Tonight’s Islay dram: Port Charlotte cask exploration Gorag 02

Islay Whisky News & LinksLast night on Twitter Bruichladdich asked what our Friday night dram was. My honest answer was that it was their southern competitor Laphroaig with their 10yo cask strength batch 010. And that if I was good on Saturday and got stuff done I would reward myself with one of my Bruichladdich Port Charlotte valinches. Well, I did get a sufficient amount done, so I picked this one from my shelf:

Picture of a bottle and a dram of the Port Charlotte cask exploration Gorag 02
A lovely Islay dram, the Port Charlotte cask exploration Gorag 02

This is bottle #267 of 360 of the Port Charlotte cask exploration o2, Gorag. Aged 11 years in a Pessac-Leognan cask (I must admit, I have no idea what that means apart from that it is a wine cask. But it tastes wonderful).

Video from a walk to Mala Bholsa, Islay

Islay on VideoAn interesting video I managed to find recently, mostly filmed during a walk from Loch Gruinart, past Gortantaoid out to Mala Bholsa in the north west of Islay. There are also some nice views of the Eas Lathan waterfall in Doodilmore River. In addition to impressions from the walk we also get to see a few glimpses of Machir Bay and from the ferry crossing. Enjoy:

Rhinns of Islay distillery footpath funding

Islay NewsI don’t know more than what it says in the screenshot, but it looks like after the Southern Islay distillery footpath we will soon see a Rhinns of Islay equivalent between Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich. Many thanks to Ross Coutts for spotting and sharing:

Beachcombing/walking on Islay with a twist

Islay NewsWe all would like our beaches pristine and clean. Sadly modern reality gets into the way more and more often. Plastic and other rubbish everywhere, destroying the beauty of the nature we so enjoy. So why don’t we all contribute a bit to help keeping the beaches clean? Apart from avoiding littering as much as possible we can all do our bit to help to keep the beaches clean. It’s not my idea, I read about it somewhere else:

From every beach walk aim to bring back at least three pieces of plastic (or other rubbish, e.g. bottles) and dispose of it responsibly.

During my last visit to Islay in June I decided to do my bit. When staying at Kilchoman during the second week of my stay I went for a walk on Kilchoman Beach in Machir Bay every morning. During the last return leg (I typically walked up and down the beach twice) I picked up as much as I could carry, often helped by a bucket or something similar I found to allow me to collect and carry it.

Quite a few of the findings almost certainly travelled all the way across the North Channel, as they clearly came from Ireland. There was a plastic milk bottle from Donegal Creameries and a Tayto crisp bag. And a few items with Euro pricing. But also various other plastic and other items, like a pen and tennis ball. Not to forget a few bottles (both glass and plastic).

I know a number of others are picking up plastic on their beach walks. Also while I was doing it I got chatting with a couple on their beach walk and they joined as well and picked up plastic.

Will you help to keep Islay’s beaches clean?

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.

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.

My first 360° Islay video: Lossit Bay

Islay on VideoWell, that went better than I thought. When I posted the video exploring Islay’s Lossit Bay I mentioned that I was hoping to share my first 360° Islay video over the coming weeks. After reviewing the 360° footage I have of Lossit Bay on Friday evening and editing it during the Saturday (followed by a long upload and processing over Saturday night) I’m now ready to share it just a week later.

Here are three minutes of 360° views of Lossit Bay on the west coast of Islay, filmed on a beautiful June evening:

Assuming you have a modern browser or are viewing it on a mobile device you should be able to move around in the video, looking into whatever direction you want. Out to sea, along the beach, over to the dunes, all as if you’re there and turning around. You can either move the view with your mouse (or finger on a mobile device) or by using the controls in the top left corner. If you’re watching it on a mobile device you should also be able to change the view by simply moving your mobile device around, left, right, up, down, whichever way you want.

The resolution/video quality isn’t as good as from my other cameras, but then this is early days, my first attempts with a fairly new technology. Over time the technology will improve and become more affordable (I only have a fairly low spec 360° camera which was on special offer, just right for me to learn and experiment with the technology), improving video quality over the coming years. I hope you’re still able to enjoy the video and the opportunity to look around.

I’m hoping to edit more 360° Islay videos over the coming weeks, Machir Bay, Bowmore, Port Charlotte and some of the distilleries are among the options. Bowmore will most likely get the nod first.

New Islay video: Exploring Lossit Bay

Islay on VideoAlmost three months ago I posted a short video June evening in Lossit Bay, promising there was more to come. I’ve already posted a few pictures in recent weeks, this week I’m planning a series of Lossit Bay pictures on my Islay pictures photoblog, starting with the original of the cover picture of the video. Talking of video, here is the very much extended 10x longer director’s cut of the footage I shot in Lossit Bay, I hope you enjoy it:

No music, just the sound of the waves breaking and the birds calling, in particular the noisy oystercatchers. It’s the way I like it. Just like it is when you’re there.

PS: Assuming I can work out how to edit and upload it I’m hoping to share a 360º video of Lossit Bay some time over the coming weeks. Fingers crossed…

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.