Islay ( / aɪ the ə / ( listen )  EYE -lə ; Scottish Gaelic : Ìle , pronounced [iːlə] ) is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Known as “The Queen of the Hebrides “, [7] it lies in Argyll just south of Jura and around 40 kilometers (25 mi) north of the Irish coast. The island’s capital is Bowmore, where the distinctive round Kilroy Parish Church and a distillery are located. [8] Port Ellen is the main port. [9]

Islay is the fifth-largest Scottish island and the seventh-largest island in Great Britain , with a total area of ​​almost 620 square kilometers (239 sq mi). [Note 1] There is ample evidence of the prehistoric settlement of Islay and the first written reference in the 1st century AD. The island had become part of the Gaelic Kingdom of Dál Riata during the Early Middle Agesbefore being absorbed into the Norse Kingdom of the Isles . The later medieval period marked a “cultural high point” with the transfer of the Hebrides to the Kingdom of Scotland and the emergence of the Clan Donald Lordship of the Isles , originally centred at Finlaggan . [12] During the 17th century the Clan Donald star waned, but improvements to agriculture and transportation to a rising population, which peaked in the mid-19th century. [2] This was followed by significant displacement and declining resident numbers.

Today, it has over 3,000 inhabitants and the main commercial activities are agriculture, malt whiskey distillation and tourism. The island has a long history of religious observance and Scottish Gaelic is spoken by a quarter of the population. [13] Its landscapes have been celebrated through various art forms and there is a growing interest in renewable energy . Islay is home to many bird species Such As the wintering population of Greenland white-fronted and barnacle goose , and is a popular destination for birdwatchers Throughout the Year. The climate is mild and improved by the Gulf Stream .


Islay was probably recorded by Ptolemy as Epidion , [14] the use of the “p” suggesting a Brittonic or Pictish tribal name. [15] In the seventh century Adomnán Referred to the island as Ilea [16] and the name OCCURS in early Irish records have Ile and have it in Old Norse . The root is not Gaelic and of unknown origin. [1] [Note 2] In seventeenth century maps the spelling appears as “Yla” or “Ila”, a form still used in the name of the Caol Ila whiskey . [18] [19]In poetic language Islay is known as Banrìgh Innse Gall , [7] or Banrìgh nan Eilean [20], translated as “Queen of the Hebrides” [Note 3] and Eilean uaine Ìle – the “green isle of Islay”[17] A native of Islay is called an Ìleach, pronounced [ˈiːləx].[17]

The obliteration of pre-Norse names is almost total and place names on the island of Norse and later Gaelic and English influences. [22] [23] Port Askaig is from the Norse ask-vík , meaning “ash tree bay” and the common suffix -bus is from the Norse bólstaðr , meaning “farm”. [24] Gaelic names, or their anglicized versions such as Ardnave Point, from Aird an Naoimh , “height of the saint” are very common. [25]Several of the villages have been developed in the 18th and 19th centuries and have a stronger influence in their names as a result. Port Charlotte for example, was named after Lady Charlotte Campbell, daughter of the island’s owner Daniel Campbell of Shawfield . [26]


Islay is 40 kilometers (25 mi) long from north to south and 24 kilometers (15 mi) broad. The east coast is rugged and mountainous, rising steeply from the Sound of Islay , the highest peak being Beinn Bheigier , which is a Marilyn at 1,612 feet (491 m). The western peninsulas are separated from the mainland by the waters of Loch Indaal to the south and Loch Gruinart to the north. [27] The fertile and windswept southwestern arm is called The Rinns , and Ardnave Point is a conspicuous promontory on the northwest coast. The south coast is sheltered from the prevailing winds and, as a result, relatively wooded.[28] [29] [30] The fractal coast has many bays and sea lochs, including Loch an-Sailein , Aros Bay and Claggain Bay . [28] In the far southwest is a rocky and largely uninhabited peninsula called The Oa , the closest point in the Hebrides to Ireland . [31]

The island’s population is mainly centered around the villages of Bowmore and Port Ellen . Other smaller villages include Bridgend , Ballygrant , Port Charlotte , Portnahaven and Port Askaig . The rest of the island is sparsely populated and mainly agricultural. [32] There are several small freshwater lochs in the interior including Loch Finlaggan , Loch Ballygrant, Loch Lossit and Loch Gorm, and numerous burns throughout the island, many of which bear the name “river” despite their small size. The most significant of these are the Laggan Riverwhich discharges into the sea at the end of Laggan Bay, and the River Sorn which, draining Loch Finlaggan, enters the head of Loch Indaal at Bridgend. [28]

There are numerous small islands around the coasts, the largest of which are Eilean Mhic Coinnich and Orsay off the Rinns, Nave Island on the northwest coast, Am Fraoch Eilean in the Sound of Islay, and Texa off the south coast. [28]

Geology and geomorphology

The underlying geology of Islay is intricate for such a small area. [2] The deformed Palaeoproterozoic igneous rock of the Rhinns complex is dominated by a coarse-grained gneiss cut by large intrusions of deformed gabbro . Once again, the Lewisian complex , it lies beneath the Colonsay Group of Metasedimentary Rocks [33] [34]that forms the bedrock at the northern end of the Rinns. It is a quartz- rich metamorphic marine sandstone that may be unique to Scotland and which is nearly 5,000 meters thick. [35]South of Rubh ‘a’ Mhail there are outcrops of quartzite , and a strip of mica schist and limestone cuts across the center of the island from The Oa to Port Askaig. Further south is a band of quartzite and granite metamorphic, a continuation of the beds that underlie Jura. The geomorphology of These last two areas is Dominated by a fold Known as the Islay Anticline. To the south is a “shattered coastline” formed from mica schist and hornblende . [2] [36] [37] The older Bowmore Group sandstones in the west center of the island are rich in feldspar and may be of Dalradianorigin. [38] [Note 4]


Loch Indaal was formed along a branch of the Great Glen Fault called Loch Gruinart Fault; its main line passes just to the north of Colonsay . This separates the limestone, igneous intrusions and Bowmore sandstones from the Colonsay Group rocks of the Rhinns. [39] The result is occasional minor earth tremors. [40]

There is a tillite bed near Port Askaig that provides evidence of an ice age in the Precambrian . [37] [41] In comparatively recent times the ice was covered during the Pleistocene glaciations save for Beinn Tart a ‘Mhill on the Rinns, which was a nunatak on the edge of the ice sheet. [42] The complex changes of sea level and isostasy of the sea . [32] Throughout much of late prehistory the low-lying land between the Rinns and the rest of the island was flooded, creating two islands. [43]


The influence of the Gulf Stream keeps the climate mild compared to mainland Scotland. Snow is rarely seen at sea level and they are light and short-lived. [44] However, wind speeds average 19 to 28 kilometers per hour (10 to 15 kn) annually [45] and winter gales sweep in off the Atlantic , gusting up to 185 miles per hour (115 mph). [46] While traveling and living on the island during the winter, [47] The driest months are April to July and the warmest are May to September, which is a result of the busiest times for tourism. [48] [49]Sunshine hours are typically highest around the coasts, especially to the west. [44]

[ hide ]Climate data for Islay
month Jan Feb Mar Apr may Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec year
Average high ° C (° F) 7.6
Average low ° C (° F) 3.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 142.5
Source: Islay Info [48]


The earliest settlers on Islay were nomadic hunter-gatherers who may have first arrived during the Mesolithic period after the retreat of the Pleistocene ice caps. A flint arrowhead , which was found in a field near Bridgend in 1993 and dates from 10,800 BC, is among the earliest evidence of a human presence found in Scotland. [50] [Footnote 5]Stone implements of the Ahrensburgian culture found at Rubha Port in the summer of Port Askaig by foraging pigs in 2015. [53] [54] Mesolithichas been dated to 7000 BC using radiocarbon dating from shells and debris from kitchen middens . [55] [56] By the Neolithic , settlements had become more permanent, [57] allowing for the construction of several communal monuments. [58]

The most spectacular prehistoric structure on the island is Dun Nosebridge . This 375 square meters (4.040 sq ft) Iron Age heavily occupied has prominent crag and has commanding views of the surrounding landscape. The name is probably a mixture of Gaelic and Old Norse: Dun in the language means “strong” and knaus-borg in the latter means “strong on the crag”. [59] There is no evidence That Islay Was ever subject to Roman military control ALTHOUGH small numbers of finds Such As a corner and a brooch from the third century AD suggest Links of Some Kind with the intermittent Roman presence on the mainland. [60] The ruins of abroch at Dùn Bhoraraic south east of Ballygrant and the remains of Numerous Atlantic Roundhouses indicate indication the influences of northern Scotland, Where thesis forms of building originate. [61][62] There are also various crannogs on Islay, including sites in Loch Ardnave, Loch Ballygrant and Loch Allallaidh in the south east where a stone causeway leading out to two adjacent islands is visible beneath the surface of the water.[28][61]


Dál Riata

By the 6th century AD Islay, along with much of the nearby mainland and adjacent islands, and Moyle (in Ulster ), lay dans le Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata with strong links to Ireland. The widely accepted view is that Dál Riata was established by Gaelic migrants from Ulster, displacing to form Brythionic culture (such as the Picts ). Nevertheless, some who? ] controversially claim that the Gaels in this part of Scotland were indigenous to the area. [63] Dál Riata was divided into a small number of regions, each controlled by a particular kin group; according to theSenchus iron n-Alban (“The History of the Men of Scotland”), it was the Cenel nóengusa for Islay and Jura.

In 627 the son of a king of the Irish Uí Chóelbad , a branch of the Dál nAraidi kingdom of Ulster (not to be confused with Dál Riata), was killed on Islay at the unidentified location of Ard-Corann by a warrior in an army led by King Connad Cerr of the Corcu Réti (the collective term for the Cenél nGabráin and Cenél Comgaill , before they split), based at Dunadd . [64] The Senchus also lists what is believed to be the oldest reference to a naval battle in the British Isles -a brief record of an engagement between rival Dál Riatan groups in 719. [65]

There is evidence of another kin group on Islay – the Cenel Conchride, supposedly descended from a brother of the legendary founder of Dál Riata, king Fergus Mór , but the existence of the Cenel Conchride seems to have been brief and the 430 households of the island Cena nóengus: Lugaid, Connal and Galán are some of the great-grandson of the eponymous founder of cenel nóengus. [64]

Norse influence and the Kingdom of the Isles

The 9th century arrival of Scandinavian settlers on the western seaboard of the mainland had a long-lasting effect, beginning with the destruction of Dál Riata. As is the case in the Northern Isles , the derivation of place names suggests a complete break from the past. Jennings and Kruse Conclude That There Were ALTHOUGH settlements prior to the Norse arrival ” there is no evidence from the Onomasticon que la habitants of These settlements ever Existed “. [67] Gaelic continued to exist in the southern Hebrides throughout the Norse period, but the place namesuggests it had a lowly status, possibly indicative of an enslaved population. [68]The former lands of Dal Riata The Argyle (now Argyll ): the Gaelic coast .

Consolidating their earnings, the Norse settlers established the Kingdom of the Isles , which became part of the Norwegian following Norwegian unification. To Norway, the name of the name Suðreyjar (Old Norse, traditionally Anglicised as Sodor , or Sudreys ), meaning southern isles . For the next four centuries ago Norse origin.

Godred Crovan was one of the most significant of the rulers of this sea ​​kingdom . Though his origins are obscure, it is known that Godred was a Norse-Gael , with a connection to Islay. The Chronicles of Mann call Godred the sound of Harald the Black of Ysland, Islay, Ireland or Iceland, and the state of the world. three iron bolts “. [69] [70]

Godred also became King of Dublin at an unknown date, though he was driven out of the city by Muircheartach Ua Briain , later known as High King of Ireland , according to the Annals of the Four Masters . He died on Islay ” of pestilence “, during the following year. [69] [71][72] A local tradition suggests that a standing stone at Carragh Bhan near Kintra marks Godred Crovan’s grave.[66][73] A genuine 11th century Norse grave-slab was found at Dóid Mhàiri in 1838, although it was not associated with a burial. The slab is decorated with foliage in the style of Ringerike Viking art and an Irish-style cross, the former being unique in Scandinavian Scotland.[66]

Following Godred’s death, the local population resisted Norway’s choice of replacement, Magnus, the Norwegian king , to launch a military campaign to assert his authority. In 1098, under the pressure of Magnus, the king of Scotland is quitclaimed to Magnus all sovereign authority over the isles.


In the mid 12th century, a granddaughter of Godred Crovan’s married the ambitious Somerled , a Norse-Gael Argyle nobleman. Godred Olafsson , grandson of Crovan, was an increasingly unpopular King of the Isles at the time, spurring Somerled into action. The two fought the Battle of Epiphany in the seas off Islay in January 1156. [Note 6] The result was a bloody stalemate , and the island kingdom was divided, with Somerled taking control of the southern Hebrides. Two years later Somerled completely ousted Godred and re-united the kingdom.

Somerled built the sea fortress of Claig Castle on an island between Islay and Jura, to establish control of the Sound of Islay . On account of the Corryvreckan whirlpool to the north of Jura, the Sound was the main safe haven between the mainland and the rest of the Hebrides; Claig Castle basically gives some control over sea traffic. Following Somerled’s 1164 death, the realm was divided between Godred’s heirs, and Somerled’s sons, [74] [75] [76] whose descendants continued to describe themselves as King of the Sudreys until the 13th century. Somerled’s grandson, Donaldreceived Islay, along with Claig Castle, and the adjacent part of Jura as far north as Loch Tarbert .

Nominal Norwegian authority had been re-established after Somerled’s death, but by the mid 13th century, increased tension between Norway and Scotland to a series of battles, culminating in the Battle of Largs , shortly after which the Norwegian king died. In 1266, his more authoritative authority over Suðreyjar to the Scottish king ( Alexander III ) by the Treaty of Perth , in return for a very large sum of money. [77] [78] Alexander generally acknowledged the semi-independent authority of Somerled’s heirs; the form Suðreyjar had become Scottish crown dependency, rather than part of Scotland.

Scottish rule

Lords of the Isles

By this point, Somerled’s descendants had formed into three families – the heirs of Donald (the MacDonalds , led by Aonghas Óg MacDonald ), those of Donald’s brother (the Macruari , led by Ruaidhri mac Ailein), and those of Donald’s uncle (the MacDougalls). , led by Alexander MacDougall ). At the end of the 13th century, when John Balliol was challenged for the throne by Robert the Bruce, the MacDougalls backed Balliol, while the Macruari and MacDonalds backed Robert. When Robert won, he declared the MacDougall lands forfeit, and distributed them between the MacDonalds and Macruari (the latter already owning much of Lorne , Uist , parts of Lochaber , and Garmoran ). [79]

The Macruari territories were eventually inherited by Amy of Garmoran ., [80] [81] [82] who married her cousin MacDonald John of Islay in the 1330s; [83] having succeeded Aonghus as a head of the MacDonalds, he now controlled significant stretches of the western seaboard of Scotland from Morvern to Loch Hourn , and the whole of the Hebrides save for Skye (which Robert had given to Hugh of Ross instead) . [82] From 1336 onwards John began to style himself Dominus Insularum – ” Lord of the Isles”A title That implied a connection to The Earlier Kings of the Isles and by extension degree of independence from the Scottish crown; [82] [83] [84] this honorific Was Claimed by his heirs for Several generations. [85] The MacDonalds had the effect of acquiring a semi-independent maritime kingdom, and considered themselves equals of the kings of Scotland , Norway , and England . [86]

Initially, their power base on the shores of Loch Finlaggan in northeastern Islay, near the present-day village of Caol Ila . Successive chiefs of Clan Donald were proclaimed Lord of the Isles there, on an ancient seven-foot-square stone bearing footprint prints in which the new ruler stood barefoot and was anointed by the Bishop of Argyll and Seven Priests. [87] The Lord’s advisory ” Council of the Isles ” puts it Eilean na Comhairle [Note 7] ( Council Island ) in Loch Finlaggan we Islay Within a timber framed Crannog That HAD beens Originally constructed in the 1st century BC.

The Islay Charter , a record of lands granted to an Islay resident in 1408, Brian Vicar MacKay, by Domnall of Islay, Lord of the Isles , is one of the earliest records of Gaelic in public use, and is a significant historical document. [90] In 1437, the Lordship was substantially expanded when Alexander, the Lord of the Isles , inherited the rule of Ross maternally; this included Skye. The expansion of MacDonald control caused the ” heart of the Lordship ” to move to the twin castles of Aros and Ardtornish , in the Sound of Mull . [91]

In 1462, the last and most ambitious of the Lords, John MacDonald II , struck an alliance with Edward IV of England under the terms of the Treaty of Ardtornish-Westminster with the goal of conquering Scotland. The onset of the Wars of the Roses prevented the treaty from being discovered by Scottish agents, and Edward from fulfilling his obligations as an ally. A decade later, in 1475, it had come to the attention of the Scottish court, but calls for forfeiture of the Lordship were calmed when John quitclaimed his mainland territories, and Skye. However, ambition was not given up easily, and John’s nephew launched a severe raid on Ross, but it ultimately failed. Within 2 years of the raid, in 1493, MacDonald was compelled to forfeit his estates and titles to James IV of Scotland ; by this forfeiture, the lands became part of Scotland, rather than a crown dependency.

James ordered Finlaggan demolished, its buildings razed, and the coronation stone destroyed, to discourage any attempts at restoration of the Lordship. [92] [93] [Note 8] When Martin Martinvisited Islay in the late 17th century he recorded a description of the coronations Finlaggan had once seen. [Note 9] . John was exiled from his form lands, and his subjects now are considered to be superior to the king. A charter is coming from the Scottish King confirming this state of affairs; It states that Skye and the Outer Hebrides are to be considered independent of the Lordship formation, leaving only Islay and Jura remaining in the comital unit.

16th and 17th centuries

Initially dispossessed in the wake of royal opposition to the Lordship, Clan Macdonald of Dunnyveg’s holdings in Islay were restored in 1545. [96] The MacLean family had been granted land in Jura in 1390, by the MacDonalds, and in 1493 had thus beens seen as the natural replacement for Them, leading to a branch of the MacLeans being white Granted Dunyvaig Castle by king James, and Expanding into Islay. Naturally, the restoration of the MacDonalds created some hostility with the MacLeans; in 1549, after observing that Islay was fertile, fruitful, and full of natural pastures, with good hunting and salmon and seals, Dean Monro describes Dunyvaig, and Loch Gorm Castle” now usurped be M’Gillayne of Doward “. [97] [Note 10] . The argument continues for decades, and 1578 the Macleans were expelled from Loch Gorm by force, and 1598 their branch was finally defeated at the Battle of Traigh Ghruinneart .

However, when Sorley Boy MacDonnell (of the Islay MacDonalds) had a clash with the Irish branch of the Macleans, and the unpopularity of the MacDonalds in Edinburgh (where their use of Gaelic was regarded as barbaric), weakened their grip on their southern hebridean possessions. In 1608, Coupled with Macdonald hostility to the Scottish reformation , this led the Scottish-English crown to mount an expedition to subdue them. In 1614 the crown handed Islay to Sir John Campbell of Cawdor , in return for an undertaking to pacify it; [98] [99] this the Campbells eventually achieved. Under Campbell influence, shrieval authority was established under theSheriff of Argyll . With Campbell inherited control of the Sheriffdom, comital authority Was Relatively superfluous, and the provincial identity (medieval Latin: provincia ) of Islay-Jura faded away.

The situation was soon complicated by the Civil War , when Archibald , the head of the most powerful branch of the Campbells, was de facto head of the Covenanter government, while other branches (and even Archibald’s ) were committed to Royalists . A Covenanter army under Sir David Leslie arrived on Islay in 1647, and besieged the royalist garrison at Dunnyvaig, laying waste to the island. [100] It was not up to 1677 que la Campbells Sufficiently felt at ease to construct Islay House at Bridgend to be Their principal, and unfortified, island residence. [101] [Note 11]

British era

18th and 19th centuries

At the beginning of the 18th century much of the population of Argylla was scattered in small clachans of farming families [104] and only two villages of any size-Killarow near Bridgend and Lagavulin-existed on Islay at the time. [105] (Killarow Had a church and tolbooth and houses for merchants and craft workers aim Was razed in the 1760s to “improve” the grounds of Islay House.) [105] The agricultural economy Was depend topsoil is farming Including staples Such As barley and oats supplemented with stock-rearing. The carrying capacity of the island was recorded at 6,600 cows and 2,200 horses in a 1722 rental listing. [106]

In 1726 Islay was written by Daniel Campbell of Shawfield . [107] [108] Following Jacobite insurrections, the Heritable Jurisdictions Act abolished comital authority, and Campbell control of the sheriffdom; they could only have influence as Landlords.

A defining aspect of the 19th century Argyll was the gradual improvement of transport infrastructure. [109] Roads were built, the Crinan canal was shortened to the sea in Glasgow and the traditional ferry crossings were increased by new quays. Rubble piers were built at several locations on Islay and Port Askaig. [110] INITIALLY, a sense of optimism in the fishing and cattle trades prevailed and the population expanded, Partly as a result of the 18th century kelp boom and the introduction of the potato as a staple. [111] The population of the island was estimated at 5,344 in 1755 and grew to over 15,000 by 1841.

Islay remained with the Campbells of Shawfield until 1853 when it was sold to James Morrison of Berkshire , ancestor of the third Baron Margadale , who still owns a substantial portion of the island. [108] The sundering of the relationship between the landowners and the islanders proved consequential. When the estate owners Realized They Could make more money from sheep farming than from the indigenous small farmers, wholesale Clearancesbecame commonplace. Four hundred people emigrated from Islay in 1863 alone, some for purely economic reasons, but many others had been forced off their land. In 1891 the census recorded only 7,375 citizens, with many evidences making new homes in Canada, the United States and elsewhere. The population continues to decline for much of the 20th century and is about 3,500. [2] [112] [113]

In 1899, counties were formally created, on shrieval boundaries, by Scottish Local Government Act ; Islay has become part of the County of Argyll .

World wars

During World War I two troop ships foundered off Islay Within A Few months of Each Other in 1918. The American vessel SS Tuscania Was torpedoed by UB-77 is 5 February with the loss of over 160 lives and now lies in deep water 6.4 km ( 4 mi west of the Mull of Oa. [114] On October 6, HMS Otranto was involved in a collision with HMS Kashmir in heavy seas while convoyingtroops from New York. Otranto lost steering and drifting towards the west coast of the Rinns. Answering her SOS the destroyer HMS MounseyAttempted to come along and managed to rescue over 350 men. Nonetheless, the Otranto was wrecked on the shore near Machir Bay with a total loss of 431 lives. [115] A monument was erected on the coast of The Oa by the American Red Cross to commemorate the sinking of these two ships. [116] A military cemetery was created at Kilchoman where the American bodies later removed. [117]

During World War II , the RAF built an airfield at Glenegedale which later became the civil airport for Islay. There was also an RAF Coastal Command flying boat base at Bowmore from 13 March 1941 using Loch Indaal. [118] In 1944 RCAF 422 Squadron Sunderland flying boat crew were rescued after their aircraft landed off Bowmore but broke out of her moorings in a gale and sank. [119] There was an RAF Chain Home Radar Station at Saligo Bay and RAF Chain Home Low Station at Kilchiaran. [120] [121]

Following late 20th century reforms, Islay is now within the wider region of Argyll and Bute .


The mainstays of the modern Islay economy are agriculture and fishing, distilling and tourism. [122]

Agriculture and fishing

Much of Islay remains owned by a few non-resident estate owners and sheep farmers. [122] Islay has some fine wild brown trout and salmon fishing [123] and in September 2003 the European Fishing Competition was held on five of the island’s numerous lochs; this was “the biggest fishing event ever to be held in Scotland”. [124] Sea angling is also popular, especially on the west coast and over the many shipwrecks around the coast. [124] There are about 20 commercial boats with crab, lobster and scallopPorta Askaig, Port Ellen and Portnahaven. [125] [126]


Islay is one of five whiskey distilling localities and regions in Scotland whose identity is protected by law. [127] There are eight active distilleries and the industry is the second largest employer after agriculture. [128] [129] Those on the south of the island produce malt with a very strong peaty flavor, considered to be the most intensely flavored of all whiskeys. From east to west they are Ardbeg , Lagavulin , and Laphroaig . On the north of the island Bowmore , Bruichladdich , Caol Ila and Bunnahabhainare produced, which are substantially lighter in taste. [130] [131] Kilchoman is a microdistillery opened in 2005 about the west coast of the Rinns. [132]

The oldest record of a legal distillery on the island refers to Bowmore in 1779 and at one time there were 23 distilleries in operation. [133] For example, Port Charlotte distillery operated from 1829 to 1929 [134] and Port Ellen is also closed in business as a malting . [133] In March 2007 Bruichladdich announced that they would reopen Port Charlotte distillery using Inverleven distillery equipment. [134]


Some 45,000 summer visitors arrive each year by ferry and a further 11,000 by air. [135] The main attractions are the scenery, history, bird watching and the world-famous whiskeys. [136] The distilleries operate various shops, tours, and visitor centers, [137] and the Finlaggan Trust has a visitor center which is open daily during the summer. [138]

Renewable energy

The location of Islay, exposed to the full force of the North Atlantic, and Scotland’s first, power station near Portnahaven. The Islay LIMPET (Land Installed Marine Powered Energy Transformer) was developed by Wavegen and researchers from the Queen’s University of Belfast , and was financially backed by the European Union. Known as Limpet 500, due to cabling constraints its capacity is limited to providing up to 150 kW of electricity on the island’s grid. [139] In 2000 it became the world’s first commercial wave power station. In March 2011 the largest tidal arrayin the world was approved by the Scottish Government with 10 planned turbines predicted to generate enough power for over 5,000 homes. The project will be located in the Sound of Islay which offers both strong currents and shelter from storms. [140]


Many of the roads on the island are single-track with passing places. The two main roads are the A846 from Ardbeg to Port Askaig via Port Ellen and Bowmore, and the A847 which runs down the east coast of the Rhinns. [28] The island has its own services provided by Islay Coaches and Glenegedale Airport offers flights to and from Glasgow International Airport and Obanand Colonsay . [141]

Caledonian MacBrayne operate regular ferry services to Port Ellen and Askaig Port from Kennacraig , taking about two hours. Ferries to Port Askaig also run on to Scalasaig on Colonsayand, on summer Wednesdays, to Oban . The purpose-built vessel, MV Finlaggan entered service in 2011. [142] ASP Ship Management Ltd operates on a small ferry on behalf of Argyll & Bute Council from Port Askaig to Feolin on Jura . [143] Port Ellen and Ballycastle in Northern Ireland from Fridays to Mondays through June, July and August.

There are various lighthouses on and around Islay as an aid to navigation. These include the Rinns of Islay light built on Orsay in 1825 by Robert Stevenson , [144] Ruvaal at the north end of Islay constructed in 1859, [145] Carraig Fhada at Port Ellen, which has an unusual design, [146] and Dubh Artach , an isolated rock tower some 35 kilometers (22 mi) to the north west of Ruvaal.

Other activities

Since 1973 the Ileach has been delivering news to the people of Islay every fortnight and was named community newspaper of the year in 2007. [147] [148] The Islay Ales Brewery brews various real ales at its premises near Bridgend. [149] In the early 21st century a campus of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig was set up on Islay, Ionad Chaluim Chille Island , which teaches Gaelic language, culture and heritage. [150] The Port Mòr at Port Charlotte, which is equipped with a micro-wind turbine and a ground-source heating system, is the creation of local development trust Iomairt Chomain Chomain. [151] [152]

Gaelic language

Islay has historically been a very strong Gaelic-speaking area. In both the 1901 and 1921 censuses, all parishes in Islay were reported to be over 75 percent Gaelic-speaking. By 1971, the Rhinns had dropped to 50-74 percent. Gaelic speakers and the rest of Islay to 25-49 percent. Gaelic speaker overall. [13] By 1991 about a third of the island’s population were Gaelic speakers. [153] In the 2001 census, which was dropped to 24 percent, which, while a low figure overall, was most strongly recorded in Argyll and Bute after Tire, with the highest recorded rate in Portnahaven (32 percent). and the lowest in Gortontaoid (17 percent), with the generalization of the weakest areas in general. [13]

The Islay dialect is distinctive. It forms strongly with other Argyll dialects, especially those of Jura, Colonsay and Kintyre . [154] Amongst its distinctive phonological features are the shift from long / aː / to / ɛː /, a high degree of retention of long / eː /, the shift of dark / ̪ˠ / to / t̪ /, the lack of intrusive / t̪ / in sr groups (for example / s̪ɾoːn / “nose” rather than / s̪t̪ɾoːn /) [155] and the retention of the unlenited past-tense particle of (for example, of “pink” èirichinstead of dh’èirich ) . [156] It is a group of lexical isoglosses(ie words distinctive to a certain area) with strong similarities to southern Gaelic and northern Irish dialects. Templates are DHUIT “to you” (INSTEAD of the more common dhut ), [157] the formula gun robh math agad “thank you” (INSTEAD of the more common Moran taing gold tapadh leat goal compares Irish go raibh maith agat ) [ 158] mand “able to” (INSTEAD of the more common urrainn ) [159]gold deifir “hurry” (INSTEAD of the more common cabhag Irish deifir ).[160]


Associated with various Islay churches are cupstones of uncertain age; These can be seen at Kilchoman Church, where the carved cross is erected on one, and at Kilchiaran Church on the Rhinns. In historic times some may have been associated with pre-Christian wishing ceremonies or pagan beliefs in the ” wee folk “. [161]

The early pioneers of Christianity in Dál Riata were Columba of Iona and Moluag of Lismore . [162] The legacy of this period includes the 8th century Kildalton Cross , Islay’s “most famous treasure”, [163] carved out of local epidiorite . [164] A carved cross of similar age, but much more weathered can be found at Kilnave, [165] which may have served as a site of lay worship. [166]Although the first Norse settlers were pagan, Islay has a substantial number of sites of drystone or clay-mortared chapels with small burial grounds Norse era. [167]In the 12th century the island became part of the Diocese of Sodor and the Isles , which was re-established by King Olaf Godredsson . [168] The diocese fell within the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Nidaros and was the main churches on Islay in the Norwegian prestegjeld model: Kilnaughton, Kildalton, Kilarrow and Kilmany. [169] In 1472 Islay became part of the Archdiocese of St Andrews . [169]

Archibald Campbell, 5th Earl of Argyll was a strong supporter of the Reformation , but there is little evidence that their beliefs were greeted with much enthusiasm by the islanders initially. At first there were only two Protestant churches in 1642, three parishes were created, based on Kilchoman, Kilarrow and a new church at Dunyvaig. By the end of the century there were seven churches on one Nave Island. [170] Kilarrow Parish Church is round, local folklore has it, to leave no corner for the devil to hide in. This “architectural gem” was constructed in 1767 by Daniel Campbell, the lairdof Islay. [171] The kirkOn the Rhinns of Islay is St Kiaran’s, located just outside the village of Port Charlotte and Port Ellen is served by St John’s. There are a variety of other churches in Scotland and other congregations on the island. Baptists meet in Port Ellen and in Bowmore, the Scottish Episcopal Church of St. Columba is located in Bridgend and the Islay Roman Catholic congregation also uses St. Columba’s for its services. [172]

Media and the arts

Islay was featured in some of the scenes of the 1954 film The Maggie , [173] and the 1942 documentary ” Coastal Command ” was partly filmed in Bowmore. [174]

In 1967-68, folk-rock singer Donovan included “The Isle of Islay” in his album, A Gift from a Flower to a Garden , a song praising the pastoral beauties of the island. [Note 12] ” Westering Home ” is a 20th-century Scottish song about Islay written by Hugh S. Roberton , derived from an earlier Gaelic song. [176] [177]

In the 1990s the BBC adaptation of Para Handy was partly filmed in Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich and featured a race between the Vital Spark (Para Handy’s puffer ) and a rival along the length of Loch Indaal. In 2007, parts of the BBC Springwatch program were recorded on Islay with Simon King being based on Islay. The British Channel 4 archaeological television program Time Team Excavated at Finlaggan, the episode being first broadcast in 1995. [178] [179] [180]

In 2000, Japanese author Haruki Murakami visited the island to sample seven single malt whiskies on the island and later wrote a travel book called If our language were whiskey.


Islay is home to many species of wildlife and is generally known for its birds. Winter-visiting barnacle goose numbers-have atteint 35,000 in recent years with as Many as 10,000 arriving in a single day. There are also up to 12,000 Greenland white-fronted geese , and smaller numbers of brent , pinkfooted and Canada geese are often found between these flocks. Other waterfowl include whooper and mute swans, eider duck , slavonian grebe , goldeneye , long-tailed duck and wigeon . [181] The elusivecorncrake and sanderling , ringed plover and sandpiper curlew are among the summer visitors. [181] Resident birds include red-billed chough , hen harrier , golden eagle , falcon peregrine , barn owl , raven , oystercatcher and guillemot . [181] The re-introduced white-tailed sea is regularly seen around the coasts. [182]In all, about 105 species and 100 different species can be seen at any one time. [181]

A population of several thousand red deer inhabit the moors and hills. Fallow deer can be found in the southeast, and roe deer are common on low-lying ground. Otters are common around the coasts along Nave Island, and common and gray seals breed on Nave Island. Offshore, a variety of cetaceans are Regularly Recorded Including minke whales , pilot whales , killer whales and bottle-nosed dolphins . The only snake on Islay is the adder and the common lizard is not common.[183] The island supports a large population of the marsh fritillary along with many other moths and butterflies. [184] The mild climate supports a diversity of flora, typical of the Inner Hebrides . [185]

Notable native

  • John Francis Campbell , authority on Celtic folklore and joint inventor of the Campbell-Stokes recorder . The son of Daniel Campbell of Shawfield, his father’s bankruptcy is inheriting the Islay estate. There is a monument commemorating him at Bridgend. [186]
  • Glenn Campbell , Scottish political reporter for the BBC, was brought up on Islay and attended Islay High School. [187]
  • Alistair Carmichael , the Deputy Deputy Chief Whip, was born on the island. He has represented Orkney and Shetland at Westminster since 2001. [188]
  • The Islay-born Reverend Donald Caskie (1902-1983) became known as “Tartan Pimpernel” for his exploits in France during World War II. [189]
  • John Crawfurd was born on Islay in 1783 and during a long career as a colonial administrator he became governor of Singapore . He also wrote a number of books of the Journal of an Embassy from the Governor General of India to the Courts of Siam and Cochin China (1828). [190]
  • David MacIntyre from Portnahaven, recipient of the Victoria Cross . [191]
  • General Alexander McDougall , a figure in the American Revolution and the first president of the Bank of New York , was born in Kildalton in 1731. [192]
  • George Robertson , formerly Secretary-General of NATO and British Defense Secretary . In 1999 he was made Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. [193]
  • Sir William Stewart (born 1935) steered a course from Bowmore junior school to become the UK’s chief scientific adviser in the late 1980s and early 1990s. [194]

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