With my Mum and Dad coming to visit we decided to take a week’s holiday on Islay. Unsure of exact plans and weather we left things pretty late before booking, this meant that the Ferries were all booked and we just had to go for what was available so bear this in mind if you are planning a trip and book early.
Our Reason for leaving things till last minute was so we had a better idea on the weather as spending a week living out of the van and tents in Scottish wind and rain would have not been pleasant. And as expected with summer the weather was not looking great so we booked a Holiday home in Ballygrant as our base.
It also seemed that the campsites did not require booking and were happy to deal with you just turning up. This is nice to know as you can then be a lot more flexible with travel plans.
In terms of Ferry routes to Islay there are a couple of options departing the mainland from Kennacraig or Oban and arriving at Port Askaig or Port Ellen. The fastest route is Kennacraig to Port Ellen but the Longer route of Oban to Port Askaig also stops off at Colensay.
I would say if you are making a trip out of it Oban and sourunding area is a lovely place and could easily keep you occupied for a few days prior to heading to Islay, also the same can be said of the Kennacraig route and there is lots to see along to Macrihannish and the Mull of Kintyre.
Where we stayed in Ballygrant was actually close to Port Askaig where we had crossed via Oban and also put us in a reasonable position to explore the whole Island and that was the surprising thing the island is quite big and the roads are very bumpy so journey times were longer that expected and a good way to check everything had been stowed in cupboards securely else it would be bouncing all over the van.
We hadn’t taken our bikes with us but it was good to see some bike paths and plenty of back lanes to make getting around on a bike a pleasant way of seeing things.
So our First real adventure was to Port Ellen and this was the first realisation of the island being bigger than expected and that you had to hold on tight while travelling along the roads. Port Ellen was a nice little village with some shops and some restaurants so we had a wander around at came across a nice cyber cafe tucked away.
Past Port Ellen Ardbeg distillery can be found, this was very nice they had put a lot of work in here to tidy everything up so we had a look around and stopped in their cafe for a lunch although we did not do any of the wiskey tours this was our favourote distillery.
Kilnaughton Bay was a lovely spot with a grass carpark directly above the beach that looked ideal for some wild camping and only just outside Port Ellen. This sort of area looked like a great place to base yourself although journeys to the North of the island from here are all a long way.
Every time we were here there was always a highland cow keeping an eye on everyone’s comings and goings. Just a short walk around the corner there was another secluded beach called the singing sands this was worth a visit and we managed to spend half a day there when the sun appeared one afternoon.
Again around this area is Ballivicar Farm that Offer Pony trekking. Fiona has a lot of history with this place as most of her childhood holidays were spent at this farm so of course she booked on one of their afternoon treks and had a great time. Ballivicar Farm offer accommodation so well worth a look if any of this interests you.
Just a bit further around is Kintra Beach this would certainly be the place to be if you had some good weather as the campsite is just off the beach in the sand dunes this site you can just turn up without booking and I’m sure at some point we will be back here to stay so will be able to review the site. The location however we can talk about the beach is lovely and goes on for miles and is open to most Atlantic swells so with some good winds you could get some good waves here.
Sadly for us there was only one day of swell coinciding with offshore winds. I did get in the sea but it was just to small but at least I can say I’ve tried to surf there.
So heading off to the North of Islay was Portnahaven this was a lovely harbour village made all the better by the seal colony that lives offshore on the island. It was great wandering around watching the seals here and Mollie was certainly curious of what they were. I know they offer boat trips which would really get you up close and personal with the seals.
I would be dubious of staying out this side of the island as you are very remote and there is not a huge amount to see or do but certainly saw a few spots to wild camp for the night.
Just to get even more remote we headed out for an afternoon at Sanaigmore a beach right up on the north this again was lovely to see and there was the Outback Art Gallery above the beach which also had a cafe so well worth the trek.
On the way back we stopped in at Port Mor Centre Campsite for a bit to eat in their restaurant again this looked like a nice campsite although very exposed to any bad weather.
So not actually Islay but from Port Askaig a short trip on a little car ferry took us over to Jura. This was certainly more remote than Islay. After a lengthy drive from the car ferry we arrived in Craighouse and to the Jura Distillery. This was certainly a built up village and had a shop and plenty of places to eat and was nice for a wander around.
We carried on further and found a nice little pier off the side of the road to stop for lunch and a cup of tea. before heading further along to Leargybreck Beach which again looks like a stunning place to wild camp directly on the beach. Heading back we asked in the shop about best places to spot any deer, because of the time of year we were not likely to see them down at the beaches and on lower ground and that they would be higher up the hills.
By pure chance on the drive back we spotted these two in the distance and stopped for a while to watch them. It would be nice in the colder months to be here and see them on the beaches tho.
So it was a shame we didn’t use the van as intended but it was great as a day van and certainly gave us the freedom to explore. We will certainly be going back in the future and will try and make sure the weather is a bit better.