Island of the Week: Islay
In this week’s edition we look at the fifth largest Scottish island and “Queen of the Hebrides”, Islay.
Location: Inner Hebrides, Argyll and Bute
Gaelic name: Ìle
Around the ninth century Scandinavian settlers started to arrive in the western isles of Scotland. All the islands of the west fell under the control of various rulers of the Kingdom of the Isles most of whom were of Norse origin.
Godred Crovan was one of the more well-known Norse-Gael rulers who had a connection with Islay. The standing stone at Carragh Bhàn on Islay is said to mark his grave site.
Islay was touched by both world wars. Towards the end of World War I two disasters took place off the coast. On 5 February 1918 the HMS Tuscania was torpedoed by a German submarine and then on 6 October 1918 the HMS Otranto collided with the HMS Kashmir and sank in Machir Bay on the west coast.
Some 45,000 summer visitors arrive per annum by ferry and a further 11,000 by air. Islay attracts visitors year round as it has plenty to offer for bird watchers, history buffs and whisky enthusiasts.
Two places on the island commemorate those who lost their lives in the war time disasters. The military cemetery near Kilchoman overlooking Machir Bay and the American Monument on the Mull of Oa where the HMS Tuscania was sunk.
If Whisky is your thing, Islay is famous for its distilleries. The southern distilleries of Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig and the distilleries on the north of the island - Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich and Kilchoman are all renowned for their differing flavours. Tours are available at all of the distilleries, but some are very popular and may need to be booked in advance.
Bird watchers visit Islay year round to enjoy the three RSPB nature reserves. In the winter the great migration of Geese moving south from Greenland provides a fantastic spectacle on Islay, the Geese arrive by the thousands at Loch Gruinart, one of three RSPB nature reserves.
Probably Islay’s most famous treasure is the 9th century High Cross of Kildalton, made from a single slab of local stone it is a masterpiece of stone carving. You can find the cross inside the grounds of Kildalton Church in the south of the island.
HOW TO GET THERE
Flights: from Glasgow International airport to Glenegedale airport are available, it takes roughly 40 minutes.
Ferry: the Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry departs Kennacraig taking two hours to reach one of two ports - Port Ellen in the south and Port Askaig in the north
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: East