We are a couple in our late 60's planning a trip to Wales and Scotland next September. We will be in Wales at the start of our trip then continue to Scotland after ten days or so. We are planning a few days in Glasgow then on to Islay. Since we will have been traveling for two weeks at this point, we want to spend four days or so relaxing, visiting distilleries, and taking on some of the history of the island. We will not have a car, I know busses are available but not frequent or numerous. I had assumed we would stay in Port Ellen - and sorry for the lengthy intro - but now wonder if anyone has a reccomendation for another city on islay? Port Charlotte or Bowmore? I have been looking at b &be or guesthouses, would accomodations in one location be better than another? Thanks as always for advice!
We stayed in Bowmore, and would do so again - felt it was more centrally located than Port Ellen or Port Charlotte. I'd highly recommend the Bowmore house. Andrew was a lovely host.
You might rethink having a car. Or, make prior arrangements for touring/transportation if you want to visit many of the distilleries, or any of the more remote historical locations. Islay was easy to drive on, despite the single tracks to some of the distilleries - there isn't a lot of traffic, relatively speaking.
Aaahhhh....Islay, Queen of the Hebrides, my favorite place in Scotland after four trips. There is something very special about this magical island and its people. How are you planning to travel between Glasgow and Islay, flying or public bus? The public bus leaves from Buchanan station In the heart of Glasgow for Kennacraig where you catch the CalMac ferry to Port Ellen. It’s a beautiful trip that weaves it way up through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Rest and Be Thankful, and Inverary before meeting the ferry at Kennacraig. Inverary is definitely worth a stop to break the journey. The ferry is a beautiful journey and introduction to the island as the distilleries of Ardbeg, Laguvalin and Laphroaig come into view as you come into Port Ellen. Laphroaig is our favorite distillery (and Scotch for that matter). Be sure to join “Friends of Laphroaig” before going. These are going to be the easiest 3 distilleries to visit using public transit.
On the island, public transit is skint. Their public buses are oriented toward school schedules as they do double duty with NO service on Sunday. We abhor driving on vacation particular on the left side of the road but Islay is an exception to our rule. It’s a large island, almost all the roads are single lane and you have a better chance running into a herd of sheep than another car along the way. There are places and distilleries you just can’t reach on the bus. Plus an all day bus ticket is 10 pounds for one person. You can rent a car for 35 pounds a day all inclusive except gas from www.islaycarhire.com, a lovely local company that will meet you at the ferry dock or airport. When you’re done you just leave it at the ferry dock and drop the keys with the harbormaster.
We really love the intimacy of Port Charlotte. I’d highly recommend tighnachuain mhor bed and breakfast (http://www.tighachuain-mhor-islay.co.uk/) with its beautiful accommodations overlooking Loch Indaal. Tim and Margaret will greet you with a full on tea service on arrival and serve the most epic breakfast I’ve ever had at a B&B. Make sure to order a seafood platter a day in advance at Lochindaal Pub so they can have it caught fresh for you. Bruchlaiddach distillery is right in Port Charlotte. Make sure you try their gin, The Botanist, brewed using only Islay herbs in “Ugly Betty” while you’re there.
You’ll find a wealth of information about Islay on the website Www.islayinfo.com. Please feel free to direct message me if I can offer any suggestions or help in planning. Islay holds a special and magical place in my heart. Lucky you!
If you take the bus from Glasgow to the CalMac ferry and stop off in Inveraray, know that Brambles serves a good lunch or snack. They are right in the high street in Inveraray on the side away from the water. Inveraray also has several shops selling traditional Scottish woolens (but read the tags -- some of the items are made in other countries).
Ah, to the nosbigs and eptld, thank you for your posts, which certainly sell Islay and provide valuable information!!
Thank you for posting your question, Liz, now I am daydreaming and armchair traveling too!
We visited Islay last summer for 10 days for the first time. We envisioned using public transport until we took a cab from Port Askaig to Port Ellen, where we were staying. It became clear very quickly that we needed our own car as the island was much more vast than we thought. In addition, it was so much more beautiful than anything we could have imagined, therefore we wanted the opportunity to see everything it had to offer. Thankfully, we put in an online reservation that day and were able to rent a car the next morning. We thoroughly enjoyed Port Ellen as it is close to the distillery path. Bowmore would be my other recommendation because of its more central location.
Thanks to everyone for all of your replies and advice. It is so helpful and makes us even more excited to be going! It looks as though we need to rent a car. Hopefully, by the time we reach Isaly, I will be more accustomed to the left hand side of the road. We know we will be visiting the distilleries; we already have tasted those available in our nearby store including the Gin mentioned. But we also want to see the museum of island life, Finlaggan, the Islay Woolen Mill, and Kilnave Chapel. Has anyone done any fishing there? I've seen discussion of fly fishing, we will be novices, but also fishing trips. Again, thanks to all and happy to hear more comments about other sights we should take in!