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:
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!
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.
This weekend I’m going to see Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton (supported by Jenn Butterworth and others) at the south coast of England. Which inspired me to write another post about an artist I got to know through the Islay Sessions (which makes it a post for this blog). In case you’re wondering what the connection is: Brìghde has played together with Ross (not sure if she has played with Ali as well), here’s a nice recording:
But now to the real topic of this post, to Brìghde Chaimbeul‘s debut album, The Reeling. It was published in January 2019 to very positive reviews, for example in the Guardian. I’m not sure if she played any of it during the Islay Sessions in November 2018, but what I heard certainly motivated me to buy the album on release day. Here’s a (rather low quality, as it was recorded with a mobile phone) short snippet from her performance at the Islay Sessions in Bruichladdich Hall (my lack of musical skills don’t allow me to identify the tune):
Back to the album, it’s available on various download/streaming services (I bought it on Google Play as that’s what I use mostly) and you can buy a CD/LP from Rough Trade. If you’d like to get an impression before you buy you can hear some (or all if you have a Spotify account) here:
If that’s not enough, here’s a video with one of the songs from the album:
Isn’t that a beautiful rich tune? I’ve listened to the album many times now and will listen many times again. I’m not sure about any upcoming gigs by Brìghde, but I’m sure they’ll be mentioned on her social media accounts: Brìghde Chaimbeul on Facebook and Brìghde Chaimbeul on Twitter.
Something slightly outside of the normal content of this blog, but then there’s a good chance that without the Islay Sessions I wouldn’t have heard of this album (and others I will write about some other time). So I think it does fit into this blog. I’ve known Gráinne Brady for a number of years now, performing at and organising the wonderful Islay Sessions. Early on she was mainly performing together with other artists, last year saw her launching a solo project with her debut album. I’ll let her tell you about it herself:
The Islay Sessions saw the second ever live performance of the album, Gráinne supported by Andrew Waite and Innes White. It was a great experience, her telling us about the project and then performing it, taking on parts of the spoken word as well. Some great musical storytelling. Here’s a short snippet (mobile phone recording, so not the greatest quality) from the sessions, just to give you an impression:
If this got you interested, Gráinne is going on tour in Ireland and Scotland in late February and March 2019. Here is her tour poster:
Even (or especially?) during winter a beach and dune walk on Islay can be very nice and refreshing for mind and body. Adam takes us on a walk on the Big Strand near The Machrie, I believe it was at the end of December. Enjoy the video:
I hope this inspires you to get out for a refreshing walk, ideally on an Islay beach, but other locations will do if followed by a dram of Islay malt.
There are a number of lighthouses on and around Islay and Jura. Some are fairly easy to see and visit, others require quite a lot of effort, either a long walk or a trip with a boat. uklighthousetour is on a mission to visit lighthouses around the UK and recently visited Islay and Jura. Three blog entries describe what they found:
I’m not sure if Danny MacAskill has been to Colonsay (he has visited Islay with his bike), but I do know that someone who might one day follow in his bike tracks has. Here’s a short video of Calum showing off his skills on the beach, on the rocks, on the hills and other places on Colonsay:
I hope you enjoyed the video, I thought it was nicely done.
Just a quick update on the Vote for Islay at FilmG 2019 entry from December: One of the three entries from Islay has been shortlisted for an award. The entry from Islay High School in the Youth category, ‘Am Bruadar’, has been picked in the FilmG Award For Gaelic – Learners category. Congratulations, and fingers crossed you will be announced as winners at the awards ceremony in Glasgow in February.
In addition, voting for the People’s Choice award is still open. You can vote once a day. Here are the entries from Islay again, so that you can vote for them:
It’s Saturday evening, a good time to watch a nice video from an Islay visit. Neil and Precarious Dave visited four distilleries, Bunnahabhain, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. They had lots of fun, drank a lot of whisky (and some Guinness) and bought quite a few bottles. Enjoy the video:
I hope you enjoyed the video, I thought it was very nicely done.
Happy New Year! Regular readers might remember that I kind of have a New Year’s tradition, listening to the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna with a wee dram of Islay single malt whisky. Last years I had some whisky chocolate nibs, this year I decided to have some smoked salmon on fresh home made bread. Earlier today I made some fresh bread (a hemp hearts and walnuts wholemeal bread) which I’m now eating with some smoked salmon:
The whisky is the Laphroaig 10yo cask strength batch 04, which I had opened for my 10 years Twitter milestone (with New Year’s Day in mind). A rather lovely dram, going down very nicely while the Radetzky-Marsch is playing as I type this.