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Islay?

So . . . wife and I (I am 65, wife younger) have about 3 & 1/2 weeks for a UK trip and, for one portion would like to get to Islay to visit some of our favorite distilleries (Lagavulin, Aardbeg, Kilchoman, etc.) If we rent a car in Glasgow, how many nights do we need to dedicate to this leg of our trip? How long does it take to drive up and what is the deal with ferries? We are looking at latter half of September. Is this even a good idea at that time of year? (BTW, while I haven't driven on the left, I have managed France, Spain and Italy, including the Amalfi coast, not to mention our California freeways.)

We will probably arrive in Glasgow by train or plane (still sorting that bit) and depart to Edinburgh next.

Posted by
752 posts

Hi, bnelson210,

Are you going from Glasgow to Edinburgh to Kennacraig, or directly to Kennacraig from Glasgow? You'll need to drive over to Kennacraig to catch the ferry to Islay. Mid to late September is not a problem for visiting Islay, although there's always the possibility of ferry cancellation if the seas are rough. The ferry departs four or five times daily. Some ferries travel to Port Ellen; others depart for Port Askaig. You may want to sail to one; depart from the other.

Total driving time from Glasgow to Kennacraig, which is south of Oban, is about 4 to 4 1/2 hours. Add an extra 1 1/2 hours from Edinburgh. Ferry services are operated by Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac). Check their website for times and fares. As Islay has become more popular over the recent years due to the popularity of distillery touring, I'd advise making lodging reservations as soon as you've finalized your travel plans. Ferry reservations should be made at least a week ahead of time. You need to spend at least two nights on Islay.

Slainte!

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: As you haven't yet experienced driving on the left, I'd advise picking up your hired car at Glasgow Airport as opposed to in the city. That way, you'll get a little bit of experience before driving off to Kennacraig or Edinburgh. Driving in the center of Glasgow can be very nerve-wracking, with the bike lane and bus lane cameras everywhere, and getting stuck at a traffic light at the top of a steep hill, driving a six-speed, with another car directly behind you, is an adventure in itself!

Posted by
76 posts

It seems you're looking to visit Islay only and not really anywhere else on the way to and from the island? In that case I'd suggest it's worth considering flying to Islay - Loganair (www.loganair.co.uk) fly 2-3 times a day from Glasgow (GLA) to Islay. You can hire a car to and from the airport with Islay car hire (https://www.islaycarhire.com).

The flights are generally quite expensive, but they get you there in about 45mins! You don't say where you're arriving from or if you plan on staying in Glasgow before heading to Islay - if you're not, and you're planning to head directly to Islay, bear in mind that Loganair have a codeshare with British airways so you may be able to book a through checked flight with a protected connection into islay via the BA website.

Posted by
752 posts

Hi, outshined78,

Good idea. Just did a quick check of Loganair flights from GLA to ILY. The cheapest round trip fare I could find for mid to late September is 382 pounds round trip for two people. Plus car hire on Islay. Round trip ferry from Kennacraig is 97 pounds (car plus two passengers). With that, however, you'd have to factor in the cost of petrol for the round trip from Glasgow to Kennacraig.

However, the time saving would be valuable: 45 minutes flight time, plus check in time at GLA, vs. five hours driving from Glasgow to Kennacraig, arriving 30 minutes early for the ferry; plus the 2 1/4 hour ferry sailing time.

BA may have an agreement with Loganair allowing for a lower fare from GLA to ILY if it's included as an add on to the Transatlantic flight, with a direct connection to Islay. Certainly worth looking in to, as it would avoid having to arrive early at GLA for check in.

bnelson210, I hope that we've given you enough information to help you with your travel plans. You're going to love Scotland!

Slainte!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
148 posts

Thanks! This is perfect!
I think we will look into the flight (although we aren't coming in on BA, so will be stuck with full fare) . . . seems like we would lose a full day each way if we tried the drive/ferry option and, much as we enjoy driving in the country and seeing the sights, I think our time is valuable.
Upon return to Glasgow, we will probably spend a night there and then take a train to Edinburgh. Wife has been there (Edinburgh, about 40 years ago), but all of this will be a first time for me. We are still working out a full itinerary (fly in/out via Gatwick). Looking at Bath and environs for the first few days, then Scotland, before Fountain Abbey, York and maybe Cambridge before finishing with a few days in London (where we have both been before). Like I say, a lot to be worked out. Sadly, on these forums, RS breaks the UK into England, Wales and Scotland . . . leaving planners to jump around a bit!

Posted by
76 posts

If you're coming up from bath I wouldn't recommend the train - it's a loooooong journey by train!

As you've probably seen, easyJet fly several times a day from Bristol to Glasgow. Be aware though that easyJet don't interline with loganair at Glasgow, so you'd need to leave 3h + between flights to allow time to collect and recheck baggage etc. One option might be to catch the evening flight from Bristol to Glasgow then overnight at Glasgow airport (there are several hotels on site), then your all set up to catch the 8am flight to Islay the next morning.

Posted by
148 posts

The overnight at Glasgow, then the next AM flight looks like the perfect idea. Not sure if we are coming direct from Bath or someplace in between (early planning stages).
On the return maybe a day in Glasgow and then the train to Edinburgh (wife wants to show me the places she visited years ago)?