Knowledge Base

A Tour of the Islay Distilleries

Day One

It was with some trepidation and nervous excitement that I set off from my home in Edinburgh at 7.30am to travel the 191 miles north west by car and ferry  to Islay to tour some of the most famous whisky distilleries in the world.  I must confess that I am no whisky expert but I thought what better way to spend a long weekend away from work than travelling to one of Scotland’s most beautiful regions and touring its distilleries.  
Islay, which is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides, is the fifth biggest Scottish island and is home to some 3,457 inhabitants. The island is also home to some of the best distilleries in Scotland and on this tour I would be visiting Ardbeg, Bowmore, Laphroaig before hoping across the water to Jura.
I began my journey by heading through Glasgow and on to the Trossachs National Park where I followed the west coast of Loch Lomond, stopping in Inverary for a spot of lunch. After a quick lunch I drove the 40 miles to the Kennacraig Ferry
Terminal excited at the thought of finally reaching Islay and its mecca of distilleries.  
ArdbegAfter landing on Islay and dumping my bags at the hotel, Skerrols House, I made my way to the Ardbeg Distillery. The
Ardbeg Distillery is located on the southern coast of Islay and the distillery has a wide range of tours available for visitors. I opted for the Old Ardbeg, New Ardbeg tour which gives a unique insight into the distillery’s rich history. The tour is very informative and my tour guide was extremely funny, entertaining and knowledgeable. The definite highlight of the tour was a surprise tasting in the boardroom.
After leaving the Ardbeg Distillery I made the short journey to the Laphroaig Distillery and Visitor Centre for my final tour of the day. The Laphroaig tour is an extremely comprehensive tour that includes a visit to the water source and peat cutting bed, in addition to the standard tour destinations. At the end of the tour I enjoyed a dram in the historic “FOL” lounge before adding my name to visitor book. I left the distillery with the taste of Laprhoaig still fresh on my palate and headed back to my hotel for some dinner and a good night’s sleep ahead of day two of my adventure.

Day Two

After a fantastic meal and nights rest I woke refreshed and ready for another busy day exploring Islay and its famous distilleries. I travelled to the dramatic west coastline to begin my tour of the Bowmore Distillery and Visitor Centre. I had booked a place on the Craftsmans’ Tour 

Stills on IslayAfter leaving the Bowmore Distillery I made the short trip east and boarded a ferry to the Isle of Jura. As Jura Superstition is one of my favourite whiskies I simply couldn’t miss the opportunity to tour the distillery. Free of charge the tour lasts around 40 minutes and gives a unique insight each stage of Jura’s whisky making process before enjoying the standard complimentary dram at the end of the tour. which is slightly more expensive than the standard tour but in my opinion is well worth it. Designed for single malt enthusiasts this comprehensive 2 hour tour even includes a visit to the legendary Bowmore Number One vaults where I enjoyed a taste of some very special Bowmore Whisky. 
With fire in my belly I made the short journey back across to Islay for my last night on this magical island. For dinner I headed to An Tigh Seinnse for one of the best pub meals I’ve ever had, of course accompanied by a few drams of Bowmore.
It was with a heavy heart that I made the long journey back to Edinburgh, having thoroughly enjoyed my time on Islay, discovering what this fantastic island is famous for – Whisky!
Graham Urquhart is a whisky and travel enthusiast. He writes for The Whisky Shop, the UK’s premier retailer of single malt whisky including Jura Whisky

Related Posts