Recently we spent a week on the Isle of Islay. Although it’s one of the larger Scottish islands and a popular destination for whiskey lovers, it still only has around 3000 inhabitants and I figured that being there was going to be a very a different experience from life on the mainland. I had visions of getting there and finding that nowhere accepted credit cards, all the newspapers on sale were at least a week old, and that the Islay equivalent of fast food was a potato that had already been rinsed to get the soil off. In reality it wasn’t that bad, but there were still differences that took some getting used to.
Very importantly the island did have a resident vet, so at least I knew we wouldn’t be facing a two hour ferry ride plus at least an hour’s driving if Beanie decided she was due a bit of medical attention. Additionally most of the places that had shops did indeed accept card payment. On the other hand, the so-called petrol station in Bowmore (the island’s main town) resembled a little house on a quiet side-street that just happened to have a single pump sitting outside the front window. When we checked into one of the two campsites on the island, I received a long and unusually detailed lecture on the site rules, particularly concerning what should, and should not, be deposited in the toilet; it immediately brought to mind the Dentons house rules in League of Gentlemen: “here is the sofa bed, with it’s own shower and WC, into which we do not pass solids”.
One thing that didn’t suprise me about Islay is that sheep were everywhere. Biggles and Beanie are much calmer around sheep than they used to be, but opportunities for dog walking were still limited. This is what was outside our van one morning when we wild-camped by a main road.
One of the more popular walks – to the “American Monument” – was sheep free, but instead it took us right through a field of highland cattle. Happily the cattle showed no interest in us, and even more happily Biggles decided not woof loudly at any of them.
The path to the monument
What we had to pass..
The monument was erected by the American Red Cross after two troop ships were lost off the Islay coast during the first world war.
Some more shots from Islay:
The marina at Bowmore
Someone has forgotten what “leave” means
The rugged coastline at Saligo Bay
Apparently Portnahaven is a good place for wrestling
One of the more impressive sea stacks – Soldiers Rock
Carraig Fhada Lighthouse
Cliffs near the American Monument
It’s a boring two hour journey on the ferry, but at least the seats are comfy
On our final day we drove to Port Askaig, expecting to spend the night there and have a little stroll around the shops in the morning before our return ferry. As it turned out, Port Askaig is essentially just a ferry terminal, with a pub, a post office, and a petrol pump. That’s all. I filled up our van at the pump, then set about looking for where / how to pay. I saw no automated payment facility, no payment kiosk, not even a security camera. Was fuel free here? I kind of doubted it, but still couldn’t see anywhere to pay. I wandered down past the pub – credit card still in hand – then eventually spotted a small sign indicating that the Post Office doubles as the petrol station kiosk. Going inside I found someone from the European mainland trying to purchase stamps to send of a couple of postcards. The guy behind the counter was using his best cross-language communication technique (speaking English LOUD and s-l-o-w): “We’ve sold out of stamps just now, so you’ll have to wait until the Post Office opens up properly. Come back tomorrow. Err no, not tomorrow, we’re closed tomorrow. Come back in a couple of days.”
Yep, not quite the remote, facility-free outpost I was expecting, but not exactly the mainland either.