See you next year, Islay (hopefully)

Islay News

Several factors were involved in this decision, but over this belated bank holiday weekend I have made the decision not to travel to Islay this year. Back in March when I wrote Sadly no Islay visit for me for the foreseeable future and also in recent weeks I still had hopes and plans to visit later in the year. I’ve got two weeks off work in October, which I had originally planned for a long Islay visit. But I’ve now decided to make it another staycation in West Berkshire, where I live (and currently work from home. I normally work in Reading, but we’ve been told to work from home until at least the end of the year). I don’t feel I have to justify that decision, but I still would like to explain:

To start with I’m still not comfortable to travel or go anywhere with people in confined spaces. While my GP told me she doesn’t consider me a Covid-19 high risk and I don’t have to shield like some other people I’m still very careful. I’ve read several reports of long term health implications from Covid-19 infections, including heart problems. Having fully recovered and been given a new life after my major heart surgery a few years back I just want to minimise the risks. I haven’t been to a pub or restaurant since March or even February (can’t remember) and obviously haven’t used the dining voucher scheme by the government. I haven’t even been to the beer gardens some of the pubs around where I live have opened. I’d love to, but I must admit I’m feeling physically uncomfortable even when walking past them. Some will say I’m overreacting, that might well be, but that’s how I feel.

Going on the long trip to Scotland with these feelings doesn’t feel right to me. It wouldn’t feel like a holiday. The journey (with over night stops, ferry crossing etc) would be very stressful and even on Islay I couldn’t fully enjoy it. Sure, most of the time I would spend in the cottage and outdoors away from people, but even though it’s probably safe (I know the restaurants, distilleries etc all follow the latest guidelines and do their best to keep everyone safe) I wouldn’t feel comfortable to go for a meal, go to a pub/bar or visiting a distillery. Visiting any friends isn’t very realistic either, I wouldn’t feel comfortable going into anyone’s home.

Finally the news over the last week or so have further tipped me over to the decision not to go. As I’m sure everyone is aware the infections rates, R-values and whatever else they measure have gone up. While it’s probably too early to say that there is talk of a second wave. Across the continent we have significant increases, same as earlier this year where the UK was lagging the continent by a few weeks. Some restrictions have already been put in place, I fear further restrictions might come over the coming weeks. For me personally not the time to plan a trip, just too insecure (I’ve seen it very closely, some people I work with had to cancel their holiday in France the day before they were due to depart as the rules changed).

I’m obviously very disappointed that I won’t visit Islay this year. I hope the situation will improve next year, I’m hoping that there will be an Islay walking week again and that I will have the confidence to travel. Should that turn out to be too early then I’ll have to wait. All I know is that at some point I will be back.

To finish I’d just like to make clear that this is a purely personal decision. It’s no guidance, direction, anything for anyone else. If you want to go and it feels right for you to go, by all means visit Islay. I’ll be happy for you to go, share your pictures and videos and experiences so that others can enjoy them as well. Islay will welcome you, many businesses on Islay are waiting for you, support them in this difficult time.

Author: Armin Grewe

I blog about Islay.

26 thoughts on “See you next year, Islay (hopefully)”

  1. To be in this position for you must be hard as I know you love coming up to Islay. For me I have the worry about travelling to the mainland as I am in a high risk category so can fully understand your concerns. Hopefully we will see you around next year. Take care.




  2. Personal decision, I was shielding and so didn’t see another person for 4.5 months. Which in part is why this is my 2nd trip to the isles since end of July. But I wouldn’t be going inside in many places anyway. Sat outside on the ferry yday, felt much safer




  3. This evening marks the start of my two week staycation in West Berkshire. As I wrote earlier I’ve decided not to travel to Islay as originally planned. Since I’m not going to Scotland I’ve ordered a bit of Scotland to come to me. And yes, there is an Islay link here….

    Harviestoun Heaven CentThe beer I’m enjoying this evening (with a nice pizza, although sadly not from the Peatzeria) is a Harviestoun Heaven Cent. Now you might say, Harviestoun Brewery, isn’t that in Clackmannanshire? And you would be right. However, the IPA in question was created by Lisa Matthews. And you probably guessed it, yes, the youngest Scottish female brewer grew up on Islay.

    While I’m not an expert I think Lisa did a fantastic job. To me it tastes very well balanced, just right between the bitterness and the fruitiness (or whatever you call it). I love it. While I ordered it blind I’m pleased that I took the risk and trusted Lisa doing a great job. I’ve got two mini kegs (which is how I was able to take a picture of a closed keg and a full glass next to it), one for this weekend, the other one probably for next weekend. I hope it will become part of the regular line-up at Harviestoun.
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    Author: Armin Grewe

    I blog about Islay.
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  4. Back in December 2008 when I first launched the Islay Pictures photoblog the number of 3,333 wasn’t really on my mind. The journey was the goal, not hitting any numbers. I don’t really watch the number of posts on it, but on Friday evening when preparing the post for Saturday morning I noticed by chance that said post was going to be the 3,333rd post. After posting it on Saturday morning I took a screenshot for posterity:

    3,333 posts on the photoblogSo how did I get to 3,333 posts?

    As I said it all started in December 2008 when I first launched the photoblog, back then using the “Pixelpost” CMS. My original goal was to post a picture every day and see where it would take me. It worked really well, people seemed to like it and I enjoyed the daily posting. Unfortunately in November 2012 “disaster struck”: Because of some server changes the Pixelpost CMS (which wasn’t maintained any more by that time) stopped working. With a heavy heart I had to delete over 1,300 posts and start from scratch.

    For the second incarnation I decided to go with the popular WordPress CMS, my reasoning being that I could be quite confident it would be supported for quite some time. The layout I’ve kept largely unchanged since going live in December 2012, main change I think was adding the header banner, a picture my sister Imke took of me taking pictures in Saligo Bay.

    Islay Pictures Photoblog screenshot Oct 2020I continued posting daily, initially even twice daily to “repost” the pictures from the original blog. There were a few breaks, mainly when I was travelling (to Islay) but also when I was too ill to post through an injury and when I had my heart operation. But overall I’ve kept it up. While most of the pictures are taken by me there are also guest pictures. The majority of them by my sister Imke from her Islay visits, also a few from my late mother and some from Keith Wood.

    Not having been to Islay this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic I’m currently heavily relying on my archives from over 20 years of Islay visits. I’m hoping to be able to visit again at some point in 2021 to restock my supplies. As long as I can find something I think is worthwhile posting I’ll continue posting.
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    Author: Armin Grewe

    I blog about Islay.
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  5. Having decided not to travel to Islay because of the Covid-19 pandemic this year I had a two week staycation at home in West Berkshire. Unfortunately the weather didn’t turn out as nice as I had hoped, so I didn’t get out for walks as much as I had thought (I ended up visiting a Swedish furniture store and completing some home improvements I had thought about for a while instead). Still, I managed to squeeze in a few short sunny walks along the Kennet & Avon Canal allowing me to take a few nice autumnal pictures (click on the pictures for the full size gallery):

    (1) Colourful trees from the window(2) Autumnal trees reflecting in the canal(3) Canal boat in the autumn sunshine(4) Chestnuts in their autumn colours along the canal(5) Boat moored under colourful autumn trees(6) Canal boat cruising through fallen autumn leaves(7) Colourful autumnal trees along the canal(8) Autumnal trees and floating leaves on the canal(9) Colourful autumn tree next to the canal towpath(10) Looking up a beautiful autumn colour treeExcept for the first picture (which is from my flat overlooking the canal in Aldermaston Wharf) all the pictures are from the towpath from Aldermaston Wharf walking west towards Woolhampton. Some really nice autumnal colours around, especially over the second week. All the pictures were taken with my large wide angle zoom lens (14-24mm, mostly towards the 14mm), allowing me to capture some big views of the trees and their autumn colours.

    I hope you’ll enjoy the pictures and the colours.
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  6. Back in March 2020 when I wrote Sadly no Islay visit for me for the foreseeable future I didn’t expect that it would be 22 long months. While Islay was open for visitors in summer 2020 it didn’t feel right for me to travel at that time. Then the winter 2020/2021 lockdowns arrived. Early 2021 finally brought some hope with the vaccine programme rollout gathering pace, as I had decided I would only travel once I was fully vaccinated. I received my second dose in May 2021 (although I only found that out in May, I hadn’t expected expected it until June, making it too late to book for June). July and August I avoided (as usual) as I need to give priority to my colleagues with children (someone has to hold the fort in the office). But two weeks ago, in early September, I finally boarded the MV Finlaggan for my first crossing to Islay since November 2019.

    It was emotional. Very emotional. Especially stepping out on to Kilchoman beach, my spiritual home, again the morning after my arrival. Several people have told me they’ve never seen me so happy as in some of the pictures I’ve shared. And they’re probably right. Even when I can’t explain why. Sometimes people ask me why I love Islay so much and why I keep returning after well over 20 years. And all I can say is that there’s something that clicks for me. That’s the best explanation I can give.

    I don’t know if they show some of the magic, but I recorded a series of “YouTube shorts” (short 15 seconds clips best watched in portrait mode on a mobile device, but you can also watch them on a desktop/laptop) from some of my adventures during my second week on Islay:

    YouTube playlist of Armin’s Islay #shortsWhile I didn’t get out as much as I had hoped and didn’t meet as many people as I would have liked for a variety of reasons (weather not being that great especially in the second week, a very annoying blister on my left heel which made longer walks difficult at times, a lingering reluctance to go into busy enclosed spaces like pubs/restaurants and more) I did get to see a few new things and had some interactions I treasured:

    One day I drove from Conisby to Uiskentuie beach for a walk. When I left Conisby my car alerted me that it was low on screen wash, so when I arrived I opened the bonnet and topped up the screen wash (might as well get it done while it’s fresh in my mind). Walking past another car parked a bit further down the beach the driver asked me if had a problem with my car and needed help. I reassured him that everything was fine and explained the background. While somebody elsewhere might have asked as well to me this felt very much like an Islay thing to do, people caring about others.

    Also at Uiskentuie during my first walk there I passed a woman walking her dog and we had a brief chat about how long the beach was. A few days later (I think it might have been my last walk at Uiskentuie) I met her again and we walked together for a bit, having a nice chat about ferries, walking and more. We didn’t exchange names, so I don’t know who she was, but I really enjoyed our walk and chat. While something like this might happen elsewhere it felt like an Islay thing to me. Hopefully we can catch up on another beach walk at some point.

    In regards to new things, I walked the new Loch Indaal path between Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte on a beautiful morning. I’ll write about it in a dedicated post, but I think it’s brilliant, a fantastic addition to Islay’s infrastructure and experience. Thank you and well done to everyone involved in making it happen.

    I was welcomed online by several of my neighbours during my stay at Conisby, which I really appreciated. Apologies I didn’t come over, I’m still nervous visiting people in their homes at this point. Hopefully there will be another opportunity once the pandemic has settled further.

    There were a few more moments, but I think what I’ve captured here covers the most important parts of this visit as well as touches on some of the reasons why I like Islay so much.

    My next visit is already booked and assuming everything goes to plan I’ll be back soon, much much sooner than the very long time until this visit. I will do my utmost to meet the people I missed on this visit, most of you will know who. I’ll be in touch.
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    Author: Armin Grewe

    I blog about Islay.
    View all posts by Armin Grewe



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