Those of you have visited Islay only in the summer might wonder what it’s like in winter – we think it’s the perfect time to get away from it all!
With temperatures usually above the mainland thanks to the gulf current, you can banish any thoughts of cold and come for a wee island adventure. These are our favourite Islay winter activities!
A Walk in the Woods
In at number 10 it’s a wee walk in the woods. A perfect choice for winter to get out of any breezes that are just a bit too ‘fresh’! We recommend a stroll in the Bridgend woods, head all the way to the Woollen Mill and watch the Sorn in full flow. Or head to RSPB Loch Gruinart, wander through the woods and take a bit of shelter in the hides and watch the incoming birds!
Snowdrops in the woods at Bridgend.
Pebble Sculpture on the beach
Yes, sitting back and watching the sun sparkle on the waves might not always be possible, but there’s till plenty to do!
Why not pick one of Islay stonier beaches either down at the stunning Portnahaven, or Claggain Bay on the East and build yourself something spectacular!
A Trip to Jura
In winter, Jura is the perfect place for a trip. Beautiful browns and warm colours pattern the landscape: with the deer down from the hills, take your time on the roads and enjoy the drive. With warming drams of the new rum, as well as the ever-popular whisky and gin, we can’t think of anything better than an easy day across the water.
Heading to Jura on the Ferry.
Jacqueline's cake at Kilchoman (it's bigger than it looks - and she nibbled a bit!)
Coffee and Cake at Kilchoman
Here’s where we do our thing and combine some of our favourites into one. Coffee and cake at Kilchoman is a true thing of wonder. And if it’s taken after a walk along Machir Bay or down at Saligo watching the waves it’s all the more warming. If you’re not a big fan of cake (sorry, what?!?!) then there’s always the warming Cullen skink or an equally warming Kilchoman dram.
Please check with the distillery as opening hours can vary in the winter.
As the winter winds rush across the island, you can either delight in the warmth, or make an adventure of it and find a place to watch the waves crash in – safely of course! We recommend heading down to Carraig Fhada Lighthouse and then you can always head over the hill to Singing Sands.
Alternatively, on the hill at Saligo is a great place to watch Atlantic rollers crash in! Please do always take care and remember to stay well back to watch.
Waves at Carraig Fhada Lighthouse, Port Ellen
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Goose over the waves on the Atlantic coast.
Winter on Islay brings the geese, thousands and thousands descend on the island to over-winter, and the sound and sight of them is wonderful to behold. Often viewed in the fields around Ballitarsin itself, you’ll also see them as you drive the banks of Lochindaal. You can also head to the bird hides at Loch Gruinart for a better view. Don’t forget those binoculars!
A Dram by the Fire
There are many great locations on Islay to sit and sample a log fire and soak up the atmosphere. We think there’s nowhere better than the Port Charlotte Hotel for a warm welcome, roaring fire and great company. Top it off with an Islay dram, or even an Islay G&T to relax after your outdoor adventure!
You can always take your adventure further and keep warm with an outdoor dram on a beach fire you built yourself! Islay whisky has never tasted so good! Just make sure you clear up after yourself and leave everything safe.
A winter dram on the beach.
The aurora, shot at Saligo Bay.
Sunsets and Stars
If you come in June, your sunset will be past 10pm and it’s something easily missed. In winter, you have the chance to catch one every day (well, weather dependant!) And with such wonderfully dark nights comes the chance to really see the stars, and (occasionally) catch a glimpse of the Aurora.
A Distillery Visit
What is Islay without a distillery visit? Winter is the perfect time with distilleries quieter, you can take your time, chat to the wonderful staff and experience the best winter warmer there is! We recommend doing a proper warehouse tasting to really get the chance to taste our wonderful Islay Spirit at its best. Try Bunnahabhain's Warehouse 9 or Bowmore's Vaults Experience for something to toast those tastebuds!
Using the valinch at Bowmore's Vaults Experience.
A frosty Machir Bay
Winter walks along the beach
This was always going to be our number one! With so many beaches to choose from, there’s always a great walk to be had. Even if the wind is blowing, then there’s usually somewhere a bit more sheltered. From the top picks of Machir Bay and Saligo, to the 7 miles of the Big Strand, the Singing Sands or round to Claggain Bay, there’s a walk or stroll for every location.
The best bit about a winter walk though, is planning where you’ll drop into on the way back! Happy planning!
Yes, there were a few things that we couldn’t fit in! Pottery at Persabus, Cullen Skink at Cafaidh Blasta, Christmas Markets and stalls that pop up at various venues – there is so much to do. If we missed your favourite – pop back on to social media and let us know what your favourites are!