Islay Space Port to open in 2024

Islay News

Some amazing news from Islay this morning: After some long and secret negotiations I can reveal that an Islay Space Port is expected to open in late 2024. Scotland has long been the prime location for the development of spaceports, now Islay is joining this effort to establish Scotland on the forefront of space exploration.

Picture of a Space Shuttle lifting off next to a whisky distillery
Artist’s impression of the Islay Space Port

This development will create many highly qualified jobs on Islay. It is expected that Islay High School will create some specialised courses leading to space engineering degrees at Glasgow University. I understand the space port will be located on the south coast of Islay (I believe between Lagavulin and Ardbeg) and some of the Islay distilleries will contribute to the specialised rocket fuel.

What do you think? Is this an exciting and positive development for Islay? Or is this too much and will put further strain on ferry capacities?

Islay Business (2): An Gleann Tablet

Islay Businesses

The second post trying to support Islay businesses during the Coronavirus lockdown, which as we heard in the news today could last 6 months in some shape or form. Today something for those of you with a sweet tooth (especially if you also like your Islay/Jura whisky/gin): An Gleann Tablet.

Screenshot of the An Gleann Tablet - Whisky Connoisseur selection page
An Gleann Tablet – Whisky Connoisseur selection

An Gleann was founded by Jane Mitchell almost 15 years ago as a small cottage business on the Rhinns of Islay a couple of miles outside of Port Charlotte on the road to Portnahaven. As the name says, they make tablet, a Scottish speciality. Being on Islay there’s of course a connection to the famous Islay whisky with the Whisky Connoisseur series. I hope you’ll find something you like.

According to a Facebook post while the shop is closed to visitors the online store is open for business. Practising physical distancing and staying safe.

Islay Business (1): Spirited Soaps

Islay Businesses

As mentioned in my post about supporting Islay businesses during and after the Coronavirus pandemic I’m planning to write about various Islay (and Jura) based businesses over the coming weeks and months. I’m hoping that they will be able to continue working in some way provided it is safe and sensible (and permitted) to do so and in some cases still fulfil online orders. If they can’t I’m hoping we can help them to rebuild once life starts to return to normal. With that let’s get started, admittedly with a rather obvious choice considering how often we’ve been asked to wash our hands:

The company in question is of course Spirited Soaps founded by Ailsa Hayes over a decade ago. As the name implies the main product is …. soap. Soap with an Islay touch.

Screenshot of the Spirited Soaps website
Islay Business (1): Spirited Soaps

Spirited Soaps is working with the various Islay distilleries, offering a variety of solid and liquid soaps. There’s also a very nice lip balm, which I use after my Islay visits (I think the combination of sunshine and wind makes my lips dry out). Take a look and hopefully you’ll find something you like.

Supporting Islay (and other islands) businesses

Islay Businesses

When wrote that I wasn’t going to be able to visit Islay for the foreseeable future because of the Coronavirus pandemic I mentioned that I was I aware this was going to hit many local businesses, but that I didn’t have a solution to help them. I also believe (and fear) that we’re going to have to live with the various restrictions related to “social distancing” (I know, horrible term, I hope we can find something better) for quite some time. Just today Calmac announced that they wouldn’t accept any new advance bookings until 15/Jul. From everything I’ve read and seen so far I wouldn’t be surprised if certainly the first phase will last 4-6 months and there will be impacts for at least 12-18 months, depending on how quick a vaccine can be delivered. I know nobody wants to hear that, but I believe (and fear) that’s realistic. So what can we do to help local businesses? I still don’t have a solution (and probably never will), but at least there are some first shoots and ideas:

While the main hit will of course be on direct tourism businesses like accommodation providers, tour guides and transport businesses (and I freely admit I don’t have clue how to help them) there will be a secondary impact on a lot of smaller makers. Small businesses with one or only a handful of employees, producing a variety of goods, often related to local materials and traditions. They often heavily rely on tourists buying their products, be it in their own premises, be it at tourism attractions. With hardly any or even no tourists coming at the moment they lose a large chunk or even all of their income. At least some of them also sell online (or will soon) and at least as long as they can still ship their orders this is where Rhoda’s idea comes in:

Rhoda (who among other things runs Tiree Tea) has set up isle2o – Support the Scottish islands during Covid-19 by shopping from the comfort of your sofa! It’s a directory of island based businesses which sell online, so you can order from home to support them. As of writing this there are five Islay based businesses and one Jura based business listed, but I’m sure there will soon be plenty more. So why not take a look at the listings and if you find something you fancy place an order?

You might have noticed that for this post I’ve created a new category, “Islay Businesses”. There’s of course a reason for that. I’m going to try to promote a number of Islay (and Jura and Colonsay) businesses here over the coming weeks, in particular those who also sell online in some shape or form. It might help, it might not, but I’m certainly going to try. In the current situation I think we’ve got to just try everything possible.