We depart from our local pick-up points and head for Kintyre in western Argyll, in time to catch the 13.00hrs ferry from Kennacraig to Port Askaig, Islay. The ferry journey takes just over two hours and refreshments are available on board (not included). On arrival on Islay we transfer (a very short distance) to our comfortable accommodation at the Port Askaig Hotel, which has a superb location overlooking the harbour. All rooms have private facilities.
Dinner will be served in the evening.
This morning, following breakfast, our first visit will be to Loch Finlaggan which was once the centre of the ‘Lordship of the Isles’. It was here that the installation of the Lords of the Isles took place, and the western seaboard of Scotland was ruled.
We will then visit the Bowmore Distillery. This is the oldest distillery on the island and has stood on the shores of Loch Indaal since 1779. Here we will see how this unique whisky is produced by hand, by the Maltman, before maturing in Spanish and American oak casks which give it its unique flavours.
Finally today we will visit the Loch Gruinart RSPB Nature Reserve where we will have an introductory talk before having free time to wander around and having the opportunity to see many bird species, including various species of geese, birds of prey and the chough, a rare type of crow.
Dinner will be served at the hotel in the evening.
Following breakfast, you are free to explore Islay at your leisure. Alternatively, you may wish to join the optional excursion to Colonsay. A pleasant sailing of just over an hour takes you north to this tranquil little island which, with just over a hundred permanent residents, is one of the most remote communities in Britain. On arrival we will visit the gardens of Colonsay House. This is a 30-acre informal woodland garden which is famous for its outstanding collection of species and hybrid rhododendrons and for unusual trees and shrubs sourced from all over the world since the 1930s. Later, we will drive over to Kiloran Bay, the most famous of Colonsay’s beaches, a crescent of sand over a mile long with waves rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean.
We will catch the early evening ferry back to Islay and return to our hotel for dinner.
This morning, after breakfast, we travel to the neighbouring island of Jura, an island which has a record of habitation stretching back over 5000 years. The island, with approximately 200 inhabitants, is 30 miles long and 7 miles wide and is a naturalist’s paradise. It is dominated by the three mountains known as the “Paps of Jura”, the highest being 2576ft. The northern end of the island was home to George Orwell, who wrote his masterpiece 1984 while living here at Barnhill.
We will enjoy a scenic tour before having some free time in Craighouse, a lovely little village and the main settlement on the island with a shop, tearoom, and Jura's distillery.
We return in the afternoon by ferry to Islay. Dinner will be served at the hotel in the evening.
This morning, following breakfast, we must sadly check out of our hotel – please ensure any extras are paid before taking your luggage to the coach. We then transfer to Islay’s other ferry terminal at Port Ellen, where we catch the 09.45hrs ferry to Kennacraig on the mainland. We will break our journey with a lunch stop at the picturesque village of Inveraray on the shores of Loch Fyne, before returning to our original departure points, where we expect to arrive early to mid-evening.