If you don’t know me, I love whisky. Specifically, scotch (aka whisky from Scotland). Even more specifically, heavily peaty scotch from the island of Islay. Hence, on my first trip to Scotland, I HAD to make a trip down to Islay to visit the place where the fine heavenly juice is created. Here’s how to get to Islay, Scotland.
Get to Islay, Scotland
Getting there is a little tricky. It takes forever (7h) to get to Islay from Glasgow, one-way. That is a lot of time wasted. In addition, if you take the bus, it is even longer.
So, I HIGHLY recommend renting a car. And do a road trip around Scotland instead.
- Take note of ferry timings. They are not frequent and if you miss the last ferry out, you have to spend an extra night.
- Rent a car, if possible.
- Have a designated driver, if you are going on whisky distillery tours
Ferry to Islay (Ports & Details)
There are 2 ports. We came from Campbeltown (spent a night there) and after Islay, was going towards the Highlands (Oban). So we entered via Port Ellen (3 large distilleries there) and exit via Port Askaig.
- Kennacraig (the main land of Scotland)
- Islay: Port Ellen (south) – if you are starting from Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg
- Islay: Port Askaig (east) – if you’re going towards Bowmore and Bruichladdich
Cost: £13 per person and £65 per car.
We made a circle. Starting at Port Ellen then towards the center. Then we left via Port Askaig.
The Kennacraig – Port Ellen ferry route takes 2h10min. In the ferry, there is an outdoor seating and 2 levels of indoor seating. It’s too windy and cold to sit outside, so most people are inside. There is a cafeteria at the lower level, and the food is alright.
scotThey also sell scotch on the ferry, although I don’t know who will buy it. Most people end up sleeping on the ferry journey.
Booking The Ferry Tickets
You can book on their website: Calmac.
Other information to note:
- Check if your ferry is sailing (Sometimes the weather is bad)
- Timetable (it changes, depending on the season)
Methods to Get into Islay: Fly, Bus, Drive
- Expensive but quick: You can fly to Islay from Glasgow with Flybe or LoganAir. (£££)
- Okay prices and flexible time: Rent a car. Drive to the ferry terminal and take the ferry to Islay. The car goes with you on the ferry. (££)
- Cheap but slow: Take the Citylink bus in Scotland. It goes Kennacraig Ferry Terminal. Take the ferry to Islay. (£)
Getting Around Islay
- If you have a car: plan the route and follow it. It’s easy to drive around Islay, although some roads can be quite narrow. If you are going to do a whisky tour, have a designated driver. Please.
- If you don’t have a car: take the buses in Islay. A 24h ticket costs £10. Per trip costs around £2.75, so it’s better to take the 24h ticket. Check the timetable.
Due to the long journey and hassle to get there, we turned it into a 2 weeks road trip in Scotland instead.
Our General Scotland Itinerary
Edinburgh – (Glasgow, optional) – Irvine – Campbeltown – Islay – Inverary – Oban – Glenfinnan – (Skye, optional) – Forres – Oyne – Aberdeen – Edinburgh
We spend a night in Campbeltown before heading for the ferry in Islay. To maximise the time, we caught the first ferry to Islay and entered via Port Ellen.
We told them that we are catching the first ferry out to Islay. The chefs are usually nice to cook breakfast for you to takeaway. I had a full Scottish breakfast with black pudding and haggis!
If you are all huge scotch lovers, you can stay for more than a day. If you are just interested in the wonderful experience, a day trip is good enough.
Depending where you’d like to visit, you can choose accommodations accordingly. I am huge fans of scotch near Port Ellen. If you are too, you can stay at No. 1 Charlotte Street. It’s along the main street to Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg.
There are very little accommodations on Islay. But here’s a short summary of where to stay, based on your preferred scotch.
- Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg: 1 Charlotte Street
- Bowmore: The Bowmore House Bed and Breakfast
- Bruichladdich: Port Charlotte Youth Hostel
If you are afraid of missing the ferry and want to stay near Port Askaig, Gumtree Cottage is your bet.
Alternatively, you can do a day trip and leave Islay with the last ferry. Check the timetable.
Then, you can go up to Inverary for a night. We stayed at The Inveraray Inn, BW Signature Collection. Like always, it is nice when the weather is good. It was raining so we did not eat our breakfast by the porch. But in general, it’s cute, nice and cosy.
Trevellers is my way to change the world. Through my stories, tips and lessons learnt, I truly hope to inspire you to get out of your comfort zone, see the world and see who you truly are. Travel is more than just taking a selfie. Travel is an adventure, where you can truly become who you are, give you the time to reflect and grow to become the person you’ve always wanted to be.