Claig Castle in the Sound of Islay (video)

Islay on Video

Most people who have travelled to/from Islay via Port Askaig will at some point have noticed the ruins on Am Fraoch Eilean on the Jura side at the southern end of the Sound of Islay. This is Claig Castle, once a quite important castle on the west coast of Scotland. Someone from Cine Gate has flown a drone over it for a closer look:

Claig Castle by Cine Gate

It is probably around 500 years old, dating back to medieval times, and once was a Macdonald stronghold. Certainly an excellent position to control the area and any traffic passing through the Sound of Islay!

A mix of Islay links to read

Islay Links

Haven’t blogged here as much recently as I would have liked, so I’m going to try to get better again. Today I thought I’d share a mix of links to articles and other things I found interesting recently. I hope you’ll find something of interest to you as well:

Western Ferries had long gone from the Islay route by the time I first boarded a ferry to Islay, so I don’t have any real memory of them (apart from the pictures and articles about them I’ve seen). This might be changing again at some point, as reports indicate they are interested in (re-)starting a freight only service to Islay.

Digital and that the future is digital is a lot in the news at the moment, good to see that Islay is listed in “£100k funding to inspire Scotland’s next generation of digital experts“. I can’t seem to link directly to it, but scroll down to Port Ellen Primary and click on the + to expand the section on this digitalXtra fund page for more detail about the afterschool robotics club.

Most people are aware of the Otranto and Tuscania sinking off Islay a century ago, more recently during WWII the Floristan sank off the Rhinns of Islay. You can read Tony Cummings memories of the events in 1942.

In The National Andy Gemmell’s pub of the week in late February was the Ballygrant Inn.

And that’s all for today, more some other time. I hope you found something interesting to read this time.

Celebrating a decade of @islayblog on Twitter

Islay Fun

Earlier today a wee blue bird told me (not sure if this qualifies as a bad pun?) it’s 10 years ago today that I joined Twitter, of course using the handle @islayblog (although my name shows as Armin, as I tweet as me, a human being). A decade of squeezing a post into 140 characters (or more recently writing 280 characters). Naturally I sent out a quick tweet, promising a celebratory dram later on:

Now it’s time for said dram, I decided to open a special bottle (also keeping in mind that New Year is approaching rapidly and I need something nice for that): From my Islay shelf I picked a Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength, batch 004, Jan.12. Here’s the proof:

Picture of a bottle of Laphroaig 10yo CS next to a laptop showing Twitter and Tweetdeck screens
Sometimes don’t drink and blog needs to be ignored, especially when a 10yo Laphroaig cask strength batch 04 is to hand on your 10th Twitter anniversary

A lot has happened in those 10 years. According to Twitter I’ve posted 33,838 tweets so far (probably a few more by the time you read this). Apparently I have just under 3,000 people following me now (I hope not too many of them are bots). Quite a few of you I’ve met personally, others I only know from Twitter (and sometimes other social networks), but we’ve still had many helpful, interesting, funny and more exchanges. Others I don’t really know yet, but I hope we’ll bump into each other one day. I’ve learned quite a few things on Twitter, found out information, had a lot of fun and more. I hope I could give some of that back, give those who follow me or communicate with me something to enjoy, something they found helpful or something that inspired them. Or just something to laugh.

With that I’ll finish for now, time for another dram. And another tweet.

Badlads Diving on Islay: Expedition OTRANTO 100

Islay NewsToday saw a Ceremony to remember sinking of HMS Otranto on Islay at Kilchoman, the disaster happened 100 years ago today. Earlier this year another salute to the victims of the HMS Otranto took place in the water of Machir Bay as the Badlads Diving group visited what remains of the wreck to pay their tribute. Peter was so kind to get in touch to share the link to the video of the event:

A very nice tribute I think, very well done. The group has been visiting Islay for many years, I’ve shared a number of videos by them before.

As it turns out they were on Islay at the same time as me in June, I actually took pictures of them leaving and returning to Kilchiaran Bay, where they had set up base. Unfortunately I hadn’t realised at the time that it was them, otherwise I would have gone over to have a chat. Maybe another time.

20 years Friend of Laphroaig

Islay Whisky News & LinksThis is a post I wanted to write almost a month ago, unfortunately then my leg injury got in the way. Recovery is now well under way (this morning I walked 3 kilometres in I think just over half an hour) and I think I can allow myself a wee dram tonight. With that over to the real topic, one of the many factors which brought me to Islay and made me fall in love with it:

Scan of Armin Grewe's Friends of Laphroaig certificate
My original Friends of Laphroaig certificate from March 1998, a few months before I first set foot on Islay in August 1998

Earlier this year I came across my original Friends of Laphroaig certificate. I bought my first bottle of Laphroaig whisky (the standard 10yo, an expression I still enjoy regularly) in early 1998 and duly sent in my claim for my square foot of Islay. A few weeks later my certificate arrived. Iain Henderson was the distillery manager back then (he retired in 2002), so it is signed by him.

A few months later, on a rather wet August morning, I arrived on Islay for my first visit. The first distillery I visited was of course Laphroaig. There was no visitor centre back then, as far as I can remember I found the way to the reception where someone welcomed me and found a miniature bottle for my annual rent for me.

All of this is now 20 years ago (or will soon be), so with a month delay I’m going to open a bottle of Laphroaig Cairdeas tonight for a wee dram to celebrate being a Friend of Laphroaig for 20 years.

Video of the ruin near Ardilistry Bay, Islay

Islay on VideoA slightly different Islay video today, a walk to one of the most beautiful ruins on Islay. Especially on a bright and sunny day it’s very nice to walk around it, the light under the trees now towering over it (and even growing in and on it) is wonderful. Here’s the short video recorded by a recent visitor:

I’ve got two pictures of it on the photoblog as well:

I hope you like it as well and enjoyed the visit in video and pictures.

Islay’s ancient hillforts from the air

Islay on VideoA bit of very old Islay tonight. There are a number of Iron Age hillforts on Islay, the filmmaker who also filmed the MV Hebridean Isles from the air created a nice drone video about two of them:

In a way they are easier to see from the air than from the ground I think. I also find it fascinating how much of them remains after such a long time.

Kilchoman Parish Church, Islay, from above

Islay on VideoSorry for the lack of blogging here, no post for a week. Not good. My excuse is that the day job had to take priority. Better get back to it. A rather sad video this evening, filmed by Leon a few months ago. Yet another winter with its winter storms won’t have helped the situation either. Here’s a view of the ruin of Kilchoman Parish Church from the air:

The church was last used several decades ago. At some point (not entirely sure when) it was sold to a private owner. Plans for an alternative use never came to fruition for various reasons, among them the lack of water supply. When I first visited Islay in the late 90s the church still had a roof, this gradually disappeared over the years until the last parts of it collapsed and fell into the church a few years ago.

Sadly I think the building is beyond repair now, at best what remains can be stabilised. I fear if nothing is done the gable or part of the side walls will start to collapse soon.

Lagavulin jubilee to support Islay history and heritage projects

Islay Whisky News & LinksThe BBC reports of an initiative by Lagavulin distillery to support two local projects as part of their 200 year anniversary celebrations. The two projects are a long standing one and a fairly new but very important one: Finlaggan and Islay Heritage. There will also be further local initiatives receiving support:

The Lagavulin 200 Legacy is set to make further contributions to the local swimming pool, cyber cafe and arts and festival organisations, as well as a new partnership with the RSPB to restore and conserve peatlands on the island.

Funds will be raised through sales of special single cask charity bottling.

Preparing for an Islay invasion in WWII?

Something a bit scary today. I’m not sure how I came across these in the David Ramsey Historical map collection a while ago, but essentially it looks like there was at least some material covering Islay for plans by the German Wehrmacht to invade Britain during WWII (known as Operation Sea Lion, which would have mainly focused on England, but they also seem to have prepared information about Scotland). The material seems to be from 1940 and 1941, i.e. still during the early years of the war. A search for Islay initially turns up three results:

Screenshot of Islay related information by the German Wehrmacht during WWII

The first one is a drawn coast profile of entrances into Loch Tarbert (on Jura) and the Sound of Islay. The second is called south coast of the Isle of Islay (showing mainly Port Ellen and around). The third one is called north coast of the Isle of Islay and shows the north coast near Rhuvaal.

After a bit of digging around I found a bit more (which for some reason doesn’t show up in a search for Islay):

Luckily the plans were abandoned quite quickly but now provide us with some interesting historical pictures.