Happy New Year !

New YearHere’s Wishing all our Readers and Subscribers a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year From Melanie and Myself ! We hope you’re looking forward to it as much as we are , exciting times ahead !!!!!

This year has been the busiest on the Blog and we had visitors from 75 different Countries , we may not be the busiest blog on the internet but to me that is some going ! Many Thanks and please do return in 2014 !

Hebrides : Islands on the Edge – Very well received….

By all accounts the recent network broadcasting of this series has went down very well !

According to reports it has been averaging about 1.7 million viewers per episode which to me isn’t bad considering it’s a fairly specialised programme shown on BBC Two in the middle of summer ! It has went down very well on the Social media sites , twitter was buzzing during and after the broadcasts , it’s not very often you actually get to talk to the people involve with the making of a programme , especially live ! I just hope it boosts the area tourism trade and is beneficial to the Islands involved , it seems to have raised awareness of the areas and the wildlife of that part of the world .

Congratulations to all involved and hopefully we’ll see some more of the Hebrides featured on the telly in the near future .

It Comes out on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow , the Amazon.co.uk links are……

DVD

Blu-ray

And it has been the perfect build up to our Summer Visit , Roll on Saturday !

Otter Country

I’ve just finished reading a book recommended by my good friend James Deane , Otter Country: In search of Wild Otters by Miriam Darlington (ISBN: 9781847084859) , James knew we always went out on the ‘hunt’ for otters whenever we are over on Islay and thought i’d be interested in the read . He was right , an excellent book which just shows what a hold these animals can take on you , i haven’t been as far as Miriam (Devon , Cornwall , Somerset , South East England , Cumbria , Northumberland , Highlands of Scotland , Skye…..) but i’ve been to a few places looking for them…..

Normally an obsession with Otters starts in one of two places or should i say books , Tarka the Otter or Ring of Bright Water , mine started i suppose with the Film Ring of Bright Water (wasn’t a big reader as a kid….)  . It took me a while to see a real live Otter , not a wild one , a captive one at the Bowes Otter Sanctuary – which unfortunately is now closed – it was a pretty good introduction to them in the flesh . Before we settled on going to Islay every holiday we did tour around Scotland , we visited the Bright Water Visitors Centre in Kyleakin and walked down to the Kylerhea Otter Haven Hide , a wonderful walk that ended in no otters…… For the first few years of visiting Islay the count remained at zero , always been told stories by visitors who ‘stumbled’ upon otters .

Look no Camera…….

Our first real live Otter encounter happened at Seal Bay when we didn’t have a camera handy….. we’d left the hotel early to have a drive down to one of our favourite places on the isle Seal Bay . admiring the seals Mel casually said “oh look there’s a small seal swimming past us…..” it wasn’t , it was an otter ! And just to kick sand in our faces seeing i didn’t have a camera to hand it came out of the water with a fish , sat down less than 20 yards from us and proceeded to have its breakfast in front of us , an unbelieveable experience . 

You don’t have to go that far to see an Otter…..

Now just to make matters worse on our return home there was a programme on the telly hosted by a certain ex-goodie , Bill Oddie , watching Otters swim in the Nature Reserve a quarter of a mile across the field in front of our home…… It was also backed up a few years later by another Comedic Bill (Bailey) doing a Wild Thing….. I Love You episode about Otters from the same Big Waters Reserve . Still haven’t seen one there BTW . 

Our First Photo…..

The first Otter i managed to catch on film wasn’t on Islay , it was on Jura ! If you are a regular visitor here you will have seen it on the header at the top of the Blog , but if you haven’t here it is…….

copy-otteriv1.jpg

This was just along from the ferry terminal at Feolin , there were actually two Otters and they were having great fun in the kelp ! We could have stayed for ages watching them but we had to get the ferry back to Islay.

It’s Behind you…..

Our next close encounter of the Otter kind actually happened on the mainland , for the 2003 Feis Ile we had to get the early morning ferry (7am) as the later ones were fully booked , arriving at Kennacraig early in the morning (about 2.30am) we tried to get our heads down for a few hours , after failing miserably several times there was a splash on the Loch behind us , there was an Otter swimming along towards the ferry , a lovely sight at about 5.30 in the morning…….

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition !

We stayed up at the old Bunnahabhain Distillery Cottages for a few years and heard many a story from the workers about the Otters activities around there (including a Mother bringing her cubs into the yard in front of the distillery) , It wasn’t till our last year there that we actually saw one . We were the last people to stay at the cottages in 2010 , the first week there were others there who had seen a dog otter swimming around the pier , we didn’t see anything in the first week . Not at Bunnahabhain anyway….. Bunnahabhain has a non-existant mobile signal , so to take part in the weekly whisky chats we used to drive down to Loch Indaal to get a signal . We used to always park in the same spot just along from where the Carrabus Burn flows into the Loch . This night we’d just started on the chat when an Otter swam past  ! Could not believe it , no camera again (it was dark this time…..) , totally unexpected !

Back at Bunnahabhain , for our second week we were the only occupants , no joy all week until our very last night then the Otter appeared , it swam from around the wreck and along the front of the distillery heading towards the Margadale . 

Otter 1A wonderful ending to our last night of our last stay at Bunnahabhain !

We haven’t had anymore close encounters of the Otter kind since then , though on the first night of last summer we did see one in the distance towards Seal Bay . We will be resuming the hunt in a couple of weeks time hopefully capturing some good shots and this time it’s personal !

Bring out the comfy chairs……

Why,why,why…… The Isle of Islay ?

Having just completed our 32nd to Islay one question we (the Lovely Melanie and myself) keep getting asked is why do you keep going back there 2-3 times a year and not somewhere else ? First answer is usually why not ! Then i usually go into a lecture after saying The Beautiful Scenery , The loneliness of the place and being on an island , The wonderful people , the wildlife and The whisky ! Hands up all those who thought Whisky would be first ? Well when we first went over it was , previously we’d always camped around Scotland ,  Up the North West , Skye , Mull , Speyside…… Then in 1998 we got severely wet upon ( Moat around the tent in Ullapool ) and Mel said never again . We’d never thought of camping on Islay because we couldn’t find mention of a site  . So in the winter of 1998/9 we started planning our trip around Scotland staying in hotels armed with the STB Visitors booklets…….

We decided we’d go to some places we’d never been to before and being a huge whisky fan Islay cropped up , looking through the guide a challenge appeared , a hotel with 450 malts behind the bar…… So a short stay was booked .

Scenery

Now we’d been on ferries before but the trip to Islay was the longest so far , arriving at Port Askaig on the afternoon ferry we made our way straight to the Lochside in Bowmore , it was after going through Bridgend and turning onto Loch Indaal we both knew we were at somewhere special , we both still speak of that first view in 1999 today……..

Loch Indaal

We were sold day 1 ! It’s funny how some places just seem right from the moment you set foot on them . Of course over the years we’ve gotten to see some of the finest scenery on the Isle .

Machir Bay

Mull Sunset Eilean Beag
Sunse t Loch Indaal Road to Kildalton
Sea off Portnahaven Bay

The People

The first people we actually got to know on Islay were Ann and Alistair at the Lochside , Alistair was the heart and soul behind the bar and Ann was the cool head in the kitchen , her cooking was out of this world , everything was amazing , the local produce was superb , i couldn’t remember tasting Lamb like it since i’d been a kid . We stayed at the Lochside for a few years until they sold it on in 2003 . Happy Days…….

Gordon on Islay Mel on Islay

Over the years we’ve met plenty of Ileachs who have since become good friends , we’ve always found the people very friendly and it always reminds us of how home used to be in our childhood . We still pop in to say hello to friends we’ve made over the years and regularly go out for meals with Ella and Mary , it’s funny how well we’ve become friends with Ella since it all started with her selling me a cask ! We have a great deal of respect for the good people of Islay and always try to remember that we’re just there on holiday and they are actually earning a living .

Night out at the Bridgend Hotel One of our regular meals out with Mary and Ella

 The Whisky…..

The primary reason why we came to Islay in the first place ! Then there were 6 , now there are 8 open Distilleries , We still visit most regularly , Ardbeg is still my favourite for drinking and visiting and personally i still think it’s the prettiest on the isle , there is nothing better than sitting on the pier on a lovely sunny day with a glass of Beg in your  hand (or sitting on the small out crop behind the cask store….) . You know when you really like an Islay malt when you start buying it by the cask , so far i’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in the bottling of 2 Islay malt casks with more in the future……

Wor Stash !!!

There’s an Islay malt for every mood , whether it’s a Beg , Laphroaig , Caol Ila , Laddie , Bunnahabhain , Lagavulin , Kilchoman or Bowmore……..Ardbeg Distillery

    So without starting to sound like an Islay Tourist Board promo , that’s why we keep going back , we love the place , the people and the whisky ! And long may it continue…… well it will next year as we’ve already got 3 trips booked up…….. 

Hey , That’s Mine !

Recently i went , for some unknown reason , to another bloggers page , where upon clicking on their Ardbeg Distillery profile page i found one of my photos……..

Ardbeg Distillery

Evidence ‘A’ M’Lord……

Now normally i would be pretty chuffed that some one has thought something of mine is good enough to use ( borrow / lift /pinch *choose as you think appropriate) but this seems to be getting a regular regular thing in 2012 , earlier this year a whisky shop “used” my write up on the Geordie Laddies PC to “promote” the sale of some of a fellow shareholders bottles , what annoyed me was (apart from not asking my permission) that it looked like I was selling the bottles ! Which anyone who knows me well enough would know i’d never do….. Especially with  such an excellent whisky !!!

This problem isn’t new to me , back in the Good ‘ol days of the spirit of Islay site it was something of a regular problem , i had one site ask if they could use something and when i said no , they took the info thing anyway . If ever i got a heads up on an Ardbeg release i could put money on it would be lifted and appear elsewhere , usually a swedish forum…… Now people used to do this on my warehouse no.4 forum but i always reverted to what was an unwritten rule in internet etiquette , Post a link to the original site  NOT lift stuff ! and i’d always delete things that didn’t happen in this way .

If  i saw something i thought was of interest  to my site visitors i’d always ask the owner for permission to use it , if they agreed to it’s use , i’d always give credit and post a link to their site , perhaps i was just too honest……  

So where does this leave me now ? Well i’m going to have to stick a watermark on my photos which i don’t want to do as (a) it spoils the look of them , even discrete watermarks  (b) it means a bit more work on the actual process of the photo which can mount up if i’ve had a fruitful photographic day on Islay ! 

I’ve sent an e-mail to the offending blog but i’m not expecting a reply as i’ve since learned that i’m not the only one they’ve “took” photos from , they’ve also raided Armins Islayblog  . Another question now arises  , do i give permission in the future for someone to use any of my photos ?

Islaystudios’s Blog

If like us you happen to miss Islay in between visits we start looking at other peoples accounts and blogs to see what’s happening on our favourite Isle , one that we regularly visit is Mark Unsworths Islaystudios’s Blog . Mark has some stunning photos of Islay on it and it usually makes us miss the place even more !

His Blog is at http://islaystudios.wordpress.com/ , well worth the Visit !