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Friday, 24 April 2015

Travel: Islay - Scotland's Whisky Isle

We've just returned from a week away in Islay (pronounced eye-lah), the Scottish island most famous for its peaty single malt whiskies. The island is reached by ferry from either Oban or Kennacraig on the mainland and has beautiful beaches and numerous whisky distilleries. The island is very friendly, with everyone saying hello to you or waving as they passed in their cars. The littlies loved this.



While I love a good peaty whisky, I didn't indulge at all on this trip, and instead decided to be my husband's driver when he partook at a few distilleries. No hardship really, as it was a rather small part of our week.  Our favourite distillery visit was Ardbeg. The food at its Old Kiln Cafe was delicious, and we visited twice for lunch during our stay. The building is beautiful, the lighting showcasing the rafters of the tall stone building. The cafe also handily allows express tastings over lunch, so my husband was able to stay with us during our meal while tasting 5 whiskies (£15). My husband also enjoyed a distillery tour at Lagavulin, which provided his favourite tasting of a 33 year old whisky.


The weather was beautiful for most of our stay (yes, really!) and our location on Kilnaughton Bay, near Port Ellen in the south of the island, was breathtaking. We'd booked a house on the beach which was newly built and sensitively designed. Every window provided a beautiful vista of the bay, and I found myself just staring out of the windows sometimes, watching as the scenery changed from minute to minute. I can't recommend this location enough for visitors with kids. We visited the nearby lighthouse, found the hidden Silver Sands beach, saw numerous dolphins and seals close to the shore, explored ruins and built sandcastles every day. The water was cold but as the kids had wetsuits, this was not a problem.





On our one wet day, we visited Finlaggan, a site of important historical significance to the Clan Donald, as this was where the Lords of the Isles met in days when the Highland and Islands were ruled by the clans. The day was very dreary and it was hard to imagine the epic journey the clan leaders would have had to make to reach this place. The visitor centre had a few exhibits as well as some hands-on ones for the kids to try, like a mini archeological dig (in a tray) where they found coins and some jewellery, as well as a few sheets (like design your own shield and design your family coat of arms) which kept them occupied while we perused the more wordy exhibits.


The kids were quite keen to see more seals, so we also ventured to picturesque Portnahaven where there were tons of curious seals to be seen in the harbour. 


All too soon our week came to an end. We'll definitely return, probably visiting the nearby islands of Colonsay and Jura (home to my favourite whisky - honey with a light peaty flavour)at the same time. My quest to work my way through all of Scotland's Islands bit by bit continues. 


Clementine.



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