Explore Islay

An island of quiet, sandy beaches, historic sites, fantastic wildlife and a thriving malt whisky industry providing a super visitor experience.

Islay - Queen of the Hebrides: beautiful scenery, unspoiled beaches. Original image courtesy Benoit Plumat

Islay - Queen of the Hebrides

Beautiful scenery, a thriving malt whisky (and now gin) industry, abundant wildlife and, above all, warm island hospitality.

The isle of Islay is the most southerly of the Hebridean islands on Scotland's wild and rugged west coast. Islay, pronounced 'Eye-lah' is a very special place - beautiful scenery, unspoiled beaches, a thriving malt whisky (and now gin) industry, abundant wildlife and warm hospitality.

Best of all were the locals who are so friendly"

Whisky enthusiasts tour Islay's eight distilleries, tasting and learning about their favourite malts.  Nature lovers adore the island for the variety of wildlife and flora - wading birds, geese and swans arriving in the autumn migration, choughs, golden eagles, hen harriers. 

Coastal walks are magnificent with far-reaching views, rocky foreshores and sandy beaches offering sightings of seals, otters and perhaps even dolphins and basking sharks. The island is a friendly, natural haven - perfect for outdoor, active family holidays.

Islay is one of Scotland's top ornithological destinations Original image courtesy Benoit Plumat

Islay walks & wildlife

Places of interest - indoor and outdoors - in Port Charlotte

Islay has some of the finest unspoiled beaches in the UK and most are reasonably accessible and make great days out walking along coastal paths watching the birds and seals. Be sure to visit Ardnave, Saligo, Sanaigmore or Machir Bay at Kilchoman.

There is a fine coffee shop at Kilchoman Distillery close to Machir Bay and Outback Gallery is well worth a visit while at Sanaigmore.

On the other side of the island is Big Strand - a sandy beach approximately 7 miles long.  Near Carraig Fhada lighthouse on the Oa is Traigh Bhan with its famous singing sands and expansive views out to sea and Port Ellen.

Port Charlotte Holiday's owner Margaret has family connections on Islay and has so many fond childhood memories of Islay's beaches. Read more in our Blog>

Port Charlotte's Natural History Centre has a wealth of information about Islay's wildlife riches including 'hands on' activities for all ages. In summer, there are short expeditions for young explorers close to the village.

From golden eagles to migrating Barnacle geese, red-legged choughs to striking hen harriers - Islay has it all and is a real draw for bird lovers. The RSPB Centre at Loch Gruinart is well worth a visit - the regular guided walks there and on The Oa are really enjoyable and informative.

Islay is not only for ornithologists of course - among the other animals you might encounter are hares and deer, seals and - if you are really lucky - you may even catch a glimpse of an otter or two.

Great walks all over the island with amazing luck: sea and golden eagles from close, osprey fishing, peregrines and choughs over us and much, much more."
The US memorial on Oa

Historic sites & museums

Lord of the Isles historic site, chapels & Celtic crosses, military memorials and fascinating museums.

The Museum of Islay Life in Port Charlotte - an easy stroll from our holiday apartments and cottages, is a superb introduction to the island's history from prehistoric to recent times. With an extensive collection on display, there are also useful places of interest pamphlets on sale.

Finlaggan is a site of great importance in Scottish history. The atmospheric loch with three small islands was once home to the Lords of the Isles who ruled over the west coast from Kintyre to Lewis for hundreds of years. Visit the island ruins and spend time in the visitor centre which tells this fascinating story.

Islay has a host of other historic sites to see - highlights include the early Christian Cross at Kildalton, Kilnave Chapel & Cross overlooking scenic Loch Gruinart, the US memorial on Oa and Kilchoman Church, Cross and Military Graveyard with its poignant reminder of the tragic loss of life when HMS Otranto sank off Islay in 1918.

Ardbeg - one of the many whisky distilleriies on Islay. Original image courtesy Benoit Plumat

Islay whisky distilleries

Bruichladdich and Kilchoman Farm distilleries are both within easy reach

Islay is perhaps best known internationally for its fine Malt Whiskies. With eight working distilleries on Islay - soon to be nine when Ardnahoe Distillery opens in May 2018  - there's plenty of scope for discovering your own favourite. 

Whisky enthusiasts should not forget Jura either - a short ferry ride from Port Askaig takes you over to this neighbouring island with its single distillery.

All the working distilleries have visitor centres and tours with tastings. Even if whisky isn't of interest for you, Ardbeg and Kilchoman are also known for serving particularly good food in their visitor centres!

...enjoyed distillery visits and whisky tasting (yes, we visited them ALL!)"
An eventful view, Islay!

Islay: island events

From whisky to jazz, natural heritage to walking festivals

Islay has a wide variety of events throughout the year from whisky to jazz, natural heritage to walking festivals.

Original image by Graham McFarlane