Gaelic map of Islay, Jura and Colonsay

Islay NewsFrom my recent Islay visit I returned with a quite large souvenir which is now hanging on one of my walls. A few weeks ago Pat Farrington announced on Facebook that she had some maps of Islay, Jura and Colonsay in Gaelic for sale. I contacted her that I was interested and if I could pick one up during my Islay visit in November (they were sold pick up / delivery on Islay only).

Picture of a map of Islay, Jura and Colonsay in Gaelic
A closer look at the map, framed by Islay Studios

We agreed to meet in Bowmore, where £10 and in return the map changed hands. From Bowmore I drove over to Islay House Square, where I dropped it off at Islay Studios to be framed. Mark had mentioned that they had framed another copy, I decided to do the same to keep it in prime condition and make it easier to hang up. I picked a light coloured wood as most of my furniture is pine and I wanted them to go together.

Here’s how it looks with the map hanging above my ‘Islay Shelf’ (where I keep my Islay single malts, my Islay books and various souvenirs):

Picture of a shelf with whisky and books with a map in Gaelic hanging above it
The map looking nice above my Islay shelf

I’m very happy how it turned out, I think it fits very well above the shelf. The map looks very nice in the frame, it covers many places including villages, hills, mountains, lochs and more. Of course all in Gaelic, as that’s the whole point of the map. The speech bubble is a lamp (hence the cable), but it didn’t look very nice switched on for a picture, so I turned it off (it looks very nice otherwise and is lit while I’m typing this).

Future travel to Islay via Jura? (updated)

Islay NewsSomething that I’ve heard mentioned before seems to be back on the agenda again: Replacing the big ferries directly from the mainland to Islay with smaller ferries from the mainland to Jura, drive down Jura and then take the second ferry from Jura over the Sound of Islay to Port Askaig. In an article New plans for the future of Scotland’s ferry fleet would see more smaller vessels in the Herald we find:

Under the new proposal, Mull and Jura could play vital roles acting as these “land bridges”, slash journey times and increase service frequency to Islay and the Outer Hebrides.

[..]

Likewise, Islay passengers would get a ferry from Keills on the mainland and travel to Lagg on Jura, before crossing to Islay. One other advantage is that carbon emissions would be greatly reduced without the need for hybrid fuel ferries.

Pedersen added: “Both are much shorter than the current Kennacraig to Port Askaig/Port Ellen service on Islay and would allow up to ten daily crossings and the option of direct bus services between the islands and Glasgow.”

I’m not entirely convinced. To start with I don’t see the single track roads leading to Keills on the mainland and on Jura from Lagg to Feolin Ferry coping with all the additional traffic. They would need to be widened, strengthened and regularly maintained, which I suspect will cost many many millions and take many years if not decades to achieve (if possible at all). I suspect the residents of Craighouse won’t be too happy suddenly having a main A-road going right through their village. Similarly the residents along the Crinan Canal and Tavvallich (I assume the mainland part of the route would go along there). Complete new ferry terminals where currently no infrastructure exists at all would have to be developed and built, also the one at Feolin Ferry would need expansion. While admittedly smaller than the current large Kennacraig to Islay ferry I would think a Keills to Lagg ferry still would need to be of a reasonable size to cope with the volumes and the conditions in the Sound of Jura. The current ferry over the Sound of Islay would probably need an upgrade as well to cope with the volumes required.

That’s not to say the idea isn’t possible, I just feel it will be much more difficult than it seems at first glance. What do you think, will this happen, should this happen?

(Link via kenny swan on Twitter)

Update:

As mentioned in the intro, this idea isn’t new. What I hadn’t realised is that it goes back to the 1960 (yes, I know, strictly speaking it goes back way further than that, as the overland route via Jura was the original route to Islay before steamers etc came into play). Neil King has more on his blog in West Tarbert Pier – Part 1:

The Government was presented with two alternative proposals for Islay. [..] The other was the radically different so-called “Overland Route” which involved using Jura as a stepping stone to Islay via new, shorter car ferry routes from Keills in Argyll to Lagg in Jura and from Feolin on Jura to Port Askaig. (This had, in fact, been the original route to Islay until the development of steamship services in the second quarter of the 19th century replaced it with the route to WTP.)

[..]

In February 1968, the Government rejected the Overland Route on grounds of cost. As well as new ferries, it would have involved upgrading more than 30 miles (50km) of single track roads to Keills and on Jura at an overall cost of £3.2m. Instead, the Government preferred to spend £1.1m on a new ro-ro car ferry to operate from a new pier at Escart Bay, about a mile down the loch from WTP. This would serve Port Askaig, Colonsay and Port Ellen. Jura would be served by a new ferry across the Sound of Islay to Feolin instead of the traditional call at Craighouse en route to Port Askaig and Gigha would have its own independent ferry. This option could also be delivered much more quickly than the Overland Route and within the predicted remaining life of the Lochiel.

(update via IanM on Twitter)

Sending your holiday cards with Islay stamps?

Islay LinksHave you ever heard of Cinderella Stamps? Well, I hadn’t, until now. In a nutshell they are decorative, often collectable, stamps you can add to your mail, but as they are not issued by the Post Office you also still need regular stamps (if you want to send a letter/postcard with them on). And as I found out yesterday you can also get some Islay stamps for exactly that purpose:

You can find out more on the Islay Stamps website, where you can also order their Islay Stamps. For updates on their releases you might want to follow the @IslayStamps Twitter feed.

A (fictional) Islay crime wave

Islay LinksIt seems Islay is becoming a hotbed of crime. Luckily only fictional, not in the real world. There are two books right now I’m aware of putting Islay on the crime fiction map. One has recently been published and is on my to read list, the other one is scheduled to be published in spring 2019.

Price: Check on Amazon

The first book is Machir Bay by Alasdair Wham. I think I came across it via a news report, but I’m not entirely sure. Not all bookshops have it, but on Islay you can buy it from The Celtic House and online at Amazon. As I said I haven’t got round to read it yet, but I’ll report back once I have. The reviews are very positive, so I’m looking forward to reading it.

The second book I came across via a tweet by the author:

You can find more on Allan’s page for the book, including a teaser excerpt. He mentioned he’s hoping to have a launch event on Islay, so watch out for that.

How not to discover Islay (and how to do it better)

Islay LinksYesterday I came across what I thought was a rather strange article about Islay. Having spent two weeks on Jura Alexander from South Africa thought he could visit and get to know five (yes, 5) Islay distilleries in two (yes, 2) hours. It wasn’t very successful for him, as he writes in A whisky without peat is like soup without salt, but Islay visit is bland.

Assuming I read it correctly he crammed driving from Port Askaig to Bowmore, visiting Bowmore distillery, driving on to the south coast, visiting Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg, driving all the way back to Caol Ila, visiting Caol Ila and then driving back to Port Askaig into two hours. 2 hours. I estimate driving from Port Askaig to Ardbeg via Bowmore takes approx 45 minutes. Returning via the High Road should be slightly faster, may be 40 minutes. That’s a total of almost 1.5 hours. Which leaves just over half an hour for five distilleries. Or in other words about 6-7 minutes for each distillery. Where it seems he expected they just drop everything for him as soon as he arrived without any warning or preparation (otherwise he would have known that Ardbeg gets rather busy at lunchtime).

Seriously?

Do you turn up at Johannesburg’s busy top restaurants without a reservation and then expect them to serve you a five course menu over 15 minutes and enjoy that experience?

Here are my (personal, others might differ) suggestions on how to discover Islay: Spend a little time on preparation, plenty of websites and travel guides out there to learn about Islay. Allow yourself a few days to immerse yourself in the island, I’d say at least two full days excluding arrival and departure. Restrict yourself to may be 2-3 distilleries. That’s plenty enough. Get out of the car, walk around a bit, experience the peace and quiet directly, not through the windows of a car. Feel, view, hear and smell the wild and rugged landscape. Spend an hour or two walking along one of Islay’s beautiful beaches. Go out to one of the pubs/bars in the evening, especially if there’s live music on. Good chance you meet a distillery worker there. Visit some other places like Finlaggan or the Woollen Mill, get a feel for the rich history. And most importantly, don’t rush it, you’re on Islay time.

Rough Guides I think do it much better in their video, they take their time to really discover Islay, the multiple facets and what it is about:

Of course there are many more reasons to visit and discover Islay, but these five are already pretty good.

Do you have anything to add, any further thoughts on how to best discover Islay? Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments.

Two interesting Islay whisky links

Islay Whisky News & LinksI 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.

Enjoying an Islay ATC 1.1 Real Ale

Islay LinksSomething slightly different this evening. Usually the whiskies or beers I mention on this blog are from Islay or at least somewhere in Argyll. This one is from much further afield (from Stonehaven to be precise), but it has been influenced by Islay. Last weekend I stumbled over this tweet:

Having asked for more information I found out it’s a beer brewed by sixº north in Scotland in collaboration with Brouwerij De Ranke in Belgium, aged in Islay whisky casks. I was also told it was available to order online at EeBria, on an impulse I went ahead and ordered some. It doesn’t come cheap, but I decided it was worth it for a treat. The description reads:

This six malt dark brooding beer, fermented in hand picked Islay Whisky casks for 6 months producing a subtle yet balanced typical Islay infusion with hints of Caramel, Dark Fruits, Oak and Fino Sherry.

A few days later the three bottles (+ three others I had also ordered to taste some other time) had arrived:

Picture of 3 bottles of beer called Islay ATC 1.1

This evening it was time to open the first bottle. Keeping in mind that it is 9.2% alcohol I decided one bottle would have to be enough, even though it is only a 330ml bottle. As a pint glass was all that I had available the presentation is a bit lacking, but at least you get an idea:

Picture of a bottle of beer called Islay ATC 1.1 poured into a glass

I’m no good in tasting and tasting notes, but I must say the description of ‘dark brooding’ hits it for me. That’s really what it seems to be. To me it appeared very smooth, velvety, dark and heavy. But also fruity. Very nice. I’ll certainly enjoy the remaining bottles, money well spent.

I know there are other Islay cask aged real ales out there, certainly something I’ll explore further in the future.

Islay Blogging Roundup NC #1

Islay Blogging RoundupWhen I relaunched the blog I mentioned that I was thinking about bringing the Islay blogging roundup back (but retiring the Friday Islay picture). Well then, here we go. It won’t be the regular Sunday every week as I used to do it, instead it will be whenever I find it’s suitable and I have come across enough interesting posts. And I will restart the count, which is why this is the Islay Blogging Roundup NC (for New Count) #1. Here we go:

The Scotch Cinema has been around for quite some time and is still going strong. Recently the had not just one, but THREE Laphroaig Sightings in One Movie. Some older Laphroaig sightings are also mentioned in their related links.

From a German music blog we learn that Amy Macdonald isn’t a whisky drinker but her father is partial to a wee dram and in particular a Bruichladdich from Islay.

Malted (a whisky blog in its day job) has a very interesting post with old Islay pictures in Islay Photographs 1902-1960. On the same blog we also find Islay and RAF Port Ellen.

Heiko from Switzerland documents his visit to Laphroaig with lots of pictures.

Sometimes I find Islay references in rather unexpected places like a post Sleep inducing molecules: Propofol, for January 2017 on the Liverpool Life Sciences UTC Innovation Labs. I didn’t fully understand it, but there’s some kind of link between Propofol and the Phenols Islay whiskies are famous for.

I’m not sure if it’s the type of book I’d read, but may be some of my German readers are interested in reading Die verhexten Zombiekarnickel and report back what they think? Apparently zombies, witches and distilleries are involved.

For daily updates about the bird sightings on Islay you of course still have to go to the Islay Birds blog. Posts that caught my even recently were a Whitefront with a neck ring, the New Year’s day post with the annual rainfall figures and a flock of Twites. In addition to that the RSPB Blog also has a great entry about Twite on The Oa.

I’ve stopped the Friday Islay picture, but how about you instead take a look at the Friday fold: Smaull Graywacke at Saligo Bay, Islay? Or the Friday fold: Machir Bay I and Friday fold: Machir Bay II?

The iLaddie Whisky Nerd from the Netherlands visited Islay late last year (I helped him a bit during his preparations), he has a whole Islay Trip category on his blog.

Marc Calhoun takes us to Cashels of the Hebrides, which includes one on Nave Island just off Ardnave on Islay.

Alaina and Philip visited Islay mainly for the whisky distilleries, you can read about their visit in ISLAY, SCOTLAND: A TRAVELOGUE.

Henryk visited Islay as part of a Scotland trip, you can find some great pictures in Urlaub 2016 Schottlands Nordwesten – Teil 3: Isle of Mull, Islay Scotland und JuraUrlaub 2016 Schottlands Nordwesten – Teil 3.5: Kilchoman Distillery and Session @ Port Charlotte Hotel Islay.

I think I’ll leave it at that, the Islay Blogging Roundup NC #1 is done. The next one will appear as and when I’ve come across enough good blog entries worth mentioning. If you have one (or know of one) you think I should mention by all means send me the link.

Some Islay business links

Islay Links

There are many businesses on Islay, old and new. Some of them have an internet presence and some of those I’m going to present/save for later reference here (please note these are only ones I’ve recently come across and am aware of. If yours is missing by all means get in touch for a future entry with further links):

Earlier today I noticed a new follower on Twitter, named @IslayPlot. The description reads ‘Private owner of several residential development sites on Islay’ and it links to a website Islay Plots (which as of writing this has one plot near Port Ellen listed). That’s all I know at this point.

Islay is of course mainly known for its whisky (and to a lesser extent real ale as well as gin) when it comes to beverages, but there is also Islay Wine. They are fruit wines using fruit like rhubarb and bramble and are made by Kenneth Carter and Helen Gilbert near Port Ellen.

This one isn’t technically on Islay, but Kate has been visiting Islay for many many years (and I’ve been reading her blog entries in particular when related to Islay for many many years). She designs knitting patterns (I hope I’m getting that right and use the right term) and one of her collections is called Inspired by Islay. See also her blog entry An Islay trio for more pictures (several taken on Islay).

Another one not on Islay, but on Islay’s neighbour Jura: Bruichladdich has been making gin for a while, now they are getting competition from Jura. Alicia MacInnes, Claire Fletcher and Georgina Kitching have started Lussa Gin in July. I don’t drink gin so can’t say anything further about it.

That’s all for now, more to come as I come across them (or as you let me know of them)

Revisiting two Islay radio programmes on BBC Radio 4

After a few videos after relaunching the blog something for the ears only tonight with two slightly older radio programmes previously broadcasted on BBC Radio 4. At least as of today they can still be listened to on BBC iPlayer Radio:

The first one is with Malcolm Ogilvie, well known to many Islay visitors, who has been studying and watching birds and in particular Geese on Islay for decades. The programme is 22 minutes long and called The Living World – Islay Birds.

The second one is by writer Paul Evans and sound recordist Chris Watson who recorded the 30 minutes long programme Nature, The Sounds of Britain, Islay. Among other things Paul talks about the Adders in the airport car park, I remember those signs. Of course Adders don’t make much sound (apart from possibly hissing), so wait for the Corncrakes, Curlews and other birds, just to start with.