Islay For photographs scroll down to bottom
with Paul and Hazel Heppleston
ferry terminal makes a good meet-up point; there’s a sense of ‘gateway’
at a place where the railway line ends and the sea is just beyond the
buffers, with Calmac waiting…..
Ninety minutes later, as a
prelude to our time together on the isle, we stopped in an unknown spot
by the shores of Loch Fyne at a small hut beside a small bay of great
beauty. Here we rested, ate together and prayed - and gathered ourselves
after land-travel before boat-travel to Islay which brought us in the
hired minibus to Port Ellen for mid-evening. Our house was near
Bridgend, a wonderful property with plenty of space and a huge
The remaining six whole days were spread around the island :
- visiting Finlaggan, the ancient seat of the Lord of the Isles (see photos 1 and 2)
Walking around the RSPB reserve on The Oa, (photo 3) to the American
Monument, built in memory of those who died when troopships foundered off Islay in WW1.
- Searching for a ruined
village in The Oa, finding it, lunching under heather fronds away from
the drizzle and scrambling back to the minibus down a wooded hillside.
Attempting to find another ruined village, but wandering in a circle
around the S end of the isle and glad to find our way back again.
- Trekking on Jura (the in-trepid ones) and shopping in Bowmore (the more trepid folk).
Visiting the round church in Bowmore, worshipping in the welcoming
Episcopal church just half a mile from our house, but encountering God
in the Big Book of Creation everywhere.
- The Islay Museum of
Island Life, a wonderful prelude to an even greater few hours spent on
Mackenzie Island off Portnahaven (photos 4 and 5); Gilbert was our most
generous and obliging boatman and ferried us in two morphed groups
to/from the islet; there we had a wonderful shore-fire lunch and saw
geese, deer and waves and stones and a ringed Shag (which later turned
out to have been ringed a year before on Colonsay). A gentle walk round a
coastal path by butterwort and orchid and bog-cotton rounded off the
- Driving at 10pm way over to the west side to catch the
setting sun over Saligo Bay; colour, dramatic cloud, sun-pink glow,
waves, wet sand under bare feet…we were teenagers again…
- Visiting Cleggain Bay, the Kildalton Cross and Ardbeg distillery (not neshesharily in that order you undershtand).
A final day of sun and waves and sand saw us at the Gruinard RSPB
Reserve and Visitor Centre in the NW of the isle. From here a superb
walk around Ardnave Point (photo 9) with at least three of us swimming
with seals in various modes of swim-wear. Another fine shore-fire lunch
heralded a magical experience at Ardnave chapel on the W side of
Gruinard Bay. In silence we absorbed the powerful and deep spirituality
of the place before heading home in thoughtful mood. A wonderful day…
had come from Essex, Germany, Worcestershire, Yorkshire, Somerset,
Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire – and places in between. But the essence of
our Islay time became apparent as the days wore on…..a definable
togetherness and a deep loving and caring - whether it related to
getting lost, tending wounds or coping with loss. We were, each of us,
enriched by a most special time.
Finlaggan Loch(Paps of Jura in distance)
on the Oa
Portnahaven from Mackenzie's Isle
on Mackenzie's Is.
The Sound of Islay
Saligo Bay(West side)
Ardbeg distillery(there's only one chimney here...)
the rocks remain....