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.

A video visit to Islay’s Singing Sands with BKR

Islay on Video

Where to start? BKR has filmed and published a good number of short Islay videos recently, some of which I’m planning to share here over the coming weeks, maybe even months. I’ve now decided to start with a beach video with a twist, as we not only get to see the beach, but also a glimpse of what is happening in the water just off it:

Singing Sands Adventure – Islay, Scotland

I hope you enjoyed this little walk and beach visit. I like his way of presenting, the enthusiasm he shows while talking about the places he discovers. As I said, I’m planning to share more videos by him, possibly a visit to a distillery or discovering an abandoned house.

A sailing visit to Islay videos

Islay on Video

Two videos I found today, both having at least some Islay in them. They are from a series of videos of Sailing Free Spirit around the UK. The first video covers various places and events on the west coast of Scotland including the Isle of Mull and many Dolphins following the boat, ending with their arrival on Islay:

SFS UK2020 ep10 – Oban to Port Ellen – The one with the Dolphins

The second video covers their stay on Islay and their departure and arrival to Northern Ireland:

SFS UK2020 ep11 – Islay to Ardglass

I hope you enjoyed the videos, I really enjoyed the Dolphins and found it quite interesting to hear about all the factors you have to consider for your journeys.

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.

Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift to film music video on Islay

Islay News

Details are still a bit sketchy, but news reach me this morning that mega popstars Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift are going to film the music video for an as yet unreleased duet on Islay. From what I understand they recorded the song (a love ballad) two years ago and have now decided to release it. Of course the song needs a video, and this is where Islay comes in…

The two superstars wanted something a bit different from the usual polished boredom of a pop video. On a Zoom call with Craig Ferguson (while now an American citizen he of course was born and grew up in Scotland) they got talking about it and Craig suggested they might want to take a look at Islay.

They seem to have taken to his suggestion and are now planning to travel to Islay once Coronavirus restrictions are lifted and they and their crews can safely visit the island and film the video.

Likely locations include Soldier’s Rock, Kilchoman beach, Sanaigmore Bay, Finlaggan, Bowmore (in particular with the Round Church in the background), but there’s also talk of an excursion to Jura for views of the Paps of Jura and the Corryvreckan whirlpool.

I’ll keep you updated as this story develops…

Some traditional music from Islay with Shane and friends

Islay Music

While I preparing my venison burger on my Fyne Venison Weekend I thought it would be nice to listen to some Islay music. Luckily the YouTube recommendation algorithm (and that I’m subscribed to him) suggested a nice video from Shane MacKinnon he uploaded today. Here he is with Donnie and Niall at the Islay Hotel in 2019:

Traditional Music at the Islay Hotel Oct 2019

And there’s more, as here he is with Kyle and Ciara at the Port Charlotte Hotel a little bit earlier in 2019:

Tunes in the Port Charlotte Hotel – Islay. 22/07/19

For even more take a look at Shane’s YouTube music channel and while you’re there subscribe to it.

Videos by Islay Drone Photography

Islay on Video

In his day job he’s a taxi driver on Islay, but when he’s not behind the steering wheel Stuart is on the controls of his drone. As his job takes him all around Islay he has some opportunities to film all around island, showcasing some of the best of Islay. You can find his pictures on his Islay Drone Photography Facebook page. Not everyone is on Facebook, so luckily he’s also sharing some of his videos on YouTube. Like this one of the Laggan river:

Isle of Islay, Laggan river

Or this great 360° view of the Rhinns of Islay lighthouse on Orsay:

Islay lighthouse ( Portnahaven )

Or an Otter hunting for food on the wild shores of Islay:

Otter in the wild on The island of Islay, scotland

I hope you enjoyed these picks, you can find plenty more on the Islay Drone Photography YouTube channel. Videos of Islay’s distilleries, beaches, roads, landscapes, villages and more.

Thank you for the online Islay Sessions 2020 (in January 2021)

Islay Music

As mentioned previously the Islay Sessions 2020 had to move online due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Originally the plan was to hold them on the original weekend in November, but for various reasons that didn’t work out and the event had to be pushed out. Two days ago as of writing this it finally happened and the live stream went ahead. I put on my finest tartan, poured myself a wee dram and sat down in front of the computer to watch. While of course not as good as a real live event it was still a great evening! All credit to the organisers and the musicians for making this such an enjoyable event.

Greig Shaw was our host, I believe from his garden shed, which he had very nicely decorated for the event. Greig led us through the evening, talking about his late brother Fraser in whose honour the Sessions are now being held and very ably introducing the musicians. The musicians were be Daimh, Maeve MacKinnon, LB Salter & Jenn Butterworth and David Foley & Jack Smedley. Of course there was also a prize draw with some rare whiskies and other goodies.

The individual concerts were pre-recorded, which I think was a wise move. I’ve attended other online concerts, which were plagued with problems, sound and image being out of sync and more. Here the stream worked well and it was a joy to hear the musicians play as well as talk about their music.

As I had hoped the live chat was available, which I found very enjoyable. A lot of people I know personally as well as virtually were chatting while listening to the concert, many of the musicians joined in as well. Memories were exchanged, virtual rounds bought and more.

If you missed it or would like to see it again the Fraser Shaw Trust has made the whole event available on their YouTube channel (don’t forget to subscribe, if you haven’t yet):

Islay Sessions Complete Show

Thanks again to the Fraser Shaw Trust, all the organisers and all the musicians for such a wonderful evening. Hopefully we can see each other again in person soon for some real live music!

Nice drone video of Rhuvaal lighthouse in the north of Islay

Islay on Video

From Peru in my previous post back to Scotland with this post, to the far north of Islay. A year ago I shared a view from the lighthouse, this time I’ve found a nice drone video of Rhuvaal lighthouse. Some nice views of the lighthouse, the surrounding coastline and down the Sound of Islay:

Rhuvaal Lighthouse, Islay

Some nice work by Steven Muir, who has a few more nice Islay videos on his channel. I’m sure I will come back to his channel and share a few more videos.

Beautiful Jura fell running video

Jura Excursions

Time for a visit to Islay’s neighbour Jura. I first spotted this on Facebook, then looked if I could find it on YouTube, which I did. The video in question is called “Across The Sound” and was created by Alfie Smith and Louis MacMillan. It shows Louis taking the Jura Passenger from Tayvallich to Craighouse and then going fell running on Jura, covering the famous Paps of Jura and Corra Bheinn. Just under 9 minutes well worth watching:

Across The Sound – Trig Point Films

The scenery is stunning, beautifully filmed by Alfie with Louis doing all the running. Not only that, there’s also some beautiful music by Talisk and Fourth Moon. I hope you’ll enjoy the video as much as I did.