Travel Guide Europe United Kingdom Scotland Scottish Islands Hebrides Inner Hebrides Islay Group Islay



Islay is the main island of the Islay Group in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland. With its eight distilleries - Bunnahabhain, Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and newly opened Kilchoman - it is easy to see why Islay is probably most famous for its whisky. Port Ellen closed its doors in 1983. In 2004, Islay's first ale brewery opened.




Islay is 40 kilometres long from north to south and 24 kilometres broad. The east coast is rugged and mountainous, rising steeply from the Sound of Islay, the highest peak being Beinn Bheigier, which is a Marilyn at 1,612 feet. The western peninsulas are separated from the main bulk of the island by the waters of Loch Indaal to the south and Loch Gruinart to the north. The fertile and windswept southwestern arm is called The Rinns, and Ardnave Point is a conspicuous promontory on the northwest coast. The south coast is sheltered from the prevailing winds and, as a result, relatively wooded. The fractal coast has numerous bays and sea lochs, including Loch an t-Sailein, Aros Bay and Claggain Bay. In the far southwest is a rocky and now largely uninhabited peninsula called The Oa, the closest point in the Hebrides to Ireland.

The island's population is mainly centred around the villages of Bowmore and Port Ellen. Other smaller villages include Bridgend, Ballygrant, Port Charlotte, Portnahaven and Port Askaig. The rest of the island is sparsely populated and mainly agricultural. There are several small freshwater lochs in the interior including Loch Finlaggan, Loch Ballygrant, Loch Lossit and Loch Gorm, and numerous burns throughout the island, many of which bear the name "river" despite their small size. The most significant of these are the River Laggan which discharges into the sea at the north end of Laggan Bay, and the River Sorn which, draining Loch Finlaggan, enters the head of Loch Indaal at Bridgend.

There are numerous small uninhabited islands around the coasts, the largest of which are Eilean Mhic Coinnich and Orsay off the Rinns, Nave Island on the northwest coast, Am Fraoch Eilean in the Sound of Islay, and Texa off the south coast.




  • Bowmore - is the island's capital
  • Port Ellen - is the largest settlement (but only slightly larger than Bowmore)



Sights and Activities

Whisky distilleries

Take a distillery tour. Even if you don't like whisky it's really interesting to learn about the distilling process and see how the distilleries have shaped island life. If you do like whisky you generally get a free taster. Most distilleries now offer advanced tours where you can taste different bottlings. All distilleries on the island offer tours, and Ardbeg and Kilchoman also have cafés. Remember to book tours in advance. The three distilleries Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg are connected by a footpath with each other and to the nearby Port Ellen (6km one-way to Ardbeg, which is furthest away). The other distilleries are spread around the whole island.



Getting There

By Plane

Islay Airport (IATA: ILY) is a small airport on the island. Flybe offers two return flights per day from Glasgow International Airport in Glasgow (flights are operated by Loganair; British Airways also offers these flights under a codeshare agreement). There are also occasional services from Oban, operated by Hebridean Air Services.

The public bus stops at the airport.

By Boat

Islay has two ferry ports 1 Port Ellen and 2 Port Askaig, the ferry journey is a 2 hour 20 mins trip from the mainland, it leaves from Kennacraig, near Tarbert (Loch Fyne) on the Mull of Kintyre, which is about 2 and half hours from Glasgow by car. Caledonian MacBrayne operate the ferries and Citylink coaches connect with some ferries at Kennacraig. There are two or more trips per day, with more ferries going to Port Ellen than Port Askaig. Occasional sailings go on to Colonsay.



Getting Around

By Car

Two companies on the island offer car hire:

  • Islay Car Hire, ☎ +44 1496 810544, +44 7824 665099 (mobile phone). Cars can be taken to Jura.
  • D&N MacKenzies, ☎ +44 1496 302300. Located opposite Islay Airport. Cars can be delivered to the ferry terminals.

Hitchhiking is easy and relatively safe on Islay.

By Bus

Islay Coaches are operated by B. Mundell (+44 1496 840273) on behalf of the Argyll & Bute Council. The two buses no. 450 and 451 serve the main towns and villages. There is no Sunday service.

By Bicyle

Bicycle hire is available in Bowmore (next to the Post Office). Islay Cycles, Port Ellen, ☎ +44 7760 196592 has bicycles from £15 per day.


Accommodation in Islay

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Islay searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

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This is version 5. Last edited at 3:49 on Aug 2, 17 by sleepBot. 1 article links to this page.

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