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Isle of Islay

My brother-in-law traced his ancestors to the Isle of Islay. My husband and I are planning a trip to the island with my brother-in-law. I am in early planning stages for this trip. We may do this trip in June of 2020. My brother-in-law will be 81 and I will be 69- so no long hikes mostly seeing sites from car. Possible 2-3 week itinerary - fly to Paris-Eurostar to London-drive from London to Scotland-fly home from Edinburgh.
I would like to go to Windsor Castle- Drive to see Mayflower family ancestor sites-Cotswolds- York-Islay-Glen Coe area
We are use to a fast pace and driving will not be an issue. Would like ideas on sites to see and places to stay

Posted by
2744 posts

Hi, I think I just replied to you on the England forum, but here goes. To get to Islay you'll take the ferry from the dock a mile or two west of Tarbert in Argyll, at the head of the Kintyre peninsula. The town is a fishing village, not a lot to see except the ruined castle of Robert the Bruce, and that is a relatively strenuous uphill hike. A couple of miles north of town on the shore of Loch Fyne is the Stonefield Castle Hotel. Check my review of it on this site under Reviews.

Driving there you can go through Glencoe and then around via Oban, or down through Inveraray. There are lots of potential points of interest. How many days will you have in Scotland? Do you want to make a beeline to Islay or spend more time exploring the western highlands?

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, travison,

How much of your 2-3 week itinerary do you hope to spend in Scotland? You'll be a few days in England, looking at your plans - London, Windsor, Cotswolds, York, etc. You're going to be a long time on the CalMac ferries - You can sail from Oban, via Colonsay; or from Kennacraig, on the Kintyre Peninsula. If you're going to Islay prior to Glencoe, you could save time by island hopping across Arran. Kennacraig is not too far from Claonaig. Ferry time from Kennacraig is just under two hours.

For the Scottish leg of your journey, you could conceivably travel from Ardrossan to Brodick, Lochranza to Claonaig, Kennacraig to Port Ellen, and Port Askaig to Oban via Colonsay. That way, you'd get a lot of down time on the ferries, see some beautiful scenery (with the off chance of seeing dolphins or whales), and leave the driving to CalMac.

You'll get all kinds of advice here once you narrow down the time that you plan to spend in Scotland.

Best wishes.

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
4364 posts

You say that driving will not be an issue but have you ever driven in the uk?

You don't state where you're from but if it's the US then driving is a lot different to driving in the UK. Yesterday I drove 350 miles from Miami to Orlando in just over 3 hours. It was a very easy but incredibly boring drive, pretty much just one long straight stretch on the I95. You won't find driving like that in the UK. Consider the drive from London to Glasgow (pretty much 350 miles) takes around seven hours you'll begin to understand the difference. Don't make the mistake of looking at distances in the UK and viewing them with your American driving head on.

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, JC,

You had me worried there! 350 miles in just over three hours? It's only 240 miles. Were you looking at kilometers? That would be closer to 350! But you're right - seven hours London to Glasgow, easily. And that's not including stops at motorway service areas for food and toilets. And roadworks!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
4364 posts

Ah yes Mike, I had my distances from another drive in my head when I wrote that! Still, it felt like 350 miles.

Posted by
1 posts

Just a quick question - are you aware that there are senior age restrictions re car rentals in some places?

an excerpt: -- "United Kingdom: Some rental agencies apply an extra fee for travelers age 70 or over; some rental agencies apply a maximum age limit of 69 on some car classes."

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-03-24/travel/orl-travel-senior-travel-032410_1_rental-agencies-minimum-age-limits

I'm glad you haven't included Ireland in your itinerary since you cannot take rental vehicles from the mainland to Ireland or vice versa.

BTW - my roots are in Islay too. Our first trip was 5 days - not long enough. Our second trip was 10 days - not long enough. Our third trip was 2 weeks - again not long enough. It's a beautiful island best savored at a slow pace.

I'd advise getting your Islay reservations (ferry and accommodations) WELL in advance - even more so if you are going at the beginning of June when Feis Ile (Festival of Music and Malt) is on. Then the island is VERY crowded. You might even have difficulty a year in advance for certain accommodations.

Posted by
8 posts

thanks for heads up.--Age of driver not a problem. Also, my husband drove over 3000 miles while on our road trip in Italy, France, Switzerland. I do expect a much slower pace, especially in Scotland. When is the Festival of Music and Malt? What are some of the things to do on Islay?

Posted by
940 posts

Hi again, travison,

The Islay Music and Malt festival is usually the last week of May, but as it's a week long festival, it may run in to early June. Most people travel to Islay to visit the distilleries and the beaches. Some of the most well known single malts are brewed on Islay - Bowmore, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, and Bruichladdich, just to name a few. It's something about the peaty soil.

If you're not in to whisky tasting, there's not a whole lot to do on Islay. However, that can be to your advantage. After lots of hard driving through England, you may want the time to just relax and enjoy the excellent beaches and machair. Plus researching the family history, of course! They apparently have some records in Bowmore, but others at the Dalriada House in Lochgilphead, which is on the mainland.

Best of luck planning your holiday, and also with the family research!

Mike (Auchterless)