It is undoubtedly for its world famous single malt whiskies that the Isle of Islay off the West Coast of Scotland is best known. If you are visiting Islay, however, you will find there is much more to see, do and enjoy than tour distilleries and sample the water of life. The scenery on Islay is just one feature that you are likely to find breathtaking, especially the coastal scenery viewed on a beautiful summer's day. The beaches and coastline features on this page include examples from the east, south and west coasts of Islay, all of which are easily accessible by car.
Note: The videos featured on this page were shot at the same time as the photos were taken in July 2013.
Pictures of The Sound of Islay
The Sound of Islay is the narrow strip of saltwater (Atlantic Ocean) which separates the Isles of Islay and Jura. The ferry which travels to Islay from Kennacraig on the mainland comes in to one of two destinations, one of which is Port Askaig on the Sound. As this is also the easternmost part of Islay, closest to the mainland, it seems like a logical place to start this Islay coastline exploration.
Pictures of Port Askaig on the Sound of Islay
The small village of Port Askaig is not only a ferry terminal for the mainland. It is also the terminal for the ferry across the Sound of Islay to the Isle of Jura. As well as private houses, it has a hotel, a small shop and is home to the Islay Lifeboat Station.
Video of the Sound of Islay from Caol Ila Distillery Pier
Pictures of the Sound of Islay Coastline from Caol Ila
Caol Ila is one of Islay's eight working whisky distilleries. It is found further north up the coast of the Sound of Islay from Port Askaig. It is reached by a narrow road leading off the Port Askaig to Bowmore road. The views from outside the distillery, up and down the Sound, are magnificent, particularly on a fine, sunny day. The distillery area affords a fine view of the Paps of Jura across on the neighbouring island.
Views of the Sound of Islay from Hilltop near Bunnahabhain
The cut off for the Bunnahabhain distillery is also on the Port Askaig to Bowmore road. Prior to reaching the distillery, however, you will reach a hilltop which affords magnificent views of the Sound of Islay from height. It is more than worth stopping the car and making the fifty yard (at most) walk to the crest of the hill for views like those shown above.
Pictures of The Sound of Islay from Bunnahabhain Distillery
Reaching the Bunnahabhain Distillery will bring you back to sea level and within a couple of miles of the most northerly point of the Isle of Islay. The views of the Sound of Islay are slightly different again, with the famous Paps of Jura now seen from a totally different angle.
Pictures of Port Ellen on the South Coast of Islay
Port Ellen is the other mainland ferry port on Islay, along with Port Askaig. It is found on the south coast of the island. The ferry docks just outside the small harbour and can be seen in one of the pictures above with a tall sailing ship moored alongside. A fine nautical example of past meets present.
The inner harbour at Port Ellen has a fine sandy beach, with a second beautiful beach found on the outskirts of the town, heading in the direction of Bowmore. There are a number of Bed and Breakfasts in Port Ellen, in addition to two hotels, The Islay Hotel and The White Hart Hotel.
Map of the Featured Beaches and Coastal Areas of Islay
Pictures of Portnahaven on the South-West Coast of Islay
Portnahaven is a small village in the south-west of Islay. It is part of the Rhinns of Islay, the peninsula which forms the south-western part of the island. The harbour in these images is seen at low tide on a beautiful summer's day but the storms and huge waves which can strike this little village - particularly in the winter months - can be powerful and severe.
There is one curious story about Portnahaven which has to be mentioned. There is a photo above of a stone wall at the head of the village with the white letters, "OK," painted on the side. It is not known why or by whom those letters were painted but the road junction is now widely known as the, "OK Corner".
Video Footage of Kilchiaran Bay on the West Coast of Islay
Pictures of Kilchiaran Bay on the Rhinns of Islay
When leaving Portnahaven, if you turn left at the OK Corner on to Church Street - rather than taking the right fork on to the main A847 - you will reach the West Coast of the island. This road eventually rejoins the main road at Port Charlotte. Along this road, you will soon come to Kilchiaran Bay. This part of Islay is believed to be where St Columba landed in the 6th century, en route to Iona, where he founded the abbey which did much for introducing Christianity to Scotland.
Pictures of Machir Bay on the Rhinns of Islay
Machir Bay is a wide strip of sand and often sees huge Atlantic breakers being driven in by strong winds. Even on a beautiful day such as the one upon which these photos were taken, the noise of the surf was still moderately strong. Heading straight out to sea from Machir Bay, there is nothing to be encountered until you reach the shores of Canada.
The curious metallic remains featured in one of the above photos represented a bit of a mystery on the occasion of this visit. They are fixed in place and extremely solid. They gave the impression that they are part of some much bigger object or structure, largely buried in the sand.
© 2013 Gordon Hamilton
Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on July 25, 2013:
Thank you, tastiger04. Glad you like Islay. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
tastiger04 on July 24, 2013:
What a gorgeous place....I am a huge fan of all beaches and coastlines, love the ocean. Looks like a great vacation spot! Voted up and beautiful :)
Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on July 12, 2013:
Thank you, randomcreative. I hope you get to visit Islay for yourself some day.
Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 11, 2013:
Just gorgeous! I would love to visit sometime. Thanks for the detailed overview.
Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on July 11, 2013:
Hi, Seeker7 and thank you for visiting and commenting. I hope you get to visit Islay soon. It's a wonderful island and place in so many ways.
Yes, the OK corner is a mystery. There are several theories/explanations but no-one seems to know the definitive truth. All that is known for sure is that it has been there for many decades, since at least the 1950s.
Helen Murphy Howell from Fife, Scotland on July 11, 2013:
What a beautiful hub this is and sadly to say Islay is one of the islands that I haven't visited as yet but it looks absolutely stunning! I voted that I would visit for the scenery, but I enjoy good food, so I would definitely love to savour the cuisine as well.
I also loved the curious story about the 'OK' corner - this kind of thing keeps me awake at nights wondering who or what is responsible.
Beautiful and very informative hub + voted up!!
Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on July 10, 2013:
Hi, Attikos and thank you. Yes, it is certainly a great place to get away from things. Island life is very different and very laid back. I have been to Islay many times but I will certainly never get tired of visiting. I hope you make it there some day.
Attikos from East Cackalacky on July 10, 2013:
Beautiful, and it looks like a good area to get away from everything for a while. I have to put Islay on my list of place to go some day.