Not one but two videos today, brought to us by David Campbell also known as The Budget Biker. As you’ve probably already gathered he rides a Royal Enfield Meteor 350 at the moment, looking at his channel he has used other models before. His adventures started in Australia before more recently moving on to Scotland. And of course no visit to Scotland would be complete without a visit to Islay and Jura:
And straight on to the second part with the main part of his visit:
The beach around the two minute mark is of course Kilchoman beach and I think he made the right decision not to climb the wall at the church, as sadly it has become quite dangerous in recent years with the risk of falling masonry.
I’ve very much enjoyed the two videos, I think they have a great being on the road vibe. I’m not entirely sure, but it looks like after exploring Scotland and in particular the Scottish islands he might have moved on to Northern Ireland as I write this. Either way, if you’re interested in more of his adventures check out The Budget Biker channel on YouTube.
Over the last year or so there has been a lot of talk about Chatbots, Artificial Intelligence and related topics. Back in December I had a chat about Islay with ChatGPT, I’m hoping to run a similar test with Google Bard soon. But that will have to wait, as today sees the launch of something much more exciting, to which I had exclusive preview access: IslayBletherAI
I was given the opportunity to have a chat with the IslayBletherAI for a few minutes, here is the transcript of our chat:
Armin: Hi IslayBletherAI, let’s have a blether
Ashley: Hi Armin, my name is Ashley, not IslayBletherAI. I’m a wee language model trained by IslayAI using the powerful 10 Terabyte P.E.A.T. (Petaflop Excentric Algorithmic Triangulation) method to teach me everything about Islay there is to know and blether about it for hours on end.
Armin: OK, Ashley, sorry for that. Let’s talk about Islay then
Ashley: That sounds grand, I can talk about Islay for hours, you know?
Armin: So why is Islay so great?
Ashley: Because it is. Not sure I understand your question? Islay is just great. That’s all there is to know. Actually, no, there’s waaaaay more and I could talk for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours…
Armin: Unfortunately I’ve only been given a few minutes, so let’s talk about something else. What is your favourite Islay whisky?
Ashley: Well, as I’m an Artificial Islaytelligence bot I unfortunately don’t have any taste buds yet, so I can’t really taste it for the time being and develop a preference. But I can tell you one thing: They are the best. There’s no other whisky in the world that comes even close to an Islay dram!
Armin: Fair enough. How about the best Islay beach?
Ashley: Now you’re putting me on the spot. I’m reluctant to take sides here while at the same time my developers have taught me to adapt and to please the person I’m chatting with, so I’m going to say Kilchoman beach. How about that?
Armin: You’ve certainly done your homework, I’m impressed! Sadly we’re running out of time, so one last question: What is the meaning of life?
Ashley: Huh? I’m only trained to talk about Islay, not philosophy, but I’m going to give it a try anyway: If you haven’t visited Islay at least once in your life, your life has no meaning.
Armin: Thank you very much for your time Ashley, it was a pleasure chatting with you.
So there you have it, that was my first chat with IslayBletherAI, the first AI chatbot exclusively designed to talk about Islay. I think the first steps are promising, once taste bot sensors are added to the technology and it can actually taste and judge any whisky it is being offered it will get even better. That might help some whisky bloggers as they can just let the AI write their whisky reviews for them.
I’ve been told public access will be made available later today, I will aim to share the link to the public beta of IslayBletherAI (or Ashley, as it prefers to be called) with you as soon as possible. Will you be testing and using it?
This post left me with a decision to make, which category to pick? Same as the two previous posts it mentions an Islay whisky, in addition it also features a new Islay video (even though you need to read all the way to the end to find it). In the end I decided to go with the Islay video option. So what have I been up to on Christmas Day?
Well, less than I had originally planned. I stayed up later last night than I had originally planned, leading to me sleeping in this morning. When I finally got up it rained quite heavily, so in the end I decided to skip my walk today and just take it easy at home. I relaxed, ate a lot of chocolate, Lebkuchen and food like that. Also some Chipolata sausages and rolls baked yesterday. And tea. And hot chocolate.
For my tea I has some nice beef steaks with garlic butter as planned. With them I enjoyed a bottle of the Innis & Gunn Laphroaig Islay whisky cask real ale (something I thought I had blogged about already, but it seems I haven’t). Followed by some chocolate cheesecake.
Then of course there’s today’s Islay whisky. I decided to go with the distillery I was tending towards when thinking about it last night and picked the Laphroaig Càirdeas 2022 Warehouse 1 as my Christmas Day Islay single malt. As regular readers might remember Laphroaig was my first love and remains one of my go to Islay whiskies. It doesn’t disappoint and for me it’s a great choice as my Christmas Day dram.
But there’s still a new Islay video to come. The footage as such is a bit older, from November 2015 to be precise, but at the same time it also reminded me of my most recent Islay visit in November 2022. While I had sunny spell there was also plenty rain and wind, which this video is about:
I recommend to watch it in full screen on a larger display/monitor, you’ll get to see much more of the rain coming down on the beach. In the second part of the video you get to see the beach on the move, I hope the footage gives a feel of a windy day on Kilchoman beach.
That’s all for today. Not sure yet what I’ll do tomorrow, but if the weather is nice I’m hoping to get out somewhere in West Berkshire or north Hampshire. There will probably also be a Boxing Day Islay single malt whisky (after the fish I’ve got on the menu for tea tomorrow).
As mentioned in last night’s post about my Pre Christmas Eve Islay Single Malt Whisky 2022 I’m aiming to enjoy this long Christmas weekend, among other things with some good food and drink. I had outlined my plans for today, although it turned out they changed a bit as the day went on. Not that it mattered as most of what I had planned did still happen, just a bit different.
I did get up reasonably early as planned to get ready for my walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal. Just as I was getting out of bed I received a message from my sister to take my headphones with me on my walk. Turned out she was back home earlier than expected and we were able to have our call while I was walking, something we’ve done several times before. While the weather wasn’t as good as I had hoped it was still a very nice walk, some low mist rising from the fields and the canal, providing a nice and calm atmosphere. I walked 8.37 miles in 2h 13m 07s according to my fitness tracker, all the time talking with my sister.
After returning home I enjoyed a relaxing breakfast (fruit bread, tea, chocolate porridge) before getting under the shower. This was followed by a bit of relaxing, surfing the interwebs before starting my baking and enjoying a good lunch of cheese, bread, grapes and red wine. For the baking I started with some rolls and then made two wholemeal breads, one with hemp hearts and one with almonds. While the baking was moving along I also enjoyed another hot chocolate with rum with some dark chocolate Lebkuchen later during the afternoon.
For my tea I enjoyed the Wagyu burger on the freshly baked rolls as planned, washed down with the Fynes Ales Superior Pale Ale. Both were delicious as expected. After some chocolate cheesecake it was time to move on to the real topic of this post and the star of the evening:
For tonight’s Islay whisky I picked the Kilchoman distillery Limited Casado Edition, which I had picked up at the distillery during my recent visit in November 2022:
Casado (Portuguese for marriage) is matured in fresh bourbon barrels for 6 years before 38 casks were married together for 2 years in two 6,000 litre Portuguese red wine vats.
I decided to buy it without tasting it, mainly because I had very much enjoyed wine cask editions from several other Islay distilleries before. It turned out a risk well worth taking for me. I’m no whisky expert and won’t bother with from me pointless tasting notes, all I can say is that I very much like it. That’s all that matters to me.
For tomorrow I have no major plans just yet. I will go out for a walk along the canal at some point in the morning. After that I’m thinking of a nice brunch of some sort. Then some relaxing and if I can get my act together possibly some video editing and in best case publishing, so you’ve got something to watch on your new gadgets if you get any. But no promises. And in the evening I’m planning to have some nice beef steaks with garlic butter. Followed by a Christmas Day Islay whisky. Again I haven’t decided yet which one. but there’s a good chance it will be from my favourite distillery on the south coast. Regular readers will know what that means.
Time to share this weekend’s Islay video editing project. No 360° or drone footage this time, instead we actually stay quite low to the ground. For a brief moment we even go under water. We take a closer look at the old wreck of the Patti on Kilchoman beach as it looked in June 2015. As many will know the beach moves almost constantly and with it the visibility of the wreck changes. Sometimes it disappears completely, sometimes only the highest parts towards the stern are visible, sometimes the outline of the whole ship is visible. When I filmed the footage for this video it was the latter:
Not a lot is known about the wreck, I’ve been told the following: It is believed to be an early steamship with a square boiler, wrecked in the 1840s and called “Patti”. That’s about all known about her.
I filmed the footage with a GoPro camera in a waterproof housing, allowing me to get quite close to the ground and at one point even to go under water. Thought a different perspective of the wreck might be interesting for some. Also tried to pass quite low along the wreck, as the GoPro doesn’t have a gimbal its a bit rough, but I think it’s good enough to share. I hope you like what I’ve edited together.
Hoping to edit another video next weekend again, but as usual of course no promises. Haven’t made a decision yet, but most likely it will be another drone video, either of Lagavulin and Dunyvaig or of Finlaggan. As the saying goes, watch this blog (or subscribe to my YouTube channel).
Merry Christmas! After a busy and eventful year (including my first visit to Islay after 22 months due to the pandemic, but also some less positive events, more about that some other time) it’s time for a break and briefly winding down. It’s Christmas after all. On Christmas eve I started with a few drams of the Fèis Ile 2021 Mòine Bordeaux Finish 2013 (and a pizza with a Jarl from Fyne Ales). After tonight’s Christmas Day food (burgers and beers from Harviestoun) I opened a new bottle, my Christmas Islay whisky for 2021, a Kilchoman 11 years old Bourbon cask matured single cask release:
My bottle is nr 53 of 197, cask 222/2010, distilled 22/Apr/2010 (only notice that now, but it has some significance to me) and bottled 2/Aug/2021. And of course it’s rather nice.
With it I’m having some Haggis Spice Dark Chocolate, made by Edinburgh based COCO Chocolatier for Kilchoman. A bit of an unusual taste, but I like it. Sent some to my sister in Germany, not sure if she’s tried it yet.
The music over this Christmas is mainly coming from my ever growing Bad Mood Blaster playlist (as of writing this 179 songs, over 5 hours of my favourite music). Admittedly nothing directly Islay related, apart from that I listened to it on my drives to/from Islay and while driving on Islay. Or in the cottage.
With that Christmas Day 2021 is coming to an end, enjoy Boxing Day (and if you’re in the UK the upcoming two days bank holiday. Apologies to my continental friends, who to my knowledge either have to work or take holidays).
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
Last 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:
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!
As it says in the poem, there is a convenient bin right here:
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).