The Whisky Tasting Club

Ardfern, Argyll and Bute

Often after a holiday you are quite glad to be going home, but not this time. We both felt we could easily have spent another week on islay.

So our islay festival summary:

Festival Events: Its between Ardbeg and Bruichladdich for the best festival events, both were fantastically organised, ardbeg maybe had the better attractions and value (5 drams for £5 for Ardbeg as opposed to £5 for 2 with laddy) but I think the prize goes to Bruichladdich for the great atmosphere, attendance and food (and the sunshine helped!). Special mention for Bunnahabain for making a real effort and running a great event.

Festival Bottlings: we didnt get Kilchoman or Ardbeg, but of the ones we did get we most liked the Lagavulin and the Laphroaig. The bowmore is also very nice. However, we rerserve judgement as we will do a full whisky tasting club tasting within the month, I’ll be interested to hear Dom’s opinions.

Islay walks: If we had to recommend one walk for a sunny day it would  be the walk on the Oa. We think Ardnave is perhaps the most attractive spot on the island but the Oa walk had more variety, woods, beach, heath, views, rocks, bluebells and a bit of adventure!

Exit islay :(

Michelle and I first got  together 7 years ago, and it started with me whisking her off to scotland for a long weekend in Ardfern, Argyll at the Galley of Lorne. We had a magical weekend from which all else has followed. So this time, to round off our islay trip, we booked two nights in the same place.  We left islay on saturday on the 6 pm ferry from port ellen with a car laden with whisky and whisky glasses. The port ellen to kennacraig ferry takes 2 hours and  cruises past the south coast distilleries,  which gives a really good feel for the geography of the island. Its about an hour drive to Ardfern which is 14 miles north of Lochgilphead and sits at the head of Loch Craignish. The galley of lorne has been renovated, but we had the same room as the last time with a view straight over the loch. This is an islay blog so I wont give the full description of our stay. Suffice it to say we had a fantastic stay and it is worth noting that I asked michelle to marry me, and she said yes :)   This has been a wonderful holiday, we hope to be back for next year. Thanks for reading, I wrote this blog partly for fun but also partly as the resource I would have liked to find  before we went. I’ll check back occasionally, but if you have any questions please feel free to email me

Tony, Michelle and Arby.

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Day 8: Ardbeg day

Ardbeg is my favorite distillery and I’ve bought all festival bottlings except Kilchoman, so surely I would get the Ardbeg one? Well no.  Firstly, this is our last day on Islay,  so didnt fancy racing down and back and secondly, I’d heard they were selling at £250 per bottle. Too rich for my blood on a point of principle, very expensive for a 10 year old. Turns out they were only £125, which I would have gone for, but  hey, I’ve bought 24 bottles of whisky anyway so lets pretend I’m fine with not getting the Ardbeg festival bottle.

So we sauntered off to ardbeg around noon after a quick visit to the vets to get the dog de-ticked. Ticks are ubiquitous here, make sure your dog has been treated with frontline prior to coming.

It was raining when we arrived at ardbeg, which was a shame because they had put on a marvellous show (the sunny photos are from our visit on weds). The theme was fairground (rollercoaster) and there was a helter skelter in the central courtyard.

There were also several fairground/whisky based games which in true fairground tradition were impossible to win. It cost a fiver to get in, for which you got an ardbeg glass, a baseball cap and 5 drams. Bloody good value! Whats more the drams on offer were 10 yo, blasda, still young, rollercoaster, corryvekan, uigadael and the new supernova. I could have spent the whole day here and got very drunk, but couldnt. Lets hope michelle has learnt to drive by the next festival (that gets raised eyebrows)!

They raffled a 4.5 litre rollercoaster bottle which appropriately was won by a fella from port charlotte. Its one of only a hundred special bottles that were produced for charity events, imagine it will fetch a pretty penny if he sells it. They had a band, various tastings which we couldnt book, several seafood stalls and free popcorn.  We had some some squat lobster (whatever that is) and crab claws. Upset I missed out on the oysters, simply forgot because I was chatting.

We made a new  friend today! Festival regular martin has been reading out blog. He got caught out by the shift of dates to the week before the bank holiday and is booked in for a week starting today. He had to go for the ‘methodone option’ of vicarious festival participation.  He wont be reading this until he gets home since the cottage he always uses has no electricity! Just like to say it was great to meet you, glad you liked the blog and hope you enjoy the lagavulin warehouse tour as much as we did.

I think some people get a false impression of the scale of the festival, I certainly did before I came. We live in a small provincial city in the very rural, relatively unpopulated county of Norfolk. Even so, there are seven times more students at the university I work than people who live on Islay. Given the number of people we have observed at the festival events, I would estimate the total number of festival vistors to be about 1000. Now that is a large infux for a population of 3000, but I reckon thats about the number of people who visit the town centre macdonalds in norwich on a saturday. To put it another way it’s the crowd for a poorly supported non league football team.

Nothing is really busy by anything but island standards. The only busy element is firstly accomodation and secondly the interaction with the distillery staff.  Their normal trade is about a quarter of the festival trade, hence queues can form and special events sell out quickly. Now you could argue that they should take on more staff and optimize for the festival vistitors (even I could handle selling the festival bottlings better than all the distilleries) but really, why should they? It all gets sold in the end, casual labour is complex on a small island and special events require specialists who are probably very busy doing their proper job.

Anyway, thats our last day on the island, writing this from the galley of lorne in argyll. Festival was fantastic, I’ll post a final round up tomorrow, then try sorting out booking for next year!

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Day 7: Bunnahabhain open day

Miraculously the weather is holding up well, today was mostly sunny if fairly cold (being British I have to start with a weather report). I was rudely awoken at 6 am by arby barking at sheep who had passed right by the window (I left the garden gate open). Our cottage 1 mile out of Bridge End is on unfenced common land by the sea. Cows and sheep roam free from the beach to the land on the other side of the road. This is obviously a danger, in 2008 a farmer, his young son and an employee died tragically when they were forced into the path of an oncoming lorry after hitting one of their own cows on this road. Perhaps it should be fenced. 

Thanks to the tip off on we realised the bunna feis ile bottling would sell out quickly, so we headed down there, arrriving at 9:30 am.

 Bunnahabhain Feis Ile 2010 bottling: 18 year old Pedro Ximenez Finish, 384 bottles, abv 51.4% cost £85. It tastes like, err, the bunna 18 with a sherry finish! What a marvelous review, I’d best write more I suppose. It has a light nose with a hint of bubble gum but the sherry is very obvious.  There is an initial smooth creamy flavour with sherry kicking in later and lingering on the finish. Slight metallic tint (but I think thats just my palate!). A  nice whisky, but perhaps the sherry finish has not completely integrated.

The drive from the main road to bunnahabhain is my favorite on the island, (at least it is when there aren’t people on it doing 15 mph). The paps of jura are a constant backdrop as the road winds through unspolit countryside, passing a loch. The road twists down to sea level, where the surprisingly large Bunnahabhain distillery sits behind a pebble beach. Unlike Caol Ila they had parking on site.

The  distillery buildings are traditional and they have a nice courtyard area which was full of visitors 

There are also several cottages for rent at the far end of the beach which would be ideal for a short tranquil retreat, but are in our opinion too remote for a longer stay. We queued up for the bottling and were in the last 20 people to get one.  Whilst in the queue the dog started getting restless, so I took him back to the car. Wanting to give him some exercise on the way, I jogged back, forgetting that he gets over excited when I run. The little bugger clipped my trailing leg and I went for a burton. Grazed my hands (like being a kid again), but worse banged my knee, 30 mins later I could not bend it. Its ruined our plans for further walks.

Anyway, bunna had lots of events on and ran a really good open day, second only to the Bruichladdich event on Sunday. Good food, nice burgers, scallops from the harbor inn (not as good as Bruichladdich who get the best scallops prize) and oysters (better than Bruichladdich, although I think they were the same guys, so work that out). They had a really good band on and a black bottle stall dishing out samples quite generously, later they dished out bunna too. There was a mini highland games and a craft fair. For whisky events there was a masterclass (fully booked very quickly), a cocktail class and a blending class. We did the cocktail class which was run by a sociable chap whose name I forget, and involved making 4 black bottle based cocktails.

1. Rob Roy: 2 parts whisky, 1/2 part red vermouth, 2 drops bitters. Stir with ice.

Basically a Manhattan with black bottle and without the cherry. Very nice and smooth, apparently palate cleansing, I’ll drink them between whisky tastings then!

2. Black Mule: 2 parts whisky, 2 drops bitters, squeeze and drop 1/2 lime, add ice and top up with ginger beer. Good long summer drink, we would have increased the whisky and lime content. Apparently they do not have ginger beer in most of europe, half the crowd had no idea what it was.

3. Black bottle smash: 1.5 parts whisky, 0.5 part Chambord, 6-8 mint leaves, 0.5 lemon squeezed and dropped, 3 shots pressed apple juice, dash of sugar spirit.  Shake with ice and strain into a short glass. Add sprig of mint and ice.

one for the ladies, but it was pretty nice.

4. Really rusty nail. A teaspoon of marmalade, 1 part whisky, 1 part drambuie, stir with ice, can add a bit of  lime to taste.

I surruptitiously doubled the whisky content since I’m no fan of drambuie. Pretty drinkable then. Didnt realise Angosturas bitters are owned by the parent company of Burn Stewart, so black bottle and cocktails is an obvious mix.

 All in all, hurrah for Bunnahabhain, you just have to love them. I’m now back at our place with my leg up not able to move much. Luckily michelle is looking after me and I also have 20 bottles of whisky to keep me company. hmmm, what shall I taste next? Maybe a supernova. Knee pain? What knee pain?

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Day 6 Walks: the Rhinns

So as this was our day of taking it easy, we just chilled out in the morning. The dog does not know what has hit him and was completely knackered, he slept from 6pm last night until lunch time today (apart from our failed morning trip to Kilchoman).

It brightened up in the afternoon, so we decided to explore around the north west peninsular, called the Rhinns. Machir bay is a large, wide beach about 500 yards from Kilchoman. 

Its a lovely spot and walking the length of it is a decent short walk on its own. Its usually pretty quiet, but there were lots of people and dogs there today, much to Arby’s delight. The are some waves, its straight out onto the atlantic, and a few surfers have a go. I’m no expert, but the waves didnt look big enough to me.

We then went for a drive around on some bumpy roads. We could not walk out to Saligo Bay as it is lambing time and dogs are banned until next month. We drove round to Sanaigmore bay instead.  There is a single farm house here, about half derilict and half rebuilt. Its amazingly remote, must be a 30 minute drive to Bowmore and 20+ miles to Ardbeg. You walk past the farm onto the very nice smallish beach.

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Day 6: Kilchoman and Jura open days

I planned this day as our day for slobbing around doing little (and perhaps drinking less whisky). Weather this morning was pretty foul, so seemed sensible to stay in our lovely cottage, throw a few logs on the fire and just relax.

Today is Kilchoman’s open day and also Jura’s. Jura are obviously trying really hard to get people over and had a really good schedule of events: tasting boutique barrels with willie tait; a tasting of jura prophesy with willie cochrane and participating in selecting the next jura boutique barrel.  For £15 you get all that, lunch, ferry ride over, entertainment and a distillery gift. We spent a day on jura last time we were here two years ago, its very beautiful and completely empty (population 200), but we didnt fancy traipsing over this time.

Kilchoman on the other hand is 5 miles up the road, so thought we would go up. They had warehouse tastings with James Swan, Nibbles and Tipples with Martine Nouet (both of which had sold out before I got round to trying to book), a folk band and a barbeque. Their festival offering was 258 bottles of cask strength 3 year old. For those who have not been, Kilchoman is essentially a farm with a small still out the back. We got there at about 9:45, parked in a field and walked through the rain to the farm. There was a huge queue and as we got there they had a power cut. Wet and grumpy, we decided to abandon the festival bottling rather than queue for two hours without the certainty of getting a bottle. These guys should really have two queues, one for cards and one for a cash only (for people with the right money), it would move so much faster. Give everyone a ticket then tell them to join one queue or the other. I don’t want to spend half my holiday queuing.  Bowmore tried tickets for their bottling but left all the bottles in the shop on a table. People (like me) were walking in, picking up the bottles then queuing to pay, only to be told after queueing they were already sold. Anyway, if you want to read a review of the Kilchoman special bottling, the whisky fun review is very good.

So we gave up and came home to watch the rain. I popped into Bowmore and visited the best Spar shop in the world, the islay whisky shop. They had three bottles of Renaissance, our favorite Ardbeg, so I grabbed the lot. I then went to the Bowmore distillery and bought two of their tempest special bottling. Weather brightened up in the afternoon, we went back up to Kilchoman and I bought a bottle of the spring 2010 release.

I have to stop, I’ve now bought over 20 bottles of whisky and spent a small fortune (you can probably guess how much, whisky here isnt cheap). I’ve decided to not bother trying to get the Ardbeg festival bottling. Its a painful decision, but I need to draw the line somewhere. However, just found out from cask strength that Laga are doing a distillery only bottling:

oh dear, may have to leave the dog here to fit the whisky in the car.

I’m enjoying the tempest, well balanced. Fruitcake on the nose, its cask strength and has a clean light alcohol hit with a slight peaty note. Good length. The whisky is turning my attention back to bowmore, havent bought a bottle since the our last trip two years ago and that was rank, one of the older expressions, many of which I didnt like (surf and turf or something like that).

Kilchoman is peaty, oily, and young, very young. It tastes like Bruichladdich Peat, although it has a dirty note somewhat reminiscent of old ardbeg (which I’m not a huge fan of tbh, I own about 15 bottles of ardbeg, 9 open, but I have to admit I’m not that keen on Uigeadail). I’ll try it again in a couple of years. £45 for a three year old is excessive. I could get two bottles of Laphroaig 10 for that, a laga 12 or almost a rollercoaster.

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Day 5 walk: Singing sands beach on the Oa

The weather was defying all forecasts, the sun was shining although the temperature had dropped. Our walk today took us onto the Oa, the landmass to the west of Port Ellen. An absolutely fantastic walk, but slightly trickier terrain than the others, we had to scramble over a few rocks, with me carrying our great fluffy wussbag of a dog, who refused to try it himself. Note that the walk book we have been using was not accurate as to the nature of the path, it does not make it clear that it gets quite boggy and rough in places.

From Port Ellen, take the left turn just before the maltings, signpost to the Oa. After 1/2 mile there is a gate into the woods with the sign Cairnmore Woods. There is a layby opposite where we parked. Walk down through the woods where bluebells, primroses and wild garlic grow, to the very attractive beach at Kilnaughton Bay. Walk along on the beach until you get to a cemetery. The road has been recently resurfaced and there are lots of new holiday cottages being built, they are very spread out and look quite nice, would be a good place to stay, right on the beach.

Take the road along the coast until it forks. The left fork becomes a track which goes to the lighthouse. The right fork is a new road and goes up the hill. Continue up the hill until it levels out and a more track like road branches left. Take this until you get to a half built house (or it was when we were there!). There is a track that continues through the gorse.

It gets quite boggy in places, we just about managed without wellies, but the weather has been very good lately. You walk above Singing Sands beach, but there is no obvious path down. We continued until we came to a field. There is a small track through the field that heads diagonally down the hill. You need to keep going on this right up to the fence, at which point you are near the bottom and can scramble down to sea level through a mass of bluebells and primroses.

There is a small path that winds along the coast and there are two lots of rocks to go over, but they are very easy to navigate (I did it carrying a 15 kilo dog!). After a bit of this  you come across a couple of small very beautiful beaches. After the beach a short walk brings you to the lighthouse and back to the low road. Retrace your steps to the car. We really enjoyed this walk, you get hills and great views back across to port ellen, beautiful woods and gorgeous beaches what more could you want in a walk?

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Day 5: Bowmore (err…lagavulin)

so a disclaimer, I am really quite drunk while writing this. Its 7pm, we have been to a warehouse visit at laga and the beer event at islay square. Michelle and Arby are both fast asleep, and I am going to have a probably very inappropriate rant.

Today was Bowmore’s open day. I’ve always quite liked bowmore whisky, but never been a big fan. It ranks with bunna for me, nice but I dont buy it often. 

After our last visit I felt bowmore were a bit schizo. On the one hand, they present themselves as the oldest, most traditional distillery on the island (which is true in many ways). On the other, they have the most corporate, slick distillery operation of them all. I get the feeling that suntory influence bowmore distillery’s marketing much more than diageo/beam/vuitton do at the other corporate distilleries. The fact they make such a big play of their “heritage” just puts me off. Go to Lagavulin and the heritage is just there, no need to ram it down my throat. Anywway, Bowmore had several events on today, and we did not book any of them. This was more to do with inefficiency, I was a bit overloaded in the organisation and just forgot, but none of them appealed that much. They had a “core” masterclass (taste the standard range for £15), the whisky and food masterclass for £30 (“pairing some of bowmores newest releases with various food styles”) and the “ultimate” masterclass for £125.  they had two festival bottlings, 500 bottles of “tempest” @£45 and 100 bottles of 25 year old for around 250. I would have bought the tempest, but didnt realise it had gone on sale on saturday and think it had sold out. The 25 yr old had sold out by 10 am today. The whole festival bottling thing has the aura of a bubble. There is no intrinsic justification for paying these prices other than people have sold it on ebay for more in the past. I’m not spending £200+ on a whisky that is probably no better than a standard cask strength bottling, I drink the stuff, I don’t collect it (well, mostly). Everyone has their level and mine is £100  per bottle. If I were richer then maybe I would spend more, but maybe I would just be getting ripped off more.  

So after visiting bowmore and leaving fairly soon after, we went for a really fantastic walk on the Oa, blog to follow. We had a warehouse tour booked at laga for 14:30, so thought we would go back to ardbeg for lunch. At 13:00 it was completely rammed, no shaded spot for the car+dog and no service outside. So we left (this our third visit to ardbeg already) and went and got a  sandwich from the port ellen spar. We had an impromptu picnic at laga in what may be the last of the glorious sunshine we have had, then went for the warehouse tour.

This was just fantastic, best distillery event I’ve done. There were just three of us on the tour, and Iain who ran it was an old hand with 30 yrs+ at the distillery. We started with new make which was colourless, then a 10 year old, then a 13 yo from a fourth-fill cask, a 17  yo sherry casks and finally a 44 yr old! Great whisky, informal, informative, just what you want at a distillery. We drew the whisky out of the casks ourselves by a mouth pippette technique, he showed us the head and the legs and we all chatted away more and more as the tasting went on.

My three favorite distilleries are all on this south coast of islay, and sometimes its easy to forget laga because of the more proactive marketing of the other two. This event has propelled laga back up to at least equal footing for me. So I wont give tasting notes (didnt occur to me to make them I was too busy enjoying myself), suffice it to say if you like laga then you would find them all, lovely, even the newmake. Go on a warehouse visit here if you get a chance, 5*doubleplusgood.

After the event we headed off (slowly and cautiously) to the Islay brewery event @ the islay square house. We had not been up here before. Its a lovely square with the brewery and a chocolate shop. Chatted to a sociable bunch of germans. I think germans are much happier chatting with a beer in their hand, whisky brings out the anorak in them. Anyway, as per usual they were good company and I’ve got quite into the islay ale. So much better to taste a beer on draft than in bottles.

We then walked home and michelle and the dog went straight to sleep. I’ve cracked open a beer and wrote this load of old nonsense. What a lovely holiday, the sun has even come out again. I think another laga is in order :)

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Day 4: Laphroaig

Woke up feeling the worse for wear, but a good scottish breakfast soon sorted that out. Laphroaig were running three special events. A masterclass tasting, a trip to Taxa island and a sensory tasting. We were too late to book the first two, but got on the sensory tour for 4pm. Dominic was here as a guest of Laphroaig and hence they took him on all the events. Whilst jealous, I didnt really fancy a cask strength tasting at 9 am! He had a break in his busy drinking schedule at 11 am, so we went down to meet him with the idea of popping over to ardbeg for a coffee (oh alright, I admit it, for a dram). It was glorious sunshine again today, so dom suggested we walk to Ardbeg. The ladies also on his PR trip  came with us and were good company. So this conveniently became our walk for the day. The dog is feeling the pace, he is knackered, so it suited us all!

Its a shame there isnt a coast path, but even though you have to walk along the road its still lovely with great views over the hills.  You loop down into the Lagavulin valley, up another hill then down again into Ardbeg. Its a 2 mile walk though, and with dom chatting away and us being knackered it took so long that they all had to turn back 100 yards from Ardbeg in order to get back in time for their next Laphroaig event. So near but yet so far! We bought him an Ardbeg minature to show him what he missed. We had lunch at Ardbeg (food at their cafe is fantastic, probably the best on the island) then returned to laphroaig. There was a folk band playing and they had some limited catering, but I would recommend going to Ardbeg to eat. Bizarrely they didnt have a tent selling whisky! There did not seem to be that many people hanging about, but the day revolved around the events rather than entertainment outside. We did the sensory tour, which ran through sights, sounds, touch, smell and taste. The smell part of the tour was interesting, there were glasses with cotton wool soaked in  vanilla, TCP, smoke and rose water in them. We tasted 10, quarter cask and 18. We tasted the 10 then had some stilton to knock out the salt taste which brings forward the sweeter notes. The second whisky was quarter cask and we had some smoked salmon, with that which made the whisky taste ‘lighter’ by knocking out the wood. We had chocolate with the 18, just because!  Dom said the cask strength tasting was one of the best he has ever done. I hope he writes it up in his blog.

Festival bottling is once again called Cairdeas, a cask strength expression of 11-19 year old whiskies. There are 5000 bottles, 4000 of which are to be sold online, so there is plenty to go round. It costs £45.


It has a light, fresh almost floral flavour which is not that medicinal by laphroaig standards. Its highly drinkable and a lovely dram. We are a bit whisky overloaded so cant really come up with better tasting notes, sorry! Will add more tomorrow. The bottle says “A truly distinctive Laphroaig with a complex, fruity nose which gives way to a surprising burst of peat flavour in the mouth, tempered by softer, sweeter notes”.

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Day 3: the Whisky Tasting Ceilidh

So Monday was our big night out.

In the evening we left arby to his own devices (much to his annoyance, sorry neighbours!) and got a taxi to Port Ellen for the  Ceilidh. There are only four taxis on islay: Carol MacDonald (07775782155); Stuart Doyle (0771921157); Fiona Livingstone (07808303200); and Lamont Campbell (07899756159). We were lucky that Carol was free, I would recommend you book in advance. Cost from Bridgend to Port Ellen was £21. The Whisky Tasting Ceilidh is held in the Ramsay Hall, a fairly small but quite attractive victorian hall. The night starts with a nosing competition. There is a stand for each of the distilleries (including Jura), and on each stand are 9 blue glasses containing a sample of each. There were also two new make spirits. The competition is to name each dram by smell alone. Its very difficult, to my shame I only got two right, and so did michelle. I also scoffed loads of their cheese and biscuits. The winner was from japan and impressively got 8 correct and won a load of whisky. Next time I will do some homework before I come.

I tried Kilchoman for the first time. Its  very peaty for sure, but it tastes very young and I think has an unpleasant barley aftertaste you often get with young whisky (the exception for me being the English Whisky, which seems to mature more quickly, it is very drinkable at 3 years old). To be sure its not fair to judge it on a small dram in a tiny plastic glass after several other whiskies and I’ll definitely try it again, but first impression is that I doubt I would buy it.I also drank several of the Islay ales. A very drinkable bitter.  

The nosing competition was fun, but the main reason we came down was because Dominic was on the island as a guest of Laphroaig and they were bringing him along to this event. Dom turned up around 10 with a posse of young PR ladies and it was great to see him here. He was certainly enjoying the junket. There was a scottish band with two blokes with unlikely curly black hair (think harry enfield scousers) who were rather impressed with themselves but played pleasant enough music. Found out dom has not been reading this blog because he doesnt know how to! He is a complete techno-dunce, I’ve emailed him a link. I’m hoping he will blog about his whole trip, especially the laphroaig day. 

After the band we nipped into the pub next door for a  further dram. We had a black bottle, I’d forgotten how drinkable it is, will pick up a bottle on friday, I like to have some blends in for when the peat all gets too much (for michelle, not happened to me yet!). We left at midnight, it all gets a bit blurry at this point, over 12 hours of drinking does that to you.  I think dom and I set the worlds to rights. Our maxim for the holiday was hard walking and hard drinking, and we certainly fulfilled that yesterday. Our legs will be rock solid and our livers pickled :) Yesterday I tasted Caol Ila (cask strength and festival bottling), Laphroaig (10, 10 cask strength, quarter cask minatures from the gathering whilst on the beach), Kilchoman, Ardbeg, Bunnahaven and Lagavulin (at the Ceilidh) and Black Bottle (in the pub). That is some haul! Throw in a few beers and a glass of wine with lunch, its no wonder I feel a bit rough today…

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Day 3 Two walks

So monday started overcast. In the morning we walked from Ballygrant to Caol Ila and in the afternoon around Ardnave.

Ballygrant to Caol Ila  is a pleasant wood walk past a couple of lochs. From Bridgend, head off on the Askaig road until Ballygrant. Take the first right in the village up Mulindry Drive. There was parking near the top of the hill. After parking continue walking along Mulindry Drive and take the first left up an estate road. Keeping the woods on your left, continue up the hill and take the second entrance to the Dunlossit Estate. It is a gated track into woods. Walk along the drive through the woods until you come to the Ballygrant loch at the sluice gate. Continue along the western shores of the loch and past the track to Loch nan Cadhan. Appparently you can reach Loch Allan by a short track to the right of the main track at the red bridge, but we missed it.

The path arrives at the Lily Loch, which is very pretty. The lilies were not out, but you could imagine it would be spectacular if they were. The track runs round the lily loch and then uphill for a short distance until you reach a gate for the land of Dunlossit Castle (I think there was a path at lily loch back up to the main road, which would have been faster for Caol Ila, although the main route is scenic and allows a view of Port Askaig) 

The track winds through the estate, which is more a park than the woods. There is a signpost for a garden, but it was being renovated when we were there. You go past the impressive stately house, up the drive and gate house which brings you back to the main road. You are then 100 yards from the Caol Ila turn off. It took us about 1 1/2 hours, no special footware needed.

In the afternoon we drove up to Ardnave. Ardnave is the hidden gem of islay, it doesnt seem to get mentioned (its not in our walks book) but it is in our opinion the most attractive part of the whole island. To get to Ardnave take the first right on the road from Bridgend to Bruichladdich. This is a rough road that winds through farm land, you may see some highland cattle. The first right goes to Killinallan up the east side of Loch Gruinart. Be warned this is a rough road.

Its nice enough, but we think Ardnave is better, so dont take the turn to  Killinallan, instead continue and take the next right to Ardnave. There is a RSBP nature reserve here, we havent been but it looks nice. Continue up the road for a few miles until you reach the Ardnave car park. There is a walk around ardnave point, there is a map there. We were completely knackered and instead just went for a walk on the beaches on the east side. Its lovely, you have cornish type rocky beaches, Norfolk-esq wide open spaces and big dunes. We absolutely love it there, especially in the sunshine.

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