My first return to Islay after 22 long months

Islay on Video

Back in March 2020 when I wrote Sadly no Islay visit for me for the foreseeable future I didn’t expect that it would be 22 long months. While Islay was open for visitors in summer 2020 it didn’t feel right for me to travel at that time. Then the winter 2020/2021 lockdowns arrived. Early 2021 finally brought some hope with the vaccine programme rollout gathering pace, as I had decided I would only travel once I was fully vaccinated. I received my second dose in May 2021 (although I only found that out in May, I hadn’t expected expected it until June, making it too late to book for June). July and August I avoided (as usual) as I need to give priority to my colleagues with children (someone has to hold the fort in the office). But two weeks ago, in early September, I finally boarded the MV Finlaggan for my first crossing to Islay since November 2019.

It was emotional. Very emotional. Especially stepping out on to Kilchoman beach, my spiritual home, again the morning after my arrival. Several people have told me they’ve never seen me so happy as in some of the pictures I’ve shared. And they’re probably right. Even when I can’t explain why. Sometimes people ask me why I love Islay so much and why I keep returning after well over 20 years. And all I can say is that there’s something that clicks for me. That’s the best explanation I can give.

I don’t know if they show some of the magic, but I recorded a series of “YouTube shorts” (short 15 seconds clips best watched in portrait mode on a mobile device, but you can also watch them on a desktop/laptop) from some of my adventures during my second week on Islay:

YouTube playlist of Armin’s Islay #shorts

While I didn’t get out as much as I had hoped and didn’t meet as many people as I would have liked for a variety of reasons (weather not being that great especially in the second week, a very annoying blister on my left heel which made longer walks difficult at times, a lingering reluctance to go into busy enclosed spaces like pubs/restaurants and more) I did get to see a few new things and had some interactions I treasured:

One day I drove from Conisby to Uiskentuie beach for a walk. When I left Conisby my car alerted me that it was low on screen wash, so when I arrived I opened the bonnet and topped up the screen wash (might as well get it done while it’s fresh in my mind). Walking past another car parked a bit further down the beach the driver asked me if had a problem with my car and needed help. I reassured him that everything was fine and explained the background. While somebody elsewhere might have asked as well to me this felt very much like an Islay thing to do, people caring about others.

Also at Uiskentuie during my first walk there I passed a woman walking her dog and we had a brief chat about how long the beach was. A few days later (I think it might have been my last walk at Uiskentuie) I met her again and we walked together for a bit, having a nice chat about ferries, walking and more. We didn’t exchange names, so I don’t know who she was, but I really enjoyed our walk and chat. While something like this might happen elsewhere it felt like an Islay thing to me. Hopefully we can catch up on another beach walk at some point.

In regards to new things, I walked the new Loch Indaal path between Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte on a beautiful morning. I’ll write about it in a dedicated post, but I think it’s brilliant, a fantastic addition to Islay’s infrastructure and experience. Thank you and well done to everyone involved in making it happen.

I was welcomed online by several of my neighbours during my stay at Conisby, which I really appreciated. Apologies I didn’t come over, I’m still nervous visiting people in their homes at this point. Hopefully there will be another opportunity once the pandemic has settled further.

There were a few more moments, but I think what I’ve captured here covers the most important parts of this visit as well as touches on some of the reasons why I like Islay so much.

My next visit is already booked and assuming everything goes to plan I’ll be back soon, much much sooner than the very long time until this visit. I will do my utmost to meet the people I missed on this visit, most of you will know who. I’ll be in touch.

New Islay video: Dog enjoying a run out on Kilchoman beach

Islay on Video

It’s been a while since I uploaded my last Islay video, my last uploads were actually in December 2019. High time I get into it again, editing videos (even if some of the footage is a bit older), uploading them to YouTube and sharing them with you. To get me going something simple and short, yet also beautiful with the joy and freedom it shows (at least for me, hopefully also for you), a dog enjoying a good run out on Kilchoman beach on the west coast of Islay:

Dog enjoying a run out on Kilchoman beach, Isle of Islay

The footage is actually a bit older (as mentioned above), it’s from an overcast and blustery April late afternoon / early evening in 2014 and was filmed on a mobile phone. Still, I thought it is very enjoyable and worth sharing. I hope you’ve enjoyed being out on the beach with the dog for half a minute.

New Islay video: Kilchoman beach in 360°

Islay on Video

In addition to enjoying some nice Laphroaig with some smoked nuts last night I also got busy with a little “Christmas present” for you: Another Islay video. Another 360° Islay video to be precise. Last year I shared a 360° video of Lossit Bay with you, the new video is of Kilchoman beach and Machir Bay. We start at the car park, walk through the dunes and end up on the beach at low tide, where we visit the wreck of the Patti. While you’re watching the video you can look around in the video in whichever direction you want. Ahead, back, left, right, the choice is yours. Just move the view by dragging with your finger or mouse. If you’re on a mobile device and go full screen you should also be able to just turn/move your device and the view will change. And here’s the video, seven glorious minutes on Kilchoman beach:

I hope you enjoyed the video and looking around in all directions. Hopefully you didn’t get scared too much if you spotted me on occasion, one of the perils of 360° video, it’s almost impossible to not be in the picture at some point. I know the image quality / resolution isn’t the best at times, this was filmed with a fairly basic beginners camera bought at a discount about two years ago. Once I’ve learned more about filming 360° videos and if you like this type of video I’ll consider investing properly into a much higher quality camera.

New sign/board at Islay’s Kilchoman beach

Islay NewsLast week a very nice new sign/board popped up at the start of the track through the dunes to Kilchoman beach. A few weeks ago I wrote about a way to help keeping Islay’s beaches clean, Fiona MacGillivray has taken this idea further and written a poem about it. That poem has now been printed on a sign/board and the first one has been put up at the entrance to Kilchoman beach:

Picture of a sign with a poem encouraging people to pick up three pieces of rubbish from a beach
The sign/board with Fiona’s poem

The poem reads (for the benefit of those with a screen reader, in case they can’t read text in pictures):

Three pieces of rubbish!

Make this beach plastic free, Oh what a sight that would be!

Plastic litter on the beach is a scourge to man and beast.

It floats on in, off the sea, in a relentless tide of mans debris.

Piled high we throw up our hands & cry How can we just let this lie?

But with visitors and walkers each day we reduce it day by day.

Pick up three pieces of rubbish each and this beach will be a peach.

There is a bin that sits just here pop it in and you can cheer

Then this beach will just be Sand and sea and clutter free!

© Fiona MacGillivray

As it says in the poem, there is a convenient bin right here:

Picture of a sign encouraging visitors to pick up rubbish on a beach with a bin behind it
The bin right behind the sign

I understand there are plans to put up signs at other beaches on Islay as well. Hopefully they will encourage more people to help with keeping Islay’s beaches clean, so that we can all enjoy pristine beaches (of course it would be even better to avoid the plastic rubbish in the first place, but that’s another topic).

 

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?

Two interesting Islay whisky links

Islay Whisky News & LinksI need to share more links and web findings of Islay things I come across again. After all that’s what blogging originally was all about. So today I give you two interesting Islay whisky related links:

If I’m honest I’m not very impressed with a lot of the articles about Islay in the travel sections of many newspapers. Apart from a few exceptions they are usually written by someone who flew in for 2-3 days, did a distillery tour or two and had a few nice meals. But as I said, there are exceptions. Liza Weisstuch knows what she’s writing about. She’s been to Islay many times, I met her back in June 2011 (when she was on Islay for some real whisky experience at Bruichladdich) during one of her visits. And now she’s a got a big feature in the New York Times, online and if I understand it correctly on the cover of the travel section in the print edition next weekend. It’s called The Whisky Chronicles.

I’m not sure I can fully grasp the point of the second link for today. In my mind Islay is about slowing down, taking your time to enjoy. However, in July there will be a rather extreme whisky distillery tour on Islay and Jura:

A new ‘extreme’ whisky tour will take participants by foot, bicycle and kayak to visit 10 island distilleries over 60 miles, in just three days.

Apparently you won’t get much time to actually tour the distilleries or enjoy the samples (although you can collect the miniatures to saviour later). But if you’re still interested you can read more in WORLD’S ‘MOST EXTREME’ WHISKY TOUR LAUNCHES.

Meeting the Kilchoman distillery team on Islay

Islay Whisky News & LinksRecently I blogged about the Kilchoman 100% Islay video, now there’s more from Islay farm distillery. The first two videos of what I understand to be a series of ‘People Behind the Whisky’ videos. Let’s start with the founder Anthony Wills:

Second in the series is distillery manager Islay Heads:

Nicely done, I think should pour another dram of the 100% Islay I opened when I watched the first video.

Kilchoman distillery’s 100% Islay video

Islay Whisky News & LinksWhen I was on Islay back in June I bought a bottle of 100% Islay from Kilchoman distillery, but so far hadn’t opened it yet. Tonight being Friday evening I decided to finally open it and enjoy a wee dram (or may be two) with their latest video:

Oh, and here’s a picture of the bottle and the first dram poured from it:

Picture of a bottle and a dram of Kilchoman 100% Islay Cask Vatting
Kilchoman 100% Islay Cask Vatting

Updates from the Great Islay Swim

Islay NewsBack in May I wrote about Swimming around Islay (for science and charity), Justin Fornal and Chad Anderson planning to swim around Islay this summer. Well, the Great Islay Swim is now well under way and you can find various updates online:

From Laphroaig John Campbell gives them his support:

Several blogs and distillery websites write about them:

Taking a rest at the end of a swim:

Islay Sea-Adventures has a few posts with video and pictures:

And I’m sure there’s more out there. If you have or spot any further pictures, videos or reports from the swim please post them in the comments so that everyone can see them.

Swimming around Islay (for science and charity)

Islay NewsBack in 2008 Becky walked (in stages) all the way around the coast of Islay. Today I came across a similar challenge two men are planning, although slightly wetter. About a decade ago the Islay Masters Swimming club swam across Loch Indaal from Bowmore to Bruichladdich (or was it the other way around? Not entirely sure), crossed the Sound of Islay and even tackled the famous Corryvreckan. Justin Fornal and Chad Anderson are planning an even bigger, more ambitious swim:

The Great Islay Swim. In a week in July 2017 they plan to swim all around Islay. Starting from Ardbeg they will swim clockwise around Islay in seven days. Swimming between 4-8 hours a day and covering around 15-20 kilometres per day. Pulling a whisky cask they are planning to fill with whisky from all the distilleries (similar to the Islay Pillage a number of years ago), which will later be bottled and sold. And they’re fundraising for the RNLI.

(via John Lenker on Twitter)