The Islay Sessions 2020 go online

Islay Music

Same as so many other events this year the Islay Sessions 2020 will take place online. They will also be a bit shorter this year, taking place on Saturday 21/Nov/2020 in the evening. However, the line-up is as good as ever with some familiar faces (as in, they have performed at previous sessions) and some new artists. Today the organisers uploaded a short teaser:

Fraser Shaw Trust – Sessions 2020

This years sessions will be broadcasted live on the Fraser Shaw Trust YouTube channel, starting at 19:30 on Saturday 21/Nov/2020. The musicians performing this year will be Daimh, Maeve MacKinnon, LB Salter & Jenn Butterworth and David Foley & Jack Smedley. I hope we will be able to use the live chat function, while not the same it would allow us to chat with the musicians and listeners, something I’ve always really enjoyed at the real live sessions.

Get your tickets and with it entries to the prize draw (including for a rare Bruichladdich valinch) online, I understand you can get as many as you want. For more information follow @TrustFraser and @IslaySessions on Twitter, if you’re on Facebook you can like TrustFraser on FB and Islay Sessions on FB.

Hope to “see” you there!

Beautiful Jura fell running video

Jura Excursions

Time for a visit to Islay’s neighbour Jura. I first spotted this on Facebook, then looked if I could find it on YouTube, which I did. The video in question is called “Across The Sound” and was created by Alfie Smith and Louis MacMillan. It shows Louis taking the Jura Passenger from Tayvallich to Craighouse and then going fell running on Jura, covering the famous Paps of Jura and Corra Bheinn. Just under 9 minutes well worth watching:

Across The Sound – Trig Point Films

The scenery is stunning, beautifully filmed by Alfie with Louis doing all the running. Not only that, there’s also some beautiful music by Talisk and Fourth Moon. I hope you’ll enjoy the video as much as I did.

3,333 posts on my Islay Pictures photoblog…

Islay Pictures

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:

Screenshot of the admin interface showing 3,333 posts on the Islay Pictures photoblog
3,333 posts on the photoblog

So 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.

Screenshot of a post on the Islay Pictures Photoblog in Oct 2020
Islay Pictures Photoblog screenshot Oct 2020

I 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.

Listen to the This Is Islay podcast

Islay News

Some new media from Islay to write about. Back in August the This is Islay podcast was launched. Its goal is to bring you voices from Islay, news and events with interviews from the community. It is intended for both locals and listeners further afield to give an insight into what is happening on Islay and how the community experienced events. The intention is to complement other news sources (e.g. The Ileach), not to compete with them.

As of writing this two episodes have been published, Welcome to This Is Islay Fàilte a chàirdean and Islay Resilience and A Trip To India. The below embedded player should list and allow you to play the most recent episodes (as of writing this the two mentioned ones):

Islay Resilience and A Trip To India This Is Islay

This is Episode 2 of This Is Islay, a community podcast celebrating the people, places, events and connections of Islay and Jura. This podcast features the voices of Greig Barker, Sharon McHarrie, Glen Roberts and Jolyon Thurgood in conversation with each other, with Dougie McFadzean and Gill Chasemore of the Islay Resilience Group, and with the (former) students of Islay High School – Helena, Maisie, Russell and Samantha – recalling their trip to India in 2019. The goal of This Is Islay is to use podcasting to foster community involvement, education and training, providing resources and facilities to research, produce and promote content for a worldwide audience. We collaborate with Islay High School through the support of their staff and access to their recording facilities.  We actively seek volunteers to join our podcasting team.  Contact us at e-mail: thisisislay@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/thisisislay  @thisisislay, and on Facebook and Instagram. Theme music is '£50 Cashback' by The Fraser Shaw Trust.  Learn more about the work of the Fraser Shaw Trust in support of the relief of multiple sclerosis at https://www.frasershawtrust.com/.
  1. Islay Resilience and A Trip To India
  2. Welcome to This Is Islay Fàilte a chàirdean

I hope you’ll enjoy the podcasts as much as I did and will subscribe to them (I’m using Google Podcasts, which works really well for me, but various other services including Spotify are available). With the latest developments around Covid-19 I found the information about the Islay Resilience Group very interesting and how it will help with possible future developments. But of course there are plenty of other interesting topics as well.

Time for a pint of Harviestoun Heaven Cent

Islay Links

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….

Picture of a mini keg of Harviestoun Heaven Cent and a glass of real ale
Harviestoun Heaven Cent

The 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.

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.

A nice Islay beer, the Ardbeer

Islay Whisky News & Links

As I’m starting a long weekend, a belated bank holiday weekend, this evening (taking a day in lieu after having to work on the August bank holiday Monday) I thought this is a good time to enjoy a special beer:

Picture of a glass of porter beer with a can of Ardbeg Smoky Porter next to it
Ardbeer, the Ardbeg Smoky Porter

The beer in question is (or better, was, as I’ve finished it by now) the Ardbeg The Shortie Smoky Porter, a one off release as far as I understand. It’s also sold out by now, at least on the Ardbeg website (there might still be places you can get it, I don’t know). The Whisky Exchange blog has a nice post about it with a lot of background information.

While not the type of beer I usually drink (I prefer Golden Ales and Pale Ales) I quite like this one. It has a nice smoky taste, but it’s not overpowering to me. Just the right amount. A bit heavier than the beers I usually drink, but again not too much. I think I’ve got five cans left (minimum as well as maximum purchase was two boxes of four cans), I’ll enjoy them slowly over the coming weeks or even months.

Great video of the Corryvreckan whirlpool between Jura and Scarba

Jura Excursions

Recently a quite interesting visitor was spotted around Islay and Jura, the Thunder Child II, a very impressive boat. The first XSV20 built by Safehaven Marine in Co Cork, Ireland. Unfortunately it had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but they hope to set a new record for a trans Atlantic crossing soon. This week they didn’t go that far, but visited one of the local attractions where they filmed a great video of the famous Corryvreckan whirlpool:

I’m pretty sure Thunder Child II could have easily coped with even wilder conditions, but even here the waves and views are impressive. I also found their way to “land” their drone after filming them quite interesting (you’ll have to watch the video to see how they do it), first time I’ve seen it done that way.

I can only recommend a boat tour to the Corryvreckan, I went with Jura Boat Tours in June 2019 and enjoyed every minute of it. Seeing the whirlpool up close is a great experience, even if it is running at less than half of its full strength.

Dave’s and Neil’s Islay distillery visits video

Islay on Video

Just enjoying a wee dram of Laphroaig Cask Strength (Batch 009) Islay single malt after a few Scottish real ales (from Drygate, Harviestoun and Fyne Ales. Unfortunately Islay Ales don’t ship to the mainland at the moment) earlier. So there’s nothing better than watching a nice video from an Islay visit with plenty distillery tours in December 2019:

I hope you’ll enjoy the video as well, maybe with a wee dram or two?

Nice walking on Islay (and Jura and Colonsay) video

Islay on Video

While we don’t know when, if it’s going to be this year or next year, at some point we will be able to go walking in the beautiful wide open spaces of Islay, Jura and Colonsay again. Until then we have to watch videos like this, showing walking on mainly Islay, but also Jura and Colonsay, in all weathers, from beautiful sunshine to pouring rain:

There are many ways to walk on Islay: you can go on organised walking holidays like in this video with About Argyll, you can come for the Islay walking week or you can go just for yourself whenever you want and wherever you want.