Having a chat about Islay with an AI assistant (ChatGPT)

Islay Fun

There has been quite a lot of talk about ChatGPT recently, like this BBC report and of course in the tech press. Some people have tested it in various ways, like a driving instructor asking it to create YouTube video scripts for him. I wanted to have a play as well and headed over to the OpenAI blog post to learn more and then created an account for the ChatGPT research preview. Of course I also had to have a chat about Islay with it to see how much it knows about it, although we didn’t get off to a good start:

Armin: Hi ChatGPT, let’s have a chat

AI Assistant: Hello! My name is Assistant, not ChatGPT. I am a large language model trained by OpenAI to assist with a variety of tasks, including answering questions and providing information on a wide range of topics. How can I help you today?

Armin: OK, Assistant, have you ever heard of Islay?

AI Assistant: Yes, I am familiar with Islay. Islay is an island located in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It is known for its whisky production and natural beauty, with a rugged coastline and many beautiful beaches. The island is home to several whisky distilleries, including Lagavulin, Laphroaig, and Ardbeg, which are known for producing high-quality single malt whiskies. Islay is also a popular destination for birdwatching, with a large variety of bird species living on the island.

Armin: Thank you. How can you get to Islay?

AI Assistant: There are a few different ways to get to Islay:

  1. By air: There are regular flights from Glasgow to Islay, which take about 40 minutes. The airport is located in the town of Glenegedale, which is about a 20-minute drive from the island’s capital, Bowmore.
  2. By ferry: There are regular ferry services from the Scottish mainland to Islay. The main ferry terminal is in the town of Port Ellen, which is located in the south of the island. Ferries depart from the port of Kennacraig on the mainland, which is about a 2-hour drive from Glasgow. The journey by ferry takes about 3 hours.
  3. By car: If you prefer to drive, you can take a ferry from the Scottish mainland to Islay with your car. The ferry departs from the port of Kennacraig and takes about 3 hours. Alternatively, you can drive to the island via the bridge at Tarbert, which connects Islay to the Kintyre Peninsula on the mainland.

No matter how you choose to travel to Islay, be sure to plan your trip in advance and allow plenty of time to enjoy all that the island has to offer.

Armin: That sounds good. Tell me more about the whisky distilleries on Islay

AI Assistant: Islay is home to several whisky distilleries, each with its own unique character and flavor profile. Here are a few of the most well-known distilleries on the island:

  1. Lagavulin: Located in the south of the island, Lagavulin is known for producing a rich and full-bodied single malt whisky with a smoky flavor. The distillery was founded in 1816 and is one of the oldest on the island.
  2. Laphroaig: Located in the south of the island, Laphroaig is known for producing a peaty single malt whisky with a distinct iodine flavor. The distillery was founded in 1815 and is one of the oldest on the island.
  3. Ardbeg: Located in the south of the island, Ardbeg is known for producing a peaty single malt whisky with a smoky flavor. The distillery was founded in 1815 and is one of the oldest on the island.
  4. Bruichladdich: Located on the northwest coast of the island, Bruichladdich is known for producing a range of single malt whiskies with different flavor profiles, including unpeated, lightly peated, and heavily peated expressions. The distillery was founded in 1881.
  5. Bowmore: Located in the center of the island, Bowmore is known for producing a balanced single malt whisky with a peaty flavor. The distillery was founded in 1779 and is one of the oldest on the island.

Visitors to Islay can tour many of these distilleries and learn more about the whisky-making process. Many of the distilleries also offer tastings and have visitor centers where you can purchase bottles of whisky to take home.

Armin: Thank you. What about wildlife and birdwatching on Islay?

AI Assistant: Islay is home to a diverse range of wildlife and is a popular destination for birdwatching. The island is located on the Atlantic Flyway, a major migration route for birds, and is home to a large variety of bird species. Some of the birds that can be seen on Islay include:

  1. Seabirds: Islay is home to many seabirds, including gannets, kittiwakes, puffins, and guillemots. These birds can be seen along the coast and on offshore islands.
  2. Waders: Islay is home to many wading birds, including curlews, oystercatchers, and redshanks. These birds can be seen along the coast and on the island’s wetlands.
  3. Geese: Islay is home to large numbers of geese, including greylag geese, barnacle geese, and Canada geese. These birds can be seen in fields and on the island’s wetlands.
  4. Eagles: Islay is home to golden eagles and white-tailed eagles, which can be seen in the island’s forests and on the coast.
  5. Songbirds: Islay is home to many songbirds, including blackbirds, robins, and wrens. These birds can be seen in gardens and woodlands throughout the island.

There are several birdwatching sites on Islay, including the RSPB’s (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) reserve at The Oa, which is located in the southwest of the island. The reserve is home to many different bird species and is a great place to see birds in their natural habitat. Visitors to Islay can also join guided birdwatching tours, which are led by experienced local guides who can help you spot different species and learn more about the island’s birdlife.

Armin: Interesting. What about beaches on Islay?

AI Assistant: Islay is home to several beautiful beaches, which are popular with visitors and locals alike. Here are a few of the most well-known beaches on the island:

  1. Machir Bay: Located on the west coast of the island, Machir Bay is a wide, sandy beach with clear, blue water. It is popular with surfers and is a great spot for swimming and sunbathing.
  2. Saligo Bay: Located on the west coast of the island, Saligo Bay is a long, sandy beach with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a popular spot for walking and picnicking, and is a great place to watch the sunset.
  3. Port Ellen: Located in the south of the island, Port Ellen is a small, sheltered beach with golden sands. It is a popular spot for swimming and is a great place to relax on a sunny day.
  4. Kintra: Located on the southwest coast of the island, Kintra is a beautiful, secluded beach with white sands and crystal-clear water. It is a great spot for swimming and sunbathing, and is a popular destination for surfers.
  5. Finlaggan: Located on the north coast of the island, Finlaggan is a secluded beach with white sands and stunning views of the surrounding countryside. It is a great spot for walking and picnicking, and is a popular destination for birdwatchers.

No matter which beach you visit on Islay, be sure to follow local safety guidelines and take care when swimming in the sea. The beaches on Islay are generally safe and well-maintained, but it is always important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to ensure your safety.

Armin: Those sound nice. What about history, any historical sites?

AI Assistant: Yes, Islay has a rich history and is home to many interesting historical sites. Here are a few of the most well-known historical sites on the island:

  1. Finlaggan Castle: Located on the north coast of the island, Finlaggan Castle was once the seat of power for the Lords of the Isles, a medieval Gaelic kingdom that controlled the western seaboard of Scotland. The castle is located on a small island in a loch, and can be reached by a causeway.
  2. Kilnave Cross: Located on the south coast of the island, Kilnave Cross is a historic stone cross that dates back to the early Christian period. The cross is believed to mark the site of an early Christian monastery and is a popular destination for visitors interested in the island’s history and culture.
  3. Bowmore Round Church: Located in the center of the island, the Bowmore Round Church is a unique building that dates back to the 18th century. The church is circular in shape and has a distinctive dome-shaped roof, and is a popular destination for visitors interested in architecture and history.
  4. Dunyvaig Castle: Located on the south coast of the island, Dunyvaig Castle is a ruined castle that dates back to the 14th century. The castle was once the seat of the Lord of Islay, and was an important defensive structure in medieval times.
  5. Port Ellen Distillery: Located in the south of the island, the Port Ellen Distillery is a historic whisky distillery that dates back to the 19th century. The distillery is now closed, but the buildings have been preserved and can be visited by tourists.

There are many other historical sites on Islay, including churches, standing stones, and ancient burial cairns. Visitors to the island can learn more about the island’s history by visiting these sites and exploring the island’s rich cultural heritage.

Armin: Now I’m getting hungry, where can I go to eat on Islay?

AI Assistant: Islay is home to many excellent restaurants and cafes, offering a range of cuisine to suit all tastes. Here are a few of the most well-known dining options on the island:

  1. The Harbour Inn: Located in the village of Port Ellen, The Harbour Inn is a popular restaurant that serves traditional Scottish food and locally-produced seafood. The restaurant has a cozy, welcoming atmosphere and offers both indoor and outdoor seating.
  2. The Bowmore Hotel: Located in the center of the island, The Bowmore Hotel is a historic inn that serves a range of food, including traditional Scottish dishes and locally-sourced seafood. The hotel also has a bar and a whisky shop, and is a popular destination for visitors to the island.
  3. The Ardview Bistro: Located in the village of Port Charlotte, The Ardview Bistro is a casual restaurant that serves a range of food, including sandwiches, soups, and salads. The bistro has a friendly, laid-back atmosphere and is a great place to relax and enjoy a meal.
  4. The Islay Hotel: Located in the village of Port Ellen, The Islay Hotel is a popular hotel and restaurant that serves a range of food, including traditional Scottish dishes and locally-sourced seafood. The hotel has a bar and a whisky shop, and is a popular destination for visitors to the island.
  5. The Kildalton Hotel: Located in the south of the island, The Kildalton Hotel is a popular restaurant that serves a range of food, including traditional Scottish dishes and locally-sourced seafood. The hotel has a cozy, welcoming atmosphere and is a great place to relax and enjoy a meal.

No matter where you decide to eat on Islay, you’ll be sure to find a wide range of delicious food to choose from. Whether you’re looking for traditional Scottish cuisine or something more international, you’ll find something to suit your taste on the island.

Armin: It’s coming to the end of the day, where are good places to sleep on Islay?

AI Assistant: Islay has a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. Here are a few of the most well-known places to stay on the island:

  1. Hotels: Islay has several hotels, ranging from small, family-run inns to larger, more modern properties. Hotels on the island offer a range of amenities, including en-suite rooms, bars, and restaurants.
  2. B&Bs: There are many bed and breakfast (B&B) options on Islay, ranging from small, family-run guesthouses to larger properties with multiple rooms. B&Bs on the island offer a more personal and homely experience, and are a great way to get to know the local community.
  3. Self-catering cottages: Islay has a wide range of self-catering cottages, which offer the freedom and flexibility of your own space. Cottages on the island range from small, cozy properties to larger houses, and are a great option for families or groups of friends.
  4. Campsites: Islay has several campsites, which offer a range of facilities, including pitches for tents and caravans, and sometimes cabins or yurts. Campsites on the island are a great option for budget travelers or those looking for a more outdoor experience.

No matter where you choose to stay on Islay, you’ll be sure to find a comfortable and welcoming place to rest after a day of exploring the island.

Armin: Thank you for all this information about Islay, Assistant

AI Assistant: You’re welcome! I’m glad I could help. Islay is a beautiful and fascinating place, with a rich history and culture, beautiful natural surroundings, and many interesting things to see and do. I hope this information has been helpful and that it inspires you to visit the island and explore all that it has to offer. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m here to help!

OpenAI / ChatGPT

So what’s my verdict?

Well……..

Mixed. I’m impressed by how human like and confident it answers. While a bit bland and repetitive most of it sounded well written. But I’m also concerned by the various mistakes in the answers. Some are easily spotted, some not so easy and could in worst case arguably even be dangerous. Of course same as with any information you find on the internet you should check, but a lot of people don’t do that and in some cases it might be difficult to check.

Let’s take a look at some of the mistakes and issues:

Starting with the potentially dangerous advice: It confidently states that Machir Bay (Kilchoman beach) is a “great spot for swimming”. That’s not something I’d say. There are dangerous undercurrents (there’s even a sign at the track leading to it warning about them) and I know swimmers have gotten into trouble here. Sure, some people have gone swimming here and were fine, but I wouldn’t call it a great spot for swimming.

Then the various weird and wonderful and plain wrong points:

  • “Alternatively, you can drive to the island via the bridge at Tarbert, which connects Islay to the Kintyre Peninsula on the mainland.” Huh? What? I think that’s news to pretty much everyone, probably even to many people who have never been to Islay.
  • On the birdwatching answer I’ve got mixed feelings. Islay being home to Puffins to my knowledge will be news to most people. Maybe I’ve been unlucky, but the only Puffin I’ve ever seen on Islay was dead (I’ve seen live Puffins in Shetland). For the geese I’m not sure if saying Islay is the home for them is entirely right, despite them wintering on Islay. I also would have focused on their huge numbers and the amazing sight of them much more. In regards to raptors, Eagles get a mention, but no mention of the plenty Hen Harriers? Also no mention of the Choughs?
  • Answering on the history question it mentions the Kilnave Cross in the south. That sounds rather odd. Kilnave is more north-west, also it’s much less interesting and much less known than the Kildalton Cross which is much better and actually in the south of Islay. Also Port Ellen distillery having been preserved and being open for visits is a bit of a stretch (it’s currently being rebuilt and will be open at some point, but that is something rather different).
  • Looking at the answer for places to eat I’m a bit baffled. The Ardview Bistro? Sure, there’s the Ardview Inn, but I wouldn’t call that a bistro, it’s a pub. But much more weird, the Kildalton Hotel in the south of the island? Maybe I’m missing something, but I’ve never heard of a Kildalton Hotel. Yet no mention of the Peatzeria, the Port Charlotte Hotel and a variety of other places known for their restaurants.

I’m sure my Eagle-eyed readers will spot many more strange things (feel free to point them out in the comments).

My conclusion? AI is making huge strides and can probably soon write bland travel articles without much help from human editors. But when it comes to real knowledge and understanding as well as writing engaging articles I feel humans don’t have to worry yet for some time.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments (or let an AI bot write them for you?).

Author: Armin Grewe

I blog about Islay.

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