The Inner Hebridean islands of Islay and Jura are the perfect destinations for a relaxing break. Islay, the most southerly of the Inner Hebrides, is famed for its smoky, single malt whiskies, wintering geese, miles of sandy beaches and friendly locals.
Jura, which takes its name from Old Norse dyr-a (deer island), is a magnificent wild and lonely wilderness with its distinctive triple peaks, the Paps of Jura, attracting hillwalkers and nature lovers alike – the perfect island escape.
Islay & Jura are home to nine world famous malt whisky distilleries – Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain, Bruichladdich, Kilchoman (the most recent addition which opened in 2004) – and last, but by no means least, Jura . All the distilleries will happily take visitors on guided tours, ending with the customary complimentary dram.
Both islands, though distinctly different in character, have stunning scenery, abundant wildlife and varied terrain for both gentle and strenuous walking. After a day outdoors, there are many opportunities to sample high quality locally sourced food and drink in the many hotels and restaurants.
Several annual festivals are organized between spring and autumn with themes varying from walking, jazz, Gaelic culture, classical music, to books and art exhibitons.
The Islay, Jura and Colonsay Annual Agricultural Show (known locally as “the Show”) in August is the highlight of the social calendar and a great way to intergrate with the locals – an entertaining family day out and a lively ceilidh dance held later which keeps going into the wee, small hours.
For those interested in history, there are many archeological sites on both islands from standing stones to Finlaggan, the political centre of the 12th century in the Hebrides and headquarters of the Lords of the Isles.
Islay is particularly flat and excellent cycling country with relatively quiet roads and shelter on windy days around wooded Bridgend. For the fishing enthusiasts, there are several freshwater lochs if you fancy trout for tea.
Whatever your reasons for coming to this beautiful part of the world one thing is guaranteed – you will be rewarded with a genuinely friendly welcome from the islanders who are proud of their islands, their history and their unique Gaelic culture.