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.

Islay at the British Birdfair 2018

Islay EventsIt’s that time of year again. It’s August, not long after the Islay Show (some people say the end of summer), the British Birdfair in Rutland is on. And just like last year and many years before there will be an Islay stand. From the 17th to the 19th of August 2018 the Islay team will be ready for visitors and their questions at the stand. With some Islay refreshments of course.

Where is the stand? In Marquee 7 on Stand 14/15. Here’s their description:

The islands of Islay and Jura lie off the west coast of Scotland and form part of the Southern Hebrides. Accessible only by plane or ferry these beautiful islands provide a haven for birds and wildlife all year round. Autumn and winter are spectacular times to visit when Islay’s population of just 3000 people are joined by 40,0000 Barnacle Geese and 5,000 Greenland White Fronted Geese. Their October arrival heralds a true birding spectacular and one not to be missed. Throughout the year both islands are home to golden and white-tailed sea eagles, hen harriers and chough – all of which can easily be sighted during a week long stay. Corncrakes can be heard in our late spring and summer evenings along with the unworldly sounds of drumming snipe. Islay and Jura are famous throughout the world for their whisky. Home to 9 and soon be to 10 whisky distilleries. Our stand at the Birdfair celebrates this great island produce with tastings throughout the three days. Just follow your nose and you’ll find us at Marquee 7 Stand 14/15. Visit us and plan your next island escape!

I believe visitors to the stand can win a week on Islay, but it’s even better than that, there is also an online competition. Visit the Islay and Jura marketing group website for more:

Win a wildlife holiday for 4 to the Isle of Islay

Flying to Islay as a wheelchair user

Islay on VideoIt’s been a while since I last posted here, I blame the heatwave in the UK which cost me a lot of energy (I don’t deal very well with hot weather). Still need to write up a quick summary from my Islay visit in June, but before I do that I’d like to share a video from another recent Islay visitor:

Doug Paulley (Doug on Twitter) flew to Islay in July (his first flight since becoming a wheelchair user if I understood it correctly) and decided to document his experiences as a wheelchair user as a help to others. A very interesting and informative video.

In addition Doug has also created a playlist of the views from the flight, for those who’d like to view what you can see from the window. And on Twitter he shared a video of a travel companion going for a swim at Bunnahabhain.

New video: June evening in Lossit Bay, Islay

Islay on VideoI spent a wonderful late afternoon and evening on a beautiful sunny June day in Lossit Bay on the west coast of Islay. Filming video, taking pictures and just generally looking around. Here’s a first taster of it, a one take one minute clip of walking along the beach and then turning around for a glimpse of the approaching sunset:

There’s plenty more to come, both pictures and video.

Islay Pipe Band at the British Championships 2018 in Paisley

Islay MusicThe Islay Pipe Band is busy with the competition season at the moment. Yesterday they performed at the first competition for the season, the British Championships in Paisley, achieving a very respectable 8th place (out of 14) in Grade 2. Here’s a video of their performance:

They were only one point behind the 7th place, but 4 points ahead of the joint 9th/10th place. Hopefully a successful season ahead of them.

A wonderful Islay dram, Port Charlotte cask exploration Cubaireachd 18

Islay Whisky News & LinksThought I’ll make you (well, some of you) jealous tonight. Enjoying a wonderful dram (or two, or three) of this wonderful Islay single malt and single cask whisky tonight, a Bruichladdich Port Charlotte cask exploration Cubaireachd 18:

Picture of a bottle and a dram of the Port Charlotte cask exploration Cubaireachd 18
A lovely Islay dram, the Port Charlotte cask exploration Cubaireachd 18

There’s only one problem with it: The bottle will be empty far far too quickly.