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.

Gráinne Brady’s debut album The Road Across the Hills (via the Islay Sessions)

Islay Music

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:

Gráinne Brady: BEYOND: The Story of an Irish Immigrant

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:

Gráinne supported by Andrew and Innes at the Islay Sessions

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:

Tour poster for Gráinne Brady's spring tour 2019 with dates and more
Gráinne spring tour 2019 poster

I hope you get a chance to see one of her concerts and buy the album (Gráinne on Bandcamp). For updates check her website and her social media accounts (Gráinne Facebook, Gráinne Twitter).

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.

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).

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.

Interesting read about Orwell writing 1984 at Barnhill on Jura

Jura ExcursionsA quick excursion to Islay’s neighbour Jura today. James Shaw visited Barnhill where George Orwell wrote his famous book ‘1984’. He writes about his visit and Orwell on Jura in The Scottish island where George Orwell created 1984 on the BBC website.

I walked past Barnhill on the way to see the Corryvreckan whirlpool on a stunning day in April 2015, a fascinating but very remote location:

Picture of an farmhouse in a remote location on an island
A view of Barnhill on the Isle of Jura, taken from the track to the north of the island. The mainland visible in the background.

In case you need a refresher of the book:

Nice video about the Museum of Islay Life

Islay on VideoWell, I had planned to share a short video from the Islay Sessions tonight, together with a mention that the artists in said video will soon be visiting the south of England. But then I spotted an error in the video, so it will have to wait for another day. Meaning I’m going to pull forward a video I had saved for another day, a very nice video about the Museum of Islay Life:

I hope you enjoyed the video and if you haven’t been yet (or even if you have been) it encouraged you to visit the museum (again).