Unless you live in a cave (or the Big Brother house in Germany) this post probably won’t contain any huge surprises. With a heavy heart I’ve just cancelled my upcoming Islay visit in April. Regular readers and anyone who knows me will be aware how important in particular that visit is to me in the annual calendar, as it is the Islay walking week. I also fear my usual visit in June might not happen.
This whole situation is obviously also very bad and concerning for many small businesses on Islay, in particular in the tourism sector and related other businesses. If tourists don’t visit Islay these businesses lose their income, in worst case they might even go bankrupt and lose their business. I understand all of the Islay distilleries have closed their visitor centres until further notice, another hit to Islay’s tourism industry. I don’t know what the answer/ solution to this is, all I know is that continuing as if nothing was happening is not an option. I don’t think anyone would want the UK to be in a situation similar to Italy where hundreds of people die and medical staff in the hospitals have to make decisions who they are going to save and who they are going to let die because they simply don’t have the capacities.
What I do know is that the money I’m not spending now will find its way to Islay at some point. As soon as it is safe and possible to travel again I will return to catch up.
Three weeks ago I listened to a lot of very nice music during the Islay Sessions 2019 at the Port Charlotte Hotel and Bruichladdich Hall. After that the day job and a few other things got in the way, so I only now get a chance to look back at it. Those who follow me on Twitter might have seen the clips already (individually), but here’s a video with a few impressions I’ve pulled together (all recorded on my phone, so it’s not studio quality. But I think it’s good enough to give you an idea):
The Sessions took place over three days from 22-24/Nov/2019. The Friday kicked off the event with a concert by newly formed VOX in the conservatory of the Port Charlotte Hotel. They played a variety of songs, with Laura-Beth and Kim (as well as on occasion the audience) providing the vocals. After the concert most went to the Port Charlotte Hotel bar for the informal part of the evening. Members of Eabhal and VOX joined forces and played a variety. Later during the evening Grahame Allison (owner of the Port Charlotte Hotel) sang a Gaelic song he performs regularly, what made it even better was Kaitlin Ross (of Eabhal) and Kim Carnie at times joining in.
Saturday saw the main concert at Bruichladdich Hall. After an introduction by Greig Shaw (brother of the late Fraser Shaw, who started the Islay Sessions) the Charlie Stewart Duo warmed up the audience with a variety of tunes on fiddle and guitar. Once they finished their set they stayed on stage to support Kim Carnie who sang some beautiful songs in Gaelic and English for us. Again there was some audience participation after a crash course in Gaelic for some. After the break and the Islay Sessions raffle of CDs and whisky Eabhal took the stage, mainly playing songs from their debut album This Is How The Ladies Dance. Again some beautiful tunes including some with rousing pipes. I headed back to the cottage after the concert as I was tired, but I hear their was more music in the Port Charlotte Hotel bar until early in the morning.
Sunday evening I finally got to see and hear the concert I had been waiting for for a year (she had to cancel the previous year as she had lost her voice, but this year all went to plan): Claire Hastings gave a wonderful solo performance with guitar and ukulele and of course her wonderful voice. Among other songs Fairweather Beggar and I Missed The Boat got an outing as well as a new song she wasn’t even sure it was finished just yet.
I had a great weekend and straight after their sets bought two albums online (Eabhal and Kim Carnie’s In Her Company). Angus was of the same opinion, as he writes in the Oban Times, Thrills and spills at Islay Sessions. If everything goes to plan I’ll be back for the 2020 Islay Sessions, scheduled for 20-22/Nov/2020. May be see you there?
Just over a week to go until the Islay Sessions 2019, taking place 22-24/Nov/2019 (Fri-Sun). As of writing this I believe there are still some tickets available, but not for all events (I think the Friday is sold out). So who will be there this year?
The one I’m most looking forward to is Claire Hastings. Claire was scheduled to perform last year, but unfortunately had to cancel as she lost her voice, rather important for a singer. I’ve bought both of her albums and have listened to them many times. Here’s one of my favourites:
Another one is this one, although I hope nobody will miss their boat on the way to Islay:
Next on my list are Eabhal, some of the members I know from previous Islay Sessions. Here’s a nice taster for their music:
The one I know least about is Kim Carnie. I will find out about her during the Saturday concert as well as on Friday where she will be performing with Laura-Beth Salter, Innes White (which I both know from previous sessions) and Calum MacCrimmon as VOX (no website I know of).
Very much looking forward to a great weekend with lots of great music, meeting old and new friends!
Just a quick heads up tonight, the details for the 2019 WalkIslay Islay walking week have been announced/published today. I’ll write up a more detail personal preview over the coming days with some pictures and thoughts which walks I’ll probably participate in.
To read up on the walks head over to www.walkislay.co.uk for the details of all of them (well, as of writing this less one, where the details are still being finalised).
Having had to miss out on the 2018 edition through my leg injury I’m very much looking forward to catching up this year (fingers crossed nothing goes wrong this time…).
Looking forward to seeing Gráinne Brady again (having seen her at several Islay Sessions over the years), this time launching her solo album (I believe that session is sold out now).
One ‘new’ (as in new for me) artist I’m very much looking forward to is Brighde Chaimbeul. I had heard of her through Hamish Napier (who I had seen at another Islay Session a number of years ago). Here’s a taster of her playing together with Innes White (who will also play with her on Islay):
That’s all I’ve got for now. Hope to see you at the Islay Sessions or if not elsewhere on Islay in the two weeks leading up to them.
It’s that time of year again. It’s August, not long after the Islay Show (some people say the end of summer), the British Birdfair in Rutland is on. And just like last year and many years before there will be an Islay stand. From the 17th to the 19th of August 2018 the Islay team will be ready for visitors and their questions at the stand. With some Islay refreshments of course.
Where is the stand? In Marquee 7 on Stand 14/15. Here’s their description:
The islands of Islay and Jura lie off the west coast of Scotland and form part of the Southern Hebrides. Accessible only by plane or ferry these beautiful islands provide a haven for birds and wildlife all year round. Autumn and winter are spectacular times to visit when Islay’s population of just 3000 people are joined by 40,0000 Barnacle Geese and 5,000 Greenland White Fronted Geese. Their October arrival heralds a true birding spectacular and one not to be missed. Throughout the year both islands are home to golden and white-tailed sea eagles, hen harriers and chough – all of which can easily be sighted during a week long stay. Corncrakes can be heard in our late spring and summer evenings along with the unworldly sounds of drumming snipe. Islay and Jura are famous throughout the world for their whisky. Home to 9 and soon be to 10 whisky distilleries. Our stand at the Birdfair celebrates this great island produce with tastings throughout the three days. Just follow your nose and you’ll find us at Marquee 7 Stand 14/15. Visit us and plan your next island escape!
I believe visitors to the stand can win a week on Islay, but it’s even better than that, there is also an online competition. Visit the Islay and Jura marketing group website for more:
I need to share more links and web findings of Islay things I come across again. After all that’s what blogging originally was all about. So today I give you two interesting Islay whisky related links:
If I’m honest I’m not very impressed with a lot of the articles about Islay in the travel sections of many newspapers. Apart from a few exceptions they are usually written by someone who flew in for 2-3 days, did a distillery tour or two and had a few nice meals. But as I said, there are exceptions. Liza Weisstuch knows what she’s writing about. She’s been to Islay many times, I met her back in June 2011 (when she was on Islay for some real whisky experience at Bruichladdich) during one of her visits. And now she’s a got a big feature in the New York Times, online and if I understand it correctly on the cover of the travel section in the print edition next weekend. It’s called The Whisky Chronicles.
I’m not sure I can fully grasp the point of the second link for today. In my mind Islay is about slowing down, taking your time to enjoy. However, in July there will be a rather extreme whisky distillery tour on Islay and Jura:
A new ‘extreme’ whisky tour will take participants by foot, bicycle and kayak to visit 10 island distilleries over 60 miles, in just three days.
Apparently you won’t get much time to actually tour the distilleries or enjoy the samples (although you can collect the miniatures to saviour later). But if you’re still interested you can read more in WORLD’S ‘MOST EXTREME’ WHISKY TOUR LAUNCHES.
Earlier today I posted the first picture on my Islay photo blog for almost three weeks. The reason for that is that almost three weeks ago I badly injured my right leg and spent the first two weeks almost entirely in bed as I was unable to walk. Last weekend I started to take my first tentative steps again, well, let’s call it some very bad limping.
While there has been improvement over the last week I’m still limping and expect it will take at least another week or two until I can walk normally again, let alone drive. Going on long and strenuous walks will probably take me several more weeks if not months. With this year’s Islay walking week only a week away now it became painfully (pun intended) clear to me over a week ago that I would not be able to participate.
I’m very disappointed that I will not be able to join this year’s walks and meet old and new friends. It is also frustrating as to my knowledge I am the only person who has completed at least one walk on every single Islay walking week since they started 15 years ago. Obviously this run will now come to an end. I wish those able to go fantastic walks, great weather and a wonderful week. Depending on how my recovery goes I’m hoping to be back on Islay in June or later during the summer.
Living and working in the south of England I don’t get many opportunities to hear live traditional/folk music, in particular from the vibrant Scottish scene. The main opportunity for me are my regular Islay visits, in particular the Islay Sessions when I can. That’s where I got to know Jenn & Laura Beth in November 2017 (after hearing Laura-Beth back in 2015). The sound quality isn’t as good as I would have liked (my microphone or more likely my recording capabilities struggled with the louder sections), but here’s a nice memory from the concert at Bruichladdich Hall:
Now here are some good news for those living in the south of England who would like to hear the two live and/or refresh memories from the Islay Sessions: They will play two shows in the south in early March.
I’ve got a ticket for the latter, very much looking forward to the concert! If you live further north (or in Belgium, they are coming over in Sep) check their website for further shows.
Unfortunately these two concerts (and more) had to be cancelled due to the “Beast fae the East” and “Storm Emma”, I hope they can be rescheduled for some other time. As a tiny consolation I’ll try to edit the remaining footage I’ve got from the Islay Sessions this weekend and get them uploaded.
If I counted correctly the 16th Islay walking week will be taking place in just over two months. Starting on the 8th of April 2018 there will be 6 days of walks on Islay, Jura and Colonsay. The detailed programme will be published soon, as of writing this you can find an overview of the planned walks on the Walk Islay page.
Some of the walks which caught my eye:
Walk 2 – Beinn Dubh and Sgorr nam Faoileann – the rarely visited eastern peaks of Islay
Walk 5 – Across the sea to Colonsay for a circular walk to the Arandora Star memorial and Pig’s Paradise
Walk 8 – Across the Sound to Jura and over the hills to Craighouse with a ride back!
Which walks caught your eye and will make you reach for your walking boots?
Cottage and ferry are booked, I’m looking forward to be back on Islay walking in the beautiful landscape. Hoping to meet many old and new friends during the walks and elsewhere!