Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Eight amazing seaside spots on the Isle of Islay- advice from a local.

Islay- the location of the majority of my childhood holidays and now home to my family, I've always known there were plenty of amazing places to see on Islay (even if it is a bit chilly at this time of year). I do realise however, that the majority of people will either have never heard of it or have just seen the name on expensive whiskey bottles, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite places... You can't beat the advice of a local!

Where is it? -Islay is one of the most Southery islands of the Inner Hebrides. You can zoom in and out on this map to see where it is and where my favorite spots are.

How many people live there? -Just over three thousand in the winter, but quite a few more in holiday season.

How can you get around? -If you don't have your own vehicle, Hitchhiking is remarkably easy, you can hire bikes, walk or maybe even kayak if you're into that.

What can I look foreward to? -empty beaches, exciting wildlife (seals, eagles, deer, otters etc), friendly people and weather that might not be quite as bad as you imagine.

Know before you go- It's pronounced 'I-la' not 'is-lay' and yes people will laugh at you if you say it wrong.

1. The Oa- that weird blob that sticks out from the South coast. The Oa has some awe-inspiring cliffs and many deserted beaches. It's also a likely place to spot one or two of the island's famous golden eagles. 

Thanks Chalky for the use of your camera! ...oh and your car :)

2. Saligo Bay- an incredible sandy beach with handy rocks to sit on around the edges. Islay is so remote that my family used to get genuinely annoyed when we had to share the beach with another family. 

3. Portnahaven- a little village on the South-West tip of the island. It's picturesque even when the weather is bad and the best place to spot seals. They're really tame here and often come within a few meters of the shore.

4. Machir Bay- over a mile of sand dunes and clean, empty beach. It can get pretty windy down there and watch out for the currents if you're brave enough to go swimming.

5. Sanaigmore- a beautiful sandy beach with the type of strange protruding rocks that Thailand is famous for (admittedly on a smaller scale). It also has an interesting little local art gallery called 'Outback Art' which doubles up as a coffee shop.

6. Killinallan- with these abandoned farmhouses and the endless beach, it's worth exploring the countryside around Killinallan, just give the bull a wide berth. We think he's harmless, but that bellow sounds a bit intimidating!

7. Kildalton Cross- OK, so it's not quite on the seaside, but erected over 1,200 years ago, Kildalton Cross is the only early Christian cross still standing in its original position. That's got to be worth a visit?

8. Proiag Bay- Pretty much as remote as you can get in a day. Firstly you drive to the end of the road, then to the end of that track to Ardtalla Farm. From Ardtalla there's an interesting (and sometimes very boggy) walk to the abandoned farm Proiag. This old farmhouse has been made into a bothy, with working fireplace an often dry firewood, so if you fancy camping out for the night, you don't even need to bring a tent.

Had enough of empty beaches? Maybe this guy will cheer you up...

Thanks for reading! Ever been to the Hebrides? Which island and what did you think?


  1. Heh, and you asked me why I was envious of someone on Islay! This page provides more reasons. :)

    I'm hoping to visit a few of the Hebrides in the spring - we'll most likely to be going to the Outer; Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna - but if we make it to Islay this guide will come in very useful. It's good to know there's a bothy.

    1. Ha ha! Thanks Alex. I'd love to get to the Outer Hebrides too, you should watch out for the Northern Lights!

    2. That's my other travel aim this year - to see the Northern Lights in Iceland - maybe I won't have to go so far! Do you see them much in Islay? It'd be a bonus if I saw them in Scotland this year, peak activity and all that, there's never a better time...

    3. Not yet, this is my first winter on Islay, but we are hoping to see them in the next few weeks... maybe!

    4. Good luck. If you don't know of it this is the best guide to UK activity I know: https://twitter.com/aurorawatchuk

    5. Yeah, thankyou! I follow them on twitter! Good luck to you too.

  2. Omg - the names of these places just inspire such wanderlust in me. Beautiful spots - you're so lucky to live there.

    1. Thanks Jill! The names are a mixture of Celtic, Viking and English I think.

  3. Thanks for this informative post, I've never heard of most of these islands.

  4. Great shots, the water, greenery and clouds wow. Looks like a great place to be! Will have to checkout if ever get to Scotland.

    1. Ah, thanks! Yeah, it's not quite so sunny right now!


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