Islay: The Whiskey and Golf Destination in the South of Scotland


The prominent British-American novelist Raymon Chandler once remarked, “There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren't as good as others.” So what did you do on your last visit to Scotland? Did you marinate yourself in the dram of your choice? Well if you didn’t and if an 18-hole golf course is also something that you find extremely intriguing then here’s how, where and when you can spend a luxurious time in Scotland. Located in the Inner Hebrides, Islay is the southernmost island of Scotland. Renowned as ‘The Queen of the Hebrides’ lies in Argyll, south-west of Jura, about 40 km north of the coast of Ireland. With its capital in Bowmore, Islay houses the Kilarrow Parish Church and distillery are situated. Port Ellen, which is a small town on the island, is the principle port.

Getting there and away

Life is a journey; not a destination. Since you’ll be passing through Glasgow International Airport (GLA), which is the nearest international airport that connects that rest of the world to the small island, a brief pit-stop in Glasgow would serve you great. While at Glasgow, you can visit few of the many art galleries and museums which form an integral part of the cultural heritage. Additionally, you can also watch a Scottish ballet performance in one of Glasgow’s historic theaters. When you’re done with Glasgow, you can hop onto the daily commercial plane service run by British Airways that connects Islay Glenegedale Airport (ILY) and Glasgow. This the best and the fastest route to the island.

For people who want a bit of a nomadic experience, a bus and ferry ride would be perfect. ‘Citylink’ operates a daily bus service originating at Glasgow’s Buchanan Bus Station, and there are several ferry services from the Kennacraig Ferry Terminal.

If you fancy a luxurious boat ride, private boats and other luxury yachts can be rented to reach Islay via Port Ellen Marina. It is advisable to check the tide predictions available on the UK Hydrographic Office website.

Tour de Islay

Once you’ve reached Islay, you can rent a car, which is a good option if you want to cover a large part of the island and do not have much time on hand.

Also, since Islay is for the most part very level, aside from the exceptionally soak slope at Port Askaig, cycling is a decent option – unless terrible weather conditions and cold winds knock you back. ‘Islay Coaches’ is a bus service that covers locations within city limits, along with major towns and the villages. If tours on vehicles don’t float your boat, and all you trust are your feet, just hitchhike around.

Islay resonates the Celtic tradition. There are a lot of souvenir and gift shops where you can buy Celtic craft items and gifts.

Whiskey, Golf and all that Jazz

One of the first things you could do is visit the distilleries. For example, the Bruichladdich distillery is something that all whiskey connoisseurs would find interesting. A significant part of the gear used at the distillery comprises genuine Victorian hardware. The procedure is gravity sustained and no machines are utilized as a part of the production. All distilleries on the island offer visits – don’t forget to visit the bistros at Ardbeg and Kilchoman.

Golfing on Islay at the Machrie Golf Links is also something that you should indulge in while you’re there. Donald Steel, a former golfer and a world renowned golf-course designer has been known to have made certain changes in the design back in the 80’s. Originally built by Willie Campbell back in 1891, the golf course is surrounded by hills. In spite of the fact that the climate can be debilitating, there are times when it turns into an advantage. Since Islay is situated in the Gulf Stream, the climate is such that there is no enduring levels of snow and ice which can render the turf not fit for playing. Without a doubt, the winter turf is one of a kind at Machrie and therefore constitutes a class apart golfing experience.

Intoxicating Music and Whiskey

But the biggest takeaway from your visit will be the annual music and whiskey festival. Every year, the island of Islay hosts an assorted festival named ‘Fèis Ìle’, that includes customary golf, ceilidhs, music, Gaelic lessons, rocking the bowling alley and most importantly, whiskey tasting. The Festival takes place in the final week of May each year. During the festival, majority of the Islay refineries hold open days. So, what are you waiting for? Answer to the call of Islay!