Islay and Jura
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- Watching the comings and goings at Port Askaig harbour
- The pungent aroma of fermenting barley at Bowmore distillery
- On the trail of the Lords of the Isles at Loch Finlaggan
- Peace and quiet on the island of Jura
- Optional excursion to the tranquil little island of Colonsay
Exploring Islay and Jura is a study in contrasts: Islay’s verdant fertility to Jura’s mountainous sobriety; the former’s contented bustle to the latter’s wild mystery. But these close Hebridean cousins also have plenty in common, with nine working whisky distilleries between them, ample beautiful beaches, and an abundance of heritage sites.
Islay, best known for its numerous whisky distilleries and profusion of seabirds, is rightly called ‘The Queen of the Hebrides’. Dramatic Jura, meanwhile, is perhaps best summed up by the slogan employed to describe its world-famous distilled export: ‘The Isle of the Unexpected’.
Now that you’ve become better acquainted, we think that the best way to discover these beautiful islands is up to you — spend your third day at leisure, or join our optional excursion to nearby Colonsay for the opportunity to take a drive over to Kiloran Bay, and see the island’s fine gardens and crescents of sandy beach.
Throughout the rest of our tour, enjoy a series of experiences that we feel have distilled the essence of these beautiful, idiosyncratic isles. Take a trip to Loch Finlaggan, historic site of the Lordship of the Isles; then, head out to Loch Gruinart RSPB Nature Reserve with the hope of spotting the rare chough which frequents the area, or even migrant barnacle geese from Greenland.
And, of course, no visit to these whisky- producing wonders would be complete without a visit to at least one distillery: Bowmore Distillery, to be exact, where we enjoy a guided tour and take in a wee dram or two...
We depart from our local pick-up points and head for Kintyre in western Argyll, in time to catch the ferry from Kennacraig to Port Askaig, Islay. On arrival on Islay we transfer to the Port Askaig Hotel, which has a superb location overlooking the harbour.
Dinner will be served here this evening.
This morning, following breakfast, our first visit will be to Loch Finlaggan which was once the centre of the ‘Lordship of the Isles’. We will then visit the Bowmore Distillery. 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. We have 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 this evening.
Following breakfast, you are free to explore Islay at your leisure. Alternatively, you may wish to join the optional excursion to Colonsay. On arrival we 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 travel 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 catch the early evening ferry back to Islay and return to our hotel for dinner.
This morning, we travel to the neighbouring island of Jura, 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. The northern end of the island was home to George Orwell, who wrote his masterpiece 1984 while living here at Barnhill. We 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 our hotel this evening.
This morning, we must sadly check out of our hotel. We transfer to Islay’s ferry terminal at Port Ellen, where we catch the ferry to Kennacraig on the mainland. We will break our journey with a stop at the picturesque village of Inveraray on the shores of Loch Fyne, before returning to our original departure points.
- 4 nights at the Port Askaig Hotel – dinner, bed & breakfast
- All coaching and ferry transfers
- Visits to Bowmore Distillery, Loch Finlaggan Visitor Centre, Loch Gruinart RSPB, and Jura
- Optional excursion to Colonsay and Colonsay House Gardens
- Services of a professional tour manager
Supplements per person
- Single room supplement: £80.00
- Insurance: £21.00 (under 65); £42.00 (65-74); £63.00 (75-90)
- Optional excursion to Colonsay
Please note all pick-up points are subject to minimum numbers. All timings given above are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately ten days prior to departure.
Departure points and times
(Outside Discovery Point)
(Outside Fife College)
(Edinburgh Marriott Hotel)