Part of the inner Hebrides, Islay is famous for its scotch and has 9 distilleries to prove it. To the north is Jura which has given its name to its only whisky distillery. Both islands are only accessible by ferry out of Kennacraig, one and a half hours from Cairnow.
We depart at 7.00am in pitch black travelling back through Inverrary and turning south down through the Argyll country. We see the sun rising behind the hills in front of us and then beside us promising a fine day. The trip proved to be generally straight forward but rain started to dog us again around West Tarbert just before Kennacraig. This rain turned into sleet then small rice size hail, when we arrived at the departure point (that’s all there is to Kennacraig). Boarding was straight forward. The vessel MS Finlaggen is about 3 times the size of the Straddie Flyer and finished like a cruise ship – very nice.
The cruise took about 2 hours and was very relaxing. The wind was running about 25 knots but the vessel stood firm in the water. As we arrived at Islay, I bounded upstairs to the summer observation deck and in a biting wind took shots of the entrance to Port Ellen, our home on Islay.
I had arranged appointments at two distilleries Bunnahabhain and Bruichladich. Brunahabain and Bruichladich (locally called “Laddie”) were both founded in 1881 but are at opposite ends of the island and very different in their approach to distilling.
Brunnhabhain is in the north of the island above Port Askaig the jumping off point for Jura. There are two main roads (I use that term loosely for one of the roads) going north and on the way we went to the ancestral isle of the Lords of the Isle – the Donald clan. There is very little left and the visitors centre was closed for winter but we got some random snaps for you to look at.
We then went on to Port Askaig to see what was there and we were disappointed that like Kennacraig it is just a jumping off point only with a hotel and shop. We had to fuel up which was interesting – you fill up then walk back down the hill to the shop to pay for the fuel. Then it was on to Bunnahabhain. Here on the narrowest of sealed roads following the strait between Jura and Islay winding along the edge of the hills was the prettiest scenery on the island. Then for no apparent reason a group of large industrial sheds so out of place in these hills appeared. It is the distillery and it sits directly on a sea wall looking north out into the strait.
We met Beth who gave us the tour. Also on the tour were two blokes form Kedron in Brisbane – hows that! The tour was interesting, similar to Oban but this time we got photos.
We finished around 3.30pm and again the weather turned, this time back to the sleet and hail so we hightailed it to our second distillery. We drove across the island to the east, arriving around 4.00pm too late for our tour. Not to miss the opportunity we partook of a tasting of the world’s peatiest malt whisky 200 parts per million. Bruichladich is positioned on a bay facing south and to get there we had to drive through sheep spanning both sides of the road. Careful or there will be mutton on the menu.
We then raced the sun to Port Ellen arriving in a dead heat – total darkness. The Islay Hotel was modern in an old exterior and just too hot in side to be comfortable. Nevertheless we had a good nights sleep and rose early for a walk through the village. The morning was dark but the sky promised to be clear or so we thought. We set off along the front bracing against the cold wind that was starting to pick up. Few people were moving so our walk seemed somewhat ethereal – a strange village and just us moving about. We were gone just half an hour and by the time we got back to the hotel the wharf had come to life. The ferry leaves at 9.45 and you must line up at 9.15am. Our hotel is so close to the terminal that we literally drove down at 9.10 and lined up.
On board the ferry I spent my time catching up on my blogging and Kerry and Nerida continued their knitting whilst Doug slept. Then we drove to Perth on the other side of the country and Doug slept.