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Issue 81 - Destination of the Year

Scotland Magazine Issue 81
June 2015

 

This article is 2 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Destination of the Year

Scottish Hebrides

Scotland Magazine's chosen Destination of the Year for 2015 is the Scottish Hebrides. In each edition this year we are featuring one or more of the jewels of this magical 130 mile archipelago of west coast islands.

Steeped in history from the Mesolithic age, and subject to a clash of Pictish, Celtic, Gaelic and Norse cultures, these fiercely individual havens of tranquillity are divided into the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the former embracing Islay and Jura and Colonsay, Mull, Skye and the Small Isles; the latter incorporating Benbecula, Barra, and Harris and Lewis and the Uists.

Dominated for generations by the all powerful Lords of the Isles, these islands set in a restless, silver sea under a big sky continue to capture the imagination of writers, painters and poets alike.

Isles of Islay, Jura and Colonsay

Islay is fertile with glorious sandy beaches, and a range of rugged hills in the east; Jura is wild and rugged with three famous mountains known as the Paps of Jura, and Colonsay, and with its neighbouring smaller island Oronsay, claims to have a little of all that is best in the Hebrides.

Islay, with its capital at Bowmore, and coastal towns Port Ellen, Port Charlotte and Port Askaig, was once the centre of Clan Donald's medieval Lordship of the Isles. It is also celebrated for its eight distilleries – Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig. A festival of malt and music is held annually in the last week in May. 2015 marks the 200th anniversaries of the founding of both Ardbeg and Laphroaig.

Jura, measuring 27 miles long and 5 miles wide, with its capital at Craighouse, also boasts its own isle of Jura distillery. However, it is perhaps best known for its associations with the the novelist George Orwell, who spent six months in a remote cottage on the island writing his iconic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In addition to its woodlands and beaches, Colonsay has its own eighteen-hole golf course which provides glorious views over the Atlantic Ocean. From here at low tide you can walk to the adjoining island of Oronsay.

How to get there

Road Citylink coach travels to Kennacraig on Kintyre (Argyll) twice a day, every day, from Buchanan Street Bus Station in Glasgow. Reservations are advisable.

Car Ferries Calmac Ferries operate regular sailings from Kennacraig on Kintyre (Telephone: +44(0) 1880 730 253) to Port Askaig on Islay and from Kennacraig to Port Ellen on Islay. Telephone: +44(0)1496 302 209.

Car access to Jura throughout the year, and passenger access to Jura outside the summer season is by the Jura Ferry across the Sound of Islay from Port Askaig on Islay and Feolin on Jura.

www.calmac.co.uk and www.islayinfo.com

Colonsay is served by CalMac Ferries Ltd from Oban five times a week during the summer, four times a week over the winter. Telephone: +44 (0) 8705 650 000 and
www.calmac.co.uk

By Air You can fly from Glasgow Airport (+44 (0) 141 222 1111) to Glenegedale Airport (+44 (0) 1496 302 022) with Flybe (www.flybe.com, +44 (0)345 222 111) which operates three flights on Mondays and Fridays, and two daily flights on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, morning flight only on Saturday and afternoon flight only on Sunday.

A scheduled air service to Colonsay is operated by Hebridean Air Services twice daily, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from Connel, to Oban, in Argyll, including a link via Islay, also daily on Saturday and Sunday.

Telephone: +44 (0) 845 805 7465 or +44 (0) 1631 425 568 and +44 (0) 1951 238 083
www.colonsay.org.uk 

Places to Visit

Islay Finlaggan, the centre of the Lordship of the Isles, is situated south west of Port Askaig on Loch Finlaggan. Although only a few ruins remain, this is the spiritual home of Clan Donald. The Kildalton Cross is one of the finest surviving Christian relics of Scotland and can be seen eight miles from Port Ellen on the road beyond Ardbeg.

All of the eight distilleries on Islay provide seasonal distillery tours and it is advisable to check them out individually,
www.islayinfo.com

The Museum of Islay Life is situated in a former church in Port Charlotte and is open from April until October. From the Visitor Centre at the Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve, large numbers of barnacle and white-fronted geese can be seen. A twitchers' paradise.

The American Monument of the Oa Peninsula at Upper Killeyan commemorates the 266 Americans who died when
HMS Tuscania was torpedoed during World War I on 5 February 1918. It takes the shape of a lighthouse and was built by the Government of the United States on 400 ft cliffs, seven miles from where the ship sank.

Jura The Feolin Study Centre, south of the ferry slip at Feolin, has a small exhibition on Jura's history and culture. George Orwell's cottage is at Barnhill in the north of the island, and from nearby you can look out towards the Gulf of Corryvreckan, one of the world's most spectacular whirlpools located between Jura and the island of Scarba, to the north. Tours of the Isle of Jura distillery at Craighouse run from April until October, www.jurawhisky.com

Colonsay Colonsay House Gardens, with one of the finest rhododendron collections in Scotland, are open to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays, including tea room, www.colonsay.org.uk 

What’s On

Cantilena Festival, 5 – 10 July A world class musical retreat featuring new and specific sounds and style. www.cantilenafestival.co.uk

Islay Festival of the Sea, August A celebration of the island's maritime heritage with fabulous seafood and local talent. www.islayinfo.com

Islay Half Marathon, August Starts at Bowmore heading out towards Islay Airport, then returns in a circular route followed by a dance at Bowmore Hall. www.islayinfo.com

Islay Book Festival, September Formerly Port Ellen Book Festival at Port Ellen Primary School. www.islayinfo.com

Islay Jazz Festival, September Concerts at Islay House or in a distillery filling shed. www.islayinfo.com