A guide to Islay, Scotland – A whisky lovers dream destination

One of the absolute must-do stops from Dalek’s Scotland trip was Islay, the Scottish island famed over the world for its whisky. What was surprising was how much natural beauty was present on the island and how friendly the locals were. This guide will summarise our Islay experiences along with tips for getting around by public transport.

Top tip: It is difficult to get to Islay (min 6.5 hours by public transport from Glasgow, described below) but the rewards are worth it.


The village of Lagavulin (so exciting to be here)


The Paps of Jura seen from Islay


The village of Port Charlotte

The distilleries (and other whisky-related experiences)


Map of Islay distilleries (courtesy Islay Info)

There are 8 9 distilleries on Islay and four of them are super-famous (Ardbeg, Bowmore, Lagavulin & Laphroaig). A visit to Islay must include visiting as many of the distilleries as possible for a whisky fan. We’ll list out the distilleries we visited and our experience there (checkout our top 5 whisky-related experiences in Scotland)

  • Ardbeg: The only Islay distillery tour taken by us was the Ardbeg Full Range Tour & Tasting (£20 – 5 drams). It is very worth it, we love the Ardbeg range of whiskies and the distillery has a unique look & feel about it. Plus you get a £5 voucher to spend in the shop after your tasting (we used it on a Corryvreckan). There is a cafe as well where some courses come with a dram
  • Laphroaig: They’re opening a bar in April 2017! During our visit, the staff would serve up a taste of any of the bottles at the shop. But for us, the #1 reason to visit was to buy the Laphroaig marmalade, the best incorporation of whisky in food that we’ve seen.20160802_080956_HDRc
  • Bowmore: The distillery has a tasting bar worth visiting. It is also close to the Bowmore Hotel which claims to have over 700 whiskies to keep the party going 🙂
  • Briuchladdich: This distillery is home to the world’s most peated whisky – The Octomore (4x the peat contained in Laphroaig but tastes simply superb). They took give out tastes of whisky you might be interesting in trying before you buy (competition is hot on Islay as you can imagine).DSC_0211
  • Kilchoman: We did not make it to Kilchoman (details soon) but the road to the distillery is the most scenic of the lot. And the whisky is pretty darn good!
  • Lagavulin: It is an old distillery and seemed quite understaffed. Plus it does not have a tasting bar on the premises. It is the only Islay distillery visit without a positive experience.DSC_0185c

Tip: The bar at Port Charlotte hotel is a lively place to spend an evening mixing with locals and drinking whisky. The Port Askaig hotel bar serves fresh langoustines.


The water of life at the Port Charlotte bar

Tip: The perfect place to stay in the south coast of Islay is the Old Excise House B&B at Lagavulin. It has luxurious & modern rooms at an affordable price with an excellent breakfast. Every whisky nerd’s dream is to live in an erstwhile excise house so this is your chance.

Cycling around Islay

We’re not a super-athletic couple and one half of us had not cycled for years. Dalek found a cycle hire in Port Charlotte and decided to hire a bike. It was an awesome experience. As no buses on Islay go towards the beautiful Machir Bay & Kilchoman distillery, it seemed like a good idea to cycle the 17 miles after years of not cycling. 😛 The trip had to be curtailed to Loch Gorm due to dying sunlight but it gave us one of our favourite pictures of the entire trip (below).


The scenic Loch Gorm & the vehicle of choice


The road less taken


Support local businesses

As Islay is mostly flat compared to the rest of Scotland, the elevation bits are infrequently encountered for noob cyclists like us. It did activate unused leg muscles 😀

Quick visit to Jura

The Isle of Jura (again made famous by the whisky of the same name) is a 5 minute ferry ride from Port Askaig on the east coast of Islay. Jura is one of the wildest places we’ve ever seen as there are 200 people who live there and 5000+ deer. Highly recommend taking a car and checking out the length of this island but even for a foot walker, there are short wild walks one can take. Dalek took the only scheduled bus for a short distance south to check out a very old standing stone. The driver was very kind and even dropped him back to the ferry terminal totally out of schedule (as he was the only passenger on the bus, a commonality in very rural Scotland).


2 things Jura is famous for – Deer & a historic standing stone


6000 years old and 12 feet high

Tip: There is a very large whirlpool called Corryvreckan just north of Jura. Boat trips leave for it from Islay and this is one of the top things we want to do if we can head back to Islay. There is a long walk on Jura that takes you close to the whirlpool as well.

Campsite Review : Port Mor campsite

This is a magnificent campsite on the bonnie shores of Loch Indaal. Very spacious pitching areas & immediate access to public transport. The rural location gives you access to spectacular night skies.

UK Campsite link (9/10)http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/sites/reviews.asp?revid=6956

Cost (per person per night): £8

Distance from public transit: Just outside the site

Toilets & showers: Excellent, very clean toilet block

Laundry facilities: High quality laundry machines, need £1 coins


Getting in & around

Getting In
  • If you’re flush with money / short on time, fly to Islay from Glasgow using Flybe. These flights are pretty expensive (much cheaper to fly to mainland Europe).
  • Getting to Islay involves hopping on to a Scottish Citylink bus from Glasgow to Campbelltown (or driving) to get of at Kennacraig Ferry Terminal (note: this ferry terminal has no adjoining town / village). This takes around 3.5 hours. From there you can catch a ferry to either Port Ellen (south) or Port Askaig (east) run by CalMac that takes just under 2.5 hours.
Getting around
  • Buses on Islay are operated by Islay coaches and they have a 24 hour ticket for 10 GBP. If you manage your timetable properly, you can extract the maximum value for this ticket (which Dalek did).
  • The PDF timetable for buses can be found here. Bowmore is the central hub for buses in Islay so most connections happen there.

One of the many rainbows seen over Kennacraig from the Islay ferry

© 2017 Beyond Our Horizons


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15 thoughts on “A guide to Islay, Scotland – A whisky lovers dream destination

    • yodandalek says:

      We hope you do visit too, Scotland is a pretty magical place to visit but it needs a minimum amount of time devoted to it as places like Islay are remote & far flung.


  1. Linda in Canada says:

    Have been to all of them love Octomore and Caol Ila 🇨🇦 Stayed at the Burnside Lodge when Jackie And Ken (the great white hunter) Aldridge owned it it was just so gorgeous being there🇨🇦❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • yodandalek says:

      That sounds like a wonderful experience Linda. It is an absolutely gorgeous island and we’d love a revisit 🙂 I love the view from Caol Ila, just across the water from the gorgeous Paps of Jura. Thank you for checking out our Islay experience!! 🙂


  2. Klausbernd says:

    We didn’t make it to Islay as we were heading to the Outer Hebrides and NC500, but we would have loved too! Lagavulin is my favourite Whisky and I’m sorry to read it was not a positive experience at the destillery. In Onich we stayed at nice hotel with a great Whisky bar ad we tried Octomore and Ardbeg. And loved it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • yodandalek says:

      You have tastes that I can relate to, you will love Islay. And Lagavulin wasn’t as good to me relative to the other distilleries on Islay that have set exceptionally high standards! Hope you visit soon, we love your posts so much 💖


      • Klausbernd says:

        We know Islay, we have been there years ago but not this time. Lagavulin and Laphroig are two of the many Islay destilleries. We love both Whiskies but the other Islay Whiskíes as well. We were amazed how many destilleries are on this relatively small island.
        Thanks and have a happy day
        The Fab Four of Cley

        Liked by 1 person

    • yodandalek says:

      Hiya Claire, thank you for your note and recommendation. I did drop by Lagavulin but they seemed a tad busy and did not seem to be entertaining those without pre-bookings the day of my visit. I do love my Lagavulin 16 but the Ardbeg range is my firm favourite. Now that I have been to most other distilleries on Islay, may go to Lagavulin next. Living in the Lagavulin excise house was a whisky nerdgasm though, I think it salvaged the “Lagavulin” part of my Islay trip quite well. Slainte.


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