What is Islay like?
Islay is a the southern most island in the Inner Southern Hebrides of Scotland. Just a 35 minute plane ride from Glasgow, this breathtaking isle may appear incredibly rural, though there are over 3200 locals living there year round. With 8 world-renowned distilleries, there is much to offer any lover of fine malts. In addition to the distilleries we visit, we have set time aside to visit a local craft market, the Islay Woolen Mill, enjoy walks through the hills and 130 miles of stunning coastlines, as well as visit multiple historical places of interest.
WHAT WILL THE WEATHER BE LIKE IN SCOTLAND IN OCTOBER?
Scotland is known for its mysterious beauty in all weather, but in fall one can expect a wide range of weather. In general, we can assume a touch of sun, mist and fog, high humidity, decent rain, and an average temperature between 44F and 56F. Don’t fret, we shall be drinking plenty of whisky to keep us warm!
What will the accommodations be like?
The Harbour Inn is a beautiful bed and breakfast, located in the heart of Bowmore village. We have booked all seven rooms so we will likely have the place to ourselves, although many visitors and locals alike will venture into the Harbour Inn for dinner as it offers some of the best cuisine on the island. There is a small lobby with a fireplace, café seating with harbour views, a dining room, drinking lounge, and seven beautiful rooms.
Which distilleries will we visit?
We will be touring a total of nine distilleries, all eight on Islay as well as one located on the neighboring island of Jura. Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Kilchoman, Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain, and Jura Distillery. All of these distilleries have well designed websites, but feel free to contact us with any specific questions.
Do the distilleries allow photos to be taken? Will we have time to stop and take photos along the way?
This is dependent on each individual distillery. Some allow photos at all times while others request that you do not take photos while walking through the production facilities. Photos are definitely welcome outside of the distilleries. Most of our driving around the island will be quite scenic as well and our driver, Kenneth, will be happy to stop at any point for those wishing to capture the Scottish landscape!
What is Scottish food like?
Islay has some incredible offerings of seafood, local island venison, and root vegetables, but you will also have plenty of opportunity to embrace the black pudding and haggis culture. Many of the local restaurants make fantastic soups and stews, bread, curries, smoked salmon, mussels. For the early morning risers, the Harbour Inn makes a wonderful french press coffee.
What is the exchange rate? How do I do this?
1 British Pound is currently equivalent to 1.32 US Dollar. Most major credit card companies are accepted on the island and there is a bank located ½ block away from our accommodations at the Harbour Inn. If you would like to exchange money in advance and bring cash, you can visit a bank in your hometown or do so at an exchange counter in any of the airports.
What is included in the price of this trip?
Upon your arrival, we cover just about everything. All tours and guided tastings, accommodations at the beautiful Harbour Inn, meals, and transportation on the island (including airport pickup and dropoff).
What am I responsible for financially?
All of the distillery and guided tastings are included in the cost of your trip. Should you be interested in enjoying additional beverages at meals, the bars in the evenings, or during down time at the Harbour Inn, this will be at your own expense.
What is the best way to get to Islay?
Folks have the option of flying and ferrying to Islay. There is a direct flight from Glasgow via a company called Flybe. Islay has a very small airport and flights are limited. As soon as you book with us, we recommend booking a flight to Islay as well. For ferrying, the easiest way would be Kennecraig to Islay. Folks can either rent a car or take a bus from the Glasgow airport.
Do I need a car?
You are welcome to bring a vehicle, but it is not necessary to have your own car on Islay. We provide all transportation and our days are typically quite full. For any down time that there might be, some folks on previous trips have enjoyed having a vehicle to go on a scenic drive or return to a distillery they really loved. This is entirely up to you, but not expected or necessary.
How can I educate myself in advance of the tour?
There are many ways to immerse yourself in the culture of Islay and enjoyment of Scotch before the trip. Attend a Scotch Tasting in your area. If you live in or around Missoula, the Rhino Bar typically hosts one of these each month on Wednesday evenings. There is a wonderful podcast called Whiskycast that has been running for 11 years. Feel free to visit any of the distillery websites. Many offer an option of becoming a “friend of the malts” or you can even buy a small plot of peat! Becoming a member of your favorite distilleries often provides a bottle discount as well. There are plenty of books and articles available online dedicated to Scotch Whisky. Should you be interested in specifics, feel free to contact us at any point.
What is important to pack?
Please see Packing List page
Can I ship Whisky back home?
If you are living in the United States or Canada, it will not be possible to ship any alcohol home. Depending on how much whisky you would enjoy purchasing, we would recommend packing light so you have room in your suitcase. The airlines state that you can only bring 2L duty free, but carrying more through customs is allowed as long as it is for personal consumption. Just be honest on your custom forms and worst case you may end up paying some taxes on the bottles. We haven’t had issues with any trips prior.
What style of adapter do I need? Where can I purchase?
UK plug Adaptors are readily available online for less than $5USD.
Will I have access to Wifi?
There will be secure internet available at the Harbour Inn. If you require access to email and phone calls during the day, we would recommend purchasing an international plan for your phone.
How long will we be at each distillery?
Depending on the distillery, we will participate in either 1 or 2 tours/tastings at each. The itinerary page will have a detailed account of each day, but you can assume one distillery for the morning and one for the afternoon, with anywhere from 2-5 hours at a single distillery.
What Can I expect to pay for a bottle of Scotch?
There will be quite a range of bottle prices at each distillery. Most will have the basic 10yr or 12yr available for as low as 35 GBP, but depending on the are and availability, there will be bottles available into the hundreds of GBP. As you will be at the distillery itself, there will be opportunities to purchase bottles sold ONLY at the distillery. These are often special releases from the whisky festival, anniversary editions, or single cask bottlings! Bringing home a bottle found only at the distillery itself is one of the biggest benefits of visiting Islay.
How can I expand my trip in Scotland?
Scotland is rural, vast, stunning, and will no doubt create a trip of lifetime. We will be covering two of the islands, but much more awaits. Should you have interest in seeing more of the countryside, we would recommend renting a car and taking the ferry from Isle to Isle or enjoying a beautiful road trip through the Highlands and Glen Coe down to Loch Lomond. To futher your whisky knowledge, Speyside is another region well worth visiting. Discover 50 distilleries all within 1 hours of each other! This stunning river valley is brilliant for biking, drinking, fishing, and walking. To pick up the pace, both Glasgow and Edinburgh offer brilliant opportunities to experience Scottish culture. With lively pub music, dancing, fantastic food and bars, beautiful stone castles and narrow stone alleys, you are bound to enjoy every bit of your trip.