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 .
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……..
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 .
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…….
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 .
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……
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……..