Monday 5 November 2007

Kintyre to Islay

There are two things I don’t like – walking up hills or getting up early. So an 05:00 hrs start on holiday made me pretty grumpy. However, if we wanted to catch the 07:00 hrs ferry from Kennecraig (Kintyre) to Port Ellen (Island of Islay), it had to be done. Generally in summer there are two ferries a day from Kennacraig to Port Ellen - 07:00 hrs and 09:45 hrs, but not every day, so careful checking of timetables is essential. The 09:45 ferry was fully booked on the day we wanted to travel, with several on the waiting list, and no chance of a large motorhome sneaking on, so 07:00 hrs it was. And we are pleased we did this, because it gave us the whole day in Islay.

The crossing is 2.5 hours, the first part of which is an extremely picturesque cruise down West Loch Tarbert. Approaching the end of the Loch, the Paps of Jura were clearly visible, and to the east the Island of Gigha.

On arrival at Islay, driving was a doddle, and we able to park almost anywhere wiithout worrying – unusual in a 23 foot motorhome. Rather than going straight to the campsite, we decided on the spur of the moment to do a bit of a whisky trail. Now, not being a whisky drinker myself (although I kept that quiet on the tour), I did not expect to be enthralled by a distillery visit, but I have to say it was incredibly interesting. If you believe the guidebooks, distillery tours are by appointment only and should be pre-booked, but we decided to turn up and blag it, and sure enough, tours run regularly thoughout the day.

Our first stop was Lagavulin, and we had the tour all to ourselves. It took much longer than the usual hour, because we met the Head Distiller halfway round, got inside information, and ended up sampling of the whisky at various stages of its short fermentation process (when it’s more like a weak beer, apparantly). The statistics are mind-boggling. Millions of litres of water and thousands of tonnes of barley are used every year at this distillery alone. Multiply that by the eight distilleries on Islay, and that’s a phenomenal amount of raw materials producing this amber nectar annually. Once made, it then has to be stashed away for 10, 16 or more years just sitting maturing in bonded warehouses.

We left the ‘van in Lagavulin’s car park (after checking that was OK) and walked up the narrow road to
Ardbeg – 20 minutes away, which has a café with outdoor tables, where we could sit with our little dog. The food here is fantastic and well worth a visit even if you are not interested in whisky. Ardbeg has a mascot called Shorty – a very pushy Jack Russell who is clearly used to getting his own way. He took great interest in our Jack Russell, Holly, until she saw him off, following which he turned his affections to a more timid little dog on the next table and amused everyone for the next hour with his antics (except the owners of said timid JR).

Last stop was Laphroaig,
where there is a large car park, and we just stuck our nose into the Visitor’s Centre and Shop and picked up some little souvenirs. Time was getting on and we needed to get the the campsite, so we headed for the wide, windswept beauty of the site at Kintra Farm, 3 miles out of Port Ellen....... more about our stay in the next blog........

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, there you are ;-)

Looks like a promising start! Let's see if Kintra was as good as the distilleries...

15 November 2007 at 20:32  

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