel report is ready, a lot sooner than I had planned. There is a detailed overview of our fabulous trip from last week and, if you permit me, some really nice photography. Below is a nice little panorama which I created from four pictures. The lonely tree can be found just beyond Ardnahoe on the Bunnahabhain road, one of the most scenic roads on Islay and not only in autumn. A link to the travel report can be found below, enjoy reading!
A lonely tree overlooking the Sound of Islay and the Paps of Jura
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We have just returned home from an absolutely brilliant trip to Islay. This week in Autumn was a treat and the island looked amazing with all the variations of brown, green and yellow, specially with the sun out. I would never have guessed that autumn time would be that beautiful, that was apparently a well kept secret. The weather was absolutely perfect with only one morning of rain (Wednesday) and some summer like days with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures. We arrived in Port Ellen on Saturday 29 September with clouded weather and no wind. The first thing you see, or rather not see anymore, is the Islay Hotel. Strange to see such a gap between the buildings, like it was never there. Our trip lasted till Saturday 6 October and we left from Islay on the afternoon ferry from Port Askaig. Besides the visits to some beautiful places we spent time as well with good friends and got to know some new people on Islay. We had a great evening and dinner with the Fletcher family (Rosemary, Donald and Arra) and we were invited for dinner by Jeremy Hastings and his wife Tink, brian palmer was there as well and we had a wonderful evening. It was so good to see them all again.
Sunrise seen from the road to Caol Ila
Because of the beautiful weather we spent most days outside making trips all over the island to some special places like Sanaigmore Bay, the Singing Sands and Port Ellen lighthouse, the Oa, Lagavulin Bay, Machir Bay and lots of other beautiful spots on the island. Very special was the roaring of the stags near Port Askaig which echoed between the hills one early morning at dawn. This time of year is great to watch wildlife and already some geese (Barnacle and White Fronted) arrived on Islay, although not in great numbers yet. We had some spectacular sightings of Golden Eagles flying only metres above us near Ballivicar Farm (one of the few times the camera was not within reach). Later we spotted them high in the sky together. I heard from Jeremy Hastings that there are two pairs of Golden Eagles on Islay at the moment. One pair is frequently seen on the Oa and the others close to Ardbeg.
Sunset near Machir Bay
Due to the shorter days we witnessed some extraordinary sunrises and sunsets, if you try that in June you almost end up without sleep. The light is stunning all over the island, with or without sunshine. Sometimes the low hanging clouds make the scenery even more dramatic than it is already. Autumn was already my favourite time of year and now it’s certainly my favourite time of year on Islay as well, although the weather has to help out a bit as well. We heard though from quite a number of people that October usually is a good month, we can only say aye to that! A detailed travel report will come available soon so stay tuned!
Port Ellen lighthouse on a warm and beautiful morning
Autumn views from the Glen Road
After staying in several locations on Islay, we had booked ourselves a cottage at the Persabus Farm this year to live the "Persabus Experience". Persabus is located one mile from Port Askaig on the Bunnahabhain road and is one of the many Viking farms on Islay, meaning 'abode of the priest'. The farm dates back well over a thousand years. The current farm buildings were built and run by a lead mining company approximately 400 years ago, and has been farmed by the Fletcher family for nearly a hundred years. Donald and Rosemary Fletcher currently have two very lovely selfcatering cottages equipped with everything you need, called the Millhouse and Persabus cottage. They themselves live in the farmhouse with their three lovely kids. Opposite the farm you'll find the best Pottery in Scotland and if you're lucky you can meet the potter himself in his workshop. And as you can expect on a farm, you are likely to meet some of its occupants, in this case the chickens, begging for food.
This part of Islay near Port Askaig is extremely beautiful and very quiet, offering ever changing views towards the Paps of Jura and over the Sound of Islay to Kintyre. A magnificent place to be and in fact, this is one of our favorite parts of Islay so far. When you walk or drive from the Persabus Farm towards Bunnahabhain you get to see these stunning views in ever changing light conditions. My favorite part of the day to be there was early in the evening when the sun was low on the horizon and the light became very special. The picture below hopefully expresses some of these conditions, the lonelyness, tranquility and wonderful light.
A view towards the Paps of Jura seen from Bunnahabhain Bay
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It was on the Sunday of our first week on Islay that we decided to explore the eastern shore of Loch Gruinart. The sky was blue and a little breeze made the conditions for a walk just perfect. From the Gruinart Flats you can take the single track road to Craigens and Killinallan on the eastern side of Loch Gruinart. After a few miles passing Islay Oysters and the abandonded cottage of Crois Mhor you will find a gate and here you can park your car and start your walk. We parked our car a mile before the gate and enjoyed a little visit to the Crois Mhor cottage. It must be great to live here all alone in such a beautiful area. It even has its own spring water supply but the cottage is owned by the estate and there are no plans to restore it in its former glory. We continued on the road towards the gate enjoying the magnificent views and just after the gate we turned left where you have access to the beach. The track itself continuous northeast and passes Killinallan Farm. As soon as we walked near the beach we heard seals but didn't see them immediately. It was later that we discovered a seal colony of around 80! on a sandbank in the middle of Loch Gruinart. They were basking in the warm sunshine and we enjoyed watching them as much as they enjoyed lying there.
This is a very remote and quiet part of Islay and despite the lovely weather we were the only ones walking there. We continued our walk following the waterline and enjoyed the Eiderducks on the water, the Oystercatchers continously flying around us, the Dunlins running over the sands to avoid us and observed all the little colourful bits and pieces of vegetation which were washed upon the shore. With the sun on your right looking over the loch the water has these amazing colours which change from all varieties of blue to light green and back. Combined with the blue skies and white sands it felt like we were on some tropical island.
Already when you start walking you see the distant sand dunes ahead of you and although Killinallan Point looks quite close, the total distance to Killinallan Point is roughly two or three miles. Walking over the sand doesn't make the going easier but the immense tranquility makes up for that. When you arrive at Killinallan Point and reach the open ocean you feel like you're alone in the world with nothing but stunning scenery around you. The sand is white, the sea is tropical blue and the silence is overwhelming. All you hear are the calm waves rolling on the shore and some birds. On the other side of Loch Gruinart is the abandoned settlement of Tayovulin where in the old days herring was brought in by ship from the Western Isles and processed on Islay. A bit further north is Sgeir na Nighinn, a rocky outcrop just before Ardnave Point. To the north you can see the Balach Rocks and behind them the isles of Oronsay and Colonsay. Two miles to the east you can see Gortantaoid Point, the beginning of an even remoter part of Islay and the end of this beautiful white beach. Killinallan Point itself and the land behind it consists of dunes and you can see the most amazing wind blown structures in the sand. Here we enjoyed the silence and had a little picknick before we returned over the beach and single track road to Crois Mhor where we had parked the car. By then the seals were all gone due to the high tide, I guess we were very lucky to have seen them in such big numbers.
This was a very relaxing and interesting walk and with the same weather conditions we had I can really recommend it. Don't forget however to bring your binoculars, you will need them to closely observe the seals on the sandbank and all the other wildlife.
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