Most people know very little about Scotland, and the general understanding of Scottish people is attributed to stereotypes. The truth is, Scotland is a beautiful country, both in landscape and in culture. Just like any country, there are cities filled with students, businesses, fashion and enviable nightlife such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. Of course, there are picturesque countrysides as well, especially in the North and on the islands. Each Scottish island has its own unique history and character and all make for a pleasant visit. One of the more famous islands is Islay and it is famous for its Islay whisky.

Islay and Other Scottish Islands

Scotland has over 790 offshore islands, which is impressive considering this tiny country is only 192 miles wide and 254 miles long. Collectively, however, including all the islands, Scotland’s coastline is 10, 250 miles. Scottish islands are categorised into four main groups: Shetland, Orkney, the Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides. Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides. The Inner Hebrides lie closer to the west coast of Scotland in comparison the Outer Hebrides which lie to the North West of the Inner Hebrides. On top of breathtakingly beautiful beaches, the Scottish islands offer plenty of variety in the way of activities, including:

  • Fishing and seal spotting in the islands of Argyll
  • Kayaking, windsurfing, cycling, and visiting the majestic Standing Stones of Callanish in the Outer Hebrides.
  • Otter spotting and visiting the Hermaness National Nature Reserve in Shetland
  • Diving amongst sunken shipwrecks from the World Wars in Orkney
  • Islay Whisky Tasting and Tours in Islay

Whisky glass with a dram of Islay whisky.

Islay Whisky Tasting and Touring

Although Scotland is home to multiple famous whisky regions, Islay whisky is known as royalty within the whisky distilling industry. Much like Scotland’s impressive number of islands despite the mainland’s small size, the Isle of Islay boasts eight active whisky distilleries even though it is just 25 miles in length. What’s more impressive is that in total there have been 26 distilleries on Islay over the years. Distilleries which are currently open on Islay include:

  • Bunnahabhain
  • Caol Ila
  • Ardberg
  • Lagavulin
  • Laphroaig
  • Bowmore
  • Bruichladdich
  • Kilchoman

All of these distilleries are open to the public for tours during the Islay Whisky Festival, also known as Feis Ile. This festival runs every year during the last week in May and hosts food stands, Gaelic lessons, live Scottish music, poetry and historical information displayed. Many argue that this time of year is the best to visit Islay.

Lavender map of Scotland with the Inner Hebrides highlighted in blue to show where Islay whisky is from.

Rare Islay Whisky

Of the distilleries still running, there is plenty of whisky to be purchased in whisky shops, off-licences and supermarkets. However, of the Islay distilleries that are closed down, there are still many surviving bottles that have now become worth quite a lot of money. Rare Islay whisky collecting is somewhat of an acquired taste and success relies upon knowledge of both the history of Islay whisky and modern-day sellers and suppliers. If you do decide to visit Islay, you may be lucky enough to meet a local who has a rare bottle for sale.