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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Scotland - 19 May, 2004

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Port Ellen, Isle of Islay (Mingulay B&B) N5537.765' W00611.077' 9 meters .
-  Bowmore Distillery . . . .
-  Islay Woollen Mill . . . .
-  Caol Ila Distillery . . . .
-  Ardbeg Distellery . . .  
Port Ellen . . . .
Aboard Caledonian MacBrayne MV Hebridean Isles to Islay . . . 65 km
Kennacraig . . . .
Finish Tarbert (Southcliffe B&B) N5551.907' W00524.463' 17 meters 98 km

Total (BMW 330CiC)

3,518 km

Total (other):

1,055 km

Total:

4,573 km

 

Weather: Partly cloudy, occasional sun, cool (about 12) and windy.

 

 

Another day on Islay and what to do?  Well, besides the one golf course (tempting), we figure that the top priority are the distilleries.  We have a cooked breakfast in the B&B, pack up our stuff and head off shortly before 10 AM.  After a stop at the supermarket, we head off to Bowmore.  The weather has improved from the night before and, after drying out, we can take down the top.  We have a great drive through the island's countryside to Bowmore.

 

This is a small little village located in the center of the island on a small bay.  At the top of the hill overlooking the town is the circular church.  So shaped so that there would be no corners for the devil to hide in.  We do not waste too much time, but head straight down to the distillery to find out about the tours.  It turns out that they will have a tour in about 30 minutes and they charge a modest 2.00.  That is not too bad, so we tell them we will be back.

 

Meanwhile, we use the extra time to wander around the town a bit and to check out the harbor and one of the many shops that cater to tourists.  But then we have to rush back to make sure we will not be late for our tour.  Other than us on the tour, it is only the couple that we met yesterday - guess we all have the same priorities while on Islay!!!  This turns out to be another great tour - this one and the one we had at Laphroaig were the highlights of our single malt tasting and touring in Scotland.  They are both highly recommended.

 

As we are only four people on the tour today, we get a better understanding of the process than we did yesterday, given the large group we had there.  The process here is pretty much the same, except here we got to try out one of the old, labor intensive machines they used to turn the barley while it is germinating on the floor.  It was much harder then it looked.

 

Bowmore also dries some of its own barley in it's kilns, and we got to see this step of the process once more in their kilns.

 

Then on to the wash back tanks.  From there into the still room with the wonderful copper stills.  Each time we go on a tour, it is a pleasure to see these shapely, golden stills.  They have so much character.  They also have a wonderful, old brass still safe ...

 

... with it's shining lock and spigots.

 

Finally we make our way to one of the warehouses where we can check out some of the casks with their single malt slowly maturing inside.

 

And then the best part - the tasting.  Maybe it was because we were a small group, but this was a wonderful experience.  We had the whole room to ourselves and while we were watching a video about Bowmore, we were able to taste a wide range of their product.  We must have tried five different kinds, and most were wonderful (at least to our tastes).  And it also made good business sense - over the next few days, we bought three different bottles of their products.  Jacqui was kind enough to be the designated driver, so Lars took full advantage of the generous tasting, even taking some of her share.  The ladies working there were very friendly and we hung around and had a long, amusing chat with them.

 

We took over one hour tasting, so by the time we emerged into daylight, it was time for lunch.  We drove a short way out of the town of Bowmore and stopped by the side of the road for a picnic lunch.  If it had not been for the cold wind, it would have been very pleasant spot in the sun.

 

After lunch, we carried on north.  We drove a short way to the local Islay Woollen Mill, which still weaves cloth using the old traditional machines.  A lot of the process is done by hand.  This is the place where the costumes for movies like Brave Heart were created.  The owner is a friendly man that tells us a wide variety of amusing stories and anecdotes.

 

From here we carry on further north, up to the Sound of Islay, looking across to the Isle of Jura.  We have arrived at the Caol Ila Distillery.  They charge a fee here for a tour, but explain that we have already gone on a few tours and are more interested in a taste of their product.  They are kind enough to oblige and share with us a taste of a couple of their different single malts.  These are much lighter than the Laphroaig and Bowmore that we have already tasted here on this island.

 

After this tasting, we decide that it is time to head back towards Port Ellen.  And once we get there, we feel we have time for tea (and an additional taste or two) at Ardbeg. We take our seats at one of the tables, order our cups of tea and then head over to the nearby tasting table to fill a few tasting glasses with Ardbeg's best.  We just love this place - great to be back.  While we finish off our cups of tea, Lars (Jacqui is still kind enough to be the designated driver) also finishes of a few more samples of the fine single malt.

 

Our ferry leaves this evening at 7 PM and, as it is getting late, it is time to head on.  We also need to go to the internet cafe to quickly check our emails.  Once that is done, we are off to the ferry terminal to take our place in the queue to board.  As before, a very efficient operation and we are on the ferry and cruising off right on time.  We spend the ferry ride working on our journals and taking in some of the scenery.

 

The ferry pulls into Kennacraig at 9:30 PM and we head straight off to Tarbert where we will spend another night.  Tonight we will be trying out another B&B, which we had booked before leaving for Islay (it was full at the time).  The Southcliffe B&B turns out to be very nice.  We have a large room, with a separate large bathroom.  There is also a large sitting room with TV (and a fire for the winters).  We make ourselves comfortable for the evening and night.

 

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