Saturday, 13 January 2018

Summer in Scotland: The Isle of Islay

Portnahaven on Islay
Islay has to be the most famous whisky producing venue in the world. The more attentive readers among you will notice a complete absence of whisky in this post, but never fear I have a dedicated Islay whisky blog coming up!

On our first day on Islay we headed down the western side of the island. Our first stop was at Port Charlotte where we visited the Islay National History Centre and the Museum of Islay life, both of which were charmingly stuck in a bit of a time warp but interesting to look round none the less.
Machir Bay
After Port Charlotte we headed to Portnahaven (top photo) at the tip of the western peninsula which is a quaint, and exceedingly quiet, little fishing village. On the way home we stopped for a walk on the almost endless beach at Machir Bay.
Langoustine at The Lochside in Bowmore
Our best meal of the holiday was at The Lochside Hotel in Bowmore. From the outside it looks like a slightly rough pub, but looks (or my prejudice) is utterly deceptive as inside is a modern bar and a large dining room looking out to sea. I ordered an enormous place of sweet langoustine that I enjoyed devouring and Becks had some equally excellent scallops. We were lucky to get in without a booking, so make sure you reserve a table if you are in Bowmore.
Highland cow on The Oa
While on the island we also did a walk round The Oa peninsula which is a huge RSPB nature reserve. The reserve is home to the American Monument which commemorates two troop ships that were sunk in 1918 during WWI. Unsurprisingly we saw quite a few American tourists making a respectful visit to the memorial.

During our walk I took the above picture of a highland cow which made it to the final of the photography exhibition held by the Islay Book Festival!
American memorial on The Oa
Becks at the lighthouse near Port Ellen
In the afternoon of our walk round The Oa, we also walked around the headland from Port Ellen to beach known as the 'Singing Sands' (below). The sun came out while we were at the beach and it looked almost tropical, but looks can be deceptive as the water was absolutely freezing! I lasted a matter of seconds in the sea, but did manage to find a shallow rock pool which had been warmed by the sun and made for a much more pleasant paddle.
Singing sands
On the blog I generally follow the principle that if you can't say something nice, it's better not to say anything at all. However, I'm going to break my own rule to say that I was unimpressed by our stay at The Harbour Inn in Bowmore. The staff were lovely, and the breakfasts were very good, but the rooms were just not up to standard. The impractical layout and the fact they were a bit tatty round the edges were a minor annoyance, but worst by far was the fact the mattress was shockingly worn out and sagging, completely incompatible with a good nights sleep. If you are thinking of staying check they've replaced the mattresses.
Port Ellen beach

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