The island of Islay is 25 miles (40km) in length and around 20 miles (32km) wide at most. Thanks largely to the Gulf Stream, it has a fairly temperate climate. It is famous for its abundance of wildlife, beautiful scenery and its whisky distilleries. There are many golden sandy beaches, which rarely have more than a couple of people on them at any one time, making them ideal for getting away from it all.
Islay is justly famous for its malt whiskies. There are currently seven working distilleries on the island, several of which offer guided tours and include a free dram! An eighth distillery, Kilchoman, is due to open shortly. Those who appreciate the fine taste and variety of the Islay malts will no doubt savour a pilgrimage to the origin of their favourite tipple.
There are many interesting historical and archaeological sites on Islay to visit. Kildalton Church and the famous Kildalton Cross (the best preserved high cross in Scotland) both date back to around 800 A.D. Finlaggan, the administrative capital of the Lord of the Isles from the 12th to the 16th century, has a visitor centre which houses a number of archaeological finds and a model of how the site would have looked during its heyday. Also worth a visit are the standing stones at Ballinaby, the stone circle at Coultoon and the large and impressive Iron Age fort at Dun Nosebridge. The Museum of Islay Life at Port Charlotte presents a fascinating insight into the social history of the island.
Islay is a haven for birdwatchers, and has a remarkable reputation for unusual birds. The RSPB Scotland Visitor Centre at Loch Gruinart delivers a fascinating glimpse into the birdlife there and has closed circuit television providing close-up coverage.